God Grant You

Serenity prayer

Did you know that anxiety affects 18% of the population of the United States? (http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics) And treatment of anxiety is estimated to contribute about one-third of the total $148,000,000,000 annual mental health treatment “bill” in our country.

So much of our lives today involves decisions, people, and circumstances that are completely out of our control. We can devote so much time, energy, and love to our children and at the end of the day, there are still things that can happen that can change the course of their lives forever. We can pour our hearts into our marriages, and the other person could still choose to turn their backs on us. We could put all of our intellect and devotion into our vocation, job, or career, and we could still be cut by corporate layoffs or bad management decisions.

And still – it is part of our personal path to find our “happy place”, to seek peace despite our circumstances. Part of that process is finding support, especially if you experience anxiety. Sometimes you can get help by having a therapist explore new coping skills, but sometimes medicine is necessary in order to help balance out what your brain can’t do on its own. It may be necessary to use both tools in order to get totally well, and that’s okay; it is better to accept help and to be functioning, than to hide your pain, stress and anxiety. That approach can lead to all sorts of relational and functional problems, and can ruin your life.

It is also necessary, if you are experiencing long-term anxiety, to establish patterns of thought choices that enhance your life instead of diminishing it. For example, if you have negative internal thought patterns, you will have to train yourself to replace those negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts. This approach will take some time, but is an empowering method of self esteem rehabilitation and can also improve your physical health (Google “negativity and physical health” for info on how anxiety and negativity can make you sick).

The Serenity Prayer (pictured above) is a good start. Realizing that we are not in control of everything in this life, but that what we ARE in control of, we can take the reins of that and set the tone for – that is a very empowering thing. It is not a moment, per se, but an Attitude Adjustment that requires practice and gentle reminders. It may help you to copy the Serenity Prayer and post it somewhere noticeable – your dashboard, your mirror, your work desk, your fridge. Feeling helpful and powerful – instead of helpless – is a very good start onto the path of wellness.

If there is some event, some person, something that started you on the path to anxiety, personal uncertainty, or physical illness – let it go. Hand it back to the universe! If that means you have to write a letter and burn it in the backyard – do it. If that means you have to take all of the reminders around your house and throw them in the trash – do it. If that means you have to go to a therapist – JUST DO IT.

There is no time like Right Now, to start to get well!

Peace to you today.

What to read in 2015

bookshelfBecause reading tastes are so individual, I don’t really like to give suggestions in so broad a scale; but these are the books that I am going to / have read in 2015, and maybe something on here will strike your fancy, or resonate with you; you can check back with me if you have read them, and what you thought! (Leave feedback in the “comment” section) They are in no particular order.

1. “Unbroken”, Laura Hillenbrand

2. “A.D. 30”, Ted Dekker

3. “An Unbroken Bond”, Edie Lutnick

4. “Science and Human Behavior”, B.F. Skinner

5. “The Lake”, Banana Yoshimoto

6. “A New Psychology of Women: Gender, Culture and Ethnicity”, Hilary M. Lips

7. “The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living”, Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV

8. “Around the Next Corner”, Elizabeth Wrenn

9. “Beyond Freedom and Dignity”, B.F. Skinner

10. “Amrita”, Banana Yoshimoto

11. “When Everything Changes, Change Everything: In a Time of Turmoil, a Pathway to Peace”, Neale Donald Walsch

12. “Soul Detox”, Craig Groeschel

13. “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution”, Mary Eberstadt

14. “Hear the Wind Sing”, “Pinball, 1973”, and “A Wild Sheep Chase”:  (aka: “The Trilogy of the Rat”), Haruki Murakami

15. “Bolivie”, Alfonso Gumucio Dagron (essay)

16. “Death with Interruptions” (aka: Death in Intervals), Jose Saramago

17. “Equalizing Christmas”, Vassilis Steriadis

18. “Letter from Dublin,” Vicky Theodoropoulou

19. “Case Studies in Abnormal Behavior”, 8th Edition; Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver

20. “Finders Keepers”, Stephen King

21. “The Way of Serenity”, Fr. Jonathan Morris

 

 

 

 

On how if we lived in a peaceable society, I wouldn’t care whether every single one of you carried a gun.

guns

“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; …”
Samuel Adams
quoted in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789, “Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State”

I believe in small government.  That being said, you might assume that I am a conservative (which I am not); and that I am definitely not a liberal (which, also, I am not).

How can that be??

How can someone be neither a conservative, nor a liberal?

Is this an inability for me to commit to something?  To allow myself to be “pigeon-holed” or labeled? Or something more sinister?

Like, having freedom of thought?

Look, let’s admit it: not a one of us is TRULY a conservative, nor TRULY a liberal, at least not in the sense that Fox News or CNN would feel 100% comfortable giving any of us an open mic, and then walking away.

I am both a bleeding-heart liberal (I believe in providing enough tax money to run excellent programs to provide for, and support, people with disabilities, addictions, or the widows and orphans among us) and a fiscal conservative (let’s shut down those “programs” that have proven themselves unworthy of our tax dollars or where corruption has been shown to siphon off enough money to run a small island country).

I am both pro-life and pro-support of single and adoptive moms: let’s stop pretending that full-scale education and access to contraception has reduced the abortion rate, because it has not. Let’s make sure that all children – whether in the womb still or already born – have access to proper health care and food and shelter and education, because we are the wealthiest nation in the Western world, and if the tax rates were equalized among classes (percentages at the federal and state levels; short-term welfare for those who truly need it – let’s say five years?; and work programs to get able-bodied and -minded people working), we would have enough tax dollars to do all of it.

The gun thing?

If we lived in a peaceable society, where those with mental health issues or sociopathic tendencies were cared for, and truly looked after, I wouldn’t care if every single one of you was packing heat.

But we don’t.

The drug trafficking across state lines is out of hand: the meth problem alone has so overwhelmed state and local agencies that they are left scrambling to follow the breadcrumbs back to the labs in rural areas.  Urban murder rates are high, and climbing higher.  Domestic abuse assaults and murders are truly only being affected by grassroots crisis intervention programs on the local level, where police are well-trained to intervene in domestic assaults, and equipped to immediately arrest them; and then the DA can prosecute the offenders. Neglected, abused, and assaulted children are using their parents’ weapons against them, are committing violence because they have seen it become the norm.

A majority of these deaths are being caused by the prevalence of cheap – and easy to come by – handguns.

Don’t talk to me of spoons or pencils or cars, and how they equate to guns – that’s nonsense, and you and I both know it.

If we were truly a peaceable nation, I wouldn’t care if every single one of you was packing heat.

We don’t live in Revolutionary War times; hell, we don’t even live in Civil War times anymore.

So why people have multiple weapons in a single household – it’s beyond me.  Maybe the level of fear that our violent society has instilled in the average suburban father (or mother) is the cause.

I would love to believe that Socrates would appreciate the level of truth-telling that gets spread around the news agency…that freedom would have inculcated love, and understanding of our fellow man, and that would have turned our hearts towards each other. But you and I both know that isn’t true. Why do we need multiple Law & Order and CSI shows? Because our overall society is so incredibly violent that they never run out of ideas.

It is lack of love for our fellow man – even our own families – that has bred such violence. And only the reverse can change that. Only the realization that we are all connected, that if one of us is abused, neglected, or diseased with hate – that all of us are infected: only THAT truth can turn anything around. Fear creates separation, creates hate, creates violence and contempt, creates murder and death.

So until we are a truly peaceable nation, I would prefer if every single one of you didn’t have one. single. gun.

 

 

 

on how faith is like a marriage

perfect love

(or, to see our perfect Father God – with our imperfect eyes,

but at least, to keep on looking!)

A life of faith is a series of decisions, not just one moment in time. Falling in love with God is reflected – here on earth – by what is seen in the faces of an elderly couple, 54 years married, as the husband gently tucks the wife’s feet under a sheet in the hospital. Faith is built – or destroyed – one action, one decision at a time. And just like a marriage, “alone time” with the Lord is required in order for intimacy, closeness, to develop.

Time in prayer is developed through practice, not accident.  And from year to year, that intimacy looks somewhat different.

Some months, you may spend your quiet time with God mostly in meditation, taking one name of God in Isaiah and reflecting on what that name means to you personally. Some months, you will spend in quiet remembrance of what God has challenged you with in order for your faith and trust in Him to grow. During other times, you may spend more time crying out to God in shame, fear, or anger for hardships that are assailing your family. Or during “dry” prayer seasons, to rely on rote prayer in order to connect when you don’t feel that close to Him.

The point is the relationship itself, not the perfection with which it presents itself to the world. And as your love relationship with God grows, you will find that your love for others – loved ones, friends, or even enemies – will grow along with it.

What is better to spend your “extra” time on? facebook? 😉

 

 

Life in Action

life and loveLife is about taking action, about weeding out and winnowing down that which corrupts us. Whether we are paralyzed by fear or pain, bad memories or relationships, anger or disappointment, the #1 person you damage by sitting in those (rust) spots is yourself.

Life in action. Take some time today, and then once a week, to look into the spiritual mirror and ask yourself, what should I get rid of? And to whom have I given the power to “make” me feel small, meaningless, belittled, invisible, scarred, less-than?

John 19:11:  “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”

Think about that: people who have come in and out of your life and left you more scarred, bear the brunt of responsibility for that.

What you, yourself, bear the responsibility for, is letting go. For forgiving.

John 20:22-23: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ ”

Tomorrow – or on the day that I die – I want to know that I released anyone who has ever hurt me, that I have forgiven them. That doesn’t mean that they will be spared of the spiritual consequences of their actions, but it means that if I am successful in this, I will travel this road lighter – and cleaner! – then I would have, had I held onto that pain.

I love the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

May you be blessed with Serenity, this day and forevermore!

 

 

City That Never Sleeps

lovely blog post by my good friend Lisa

The Long Way Home

View from Ellis View from Ellis

I traveled to New York last month with my friend Becky, whom I’ve known for over 20 years. Her sister Angie and brother-in-law Mark were gracious to open their home, and their world to us, 41 floors above this magical city – because even years later, even after years of life’s twists and turns and travels  – New York still has a soft spot in my heart for magical things to happen. Our main agenda for the trip was Ellis Island – Becky wanted to look up her family roots – and so I aimed to take postcard shots since Ellis was the most touristy thing I’ve done on a trip in a long time. It was a beautiful fall day, so we walked, everywhere: through Times Squares on our first evening; from Battery Park all the way back to Midtown the next – each neighborhood we slipped…

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I am what I am, not what I do

Nunni, Becky '72

This is me as a baby, yawning, probably exhausted, being held by my Nunni who refused to take off her robe if she wasn’t leaving the house –  but put her earrings on first thing in the morning. Being 7 of 10 (ah, yes, the Title of my Future Semi-Autobiographical Comedy Book!!) wasn’t easy.

Compared to what I ‘be’ now, though, it was a freakin’ piece of cake.

I consider motherhood my vocation and not my function.

Motherhood is not incidental to me, it is central. I am terrified to think that someday I will lose one of my children to accident, illness, or worst of all, the death of the spirit: that they will walk away from everything about we have taught them about the Trinity and grace and salvation and redemption. And motherhood doesn’t exclude the importance of everything else in my life, but if I had to choose, I would give up everything else to that vocation: writing, traveling, cooking, eating, even breathing.

I see my number one role as ushering them into heaven. That’s a “be”, not a “do.” There’s no way to earn your way into heaven, it is belief that opens the door. (Awkwardly), there’s a reason that it is called belief and not do-lief.

Function is not central: my role didn’t peak or end at the last gasp of delivery. That’s also how I feel about my children, that it’s not their job to perform their way into my good graces. I ask my children to do the best they can, and then call it a day. There’s no expectation that all of them will go to university, nor have initials after the name Brad and I gave them at baptism, nor initials before. Whether they do or don’t do higher education, get married, have children, we are called to love them either way.

Of late, I have seen multiple incidents of my role being labeled as “breeder.” I wish this were an isolated incident, and maybe it is a defensive posture of people who feel themselves made less by society for their lack of children, but it is laughable as a label. The least of what I have done is birth my children.

The hard work started after that: prayer, prayer, and more prayer.  Prayer that they would survive every incident of serious illness in infancy,prayer for safety at the bus stop, prayer that they would find that one best friend in school before Thanksgiving, prayer that they would never catch the eye of a predator or an opportunist, prayer that they would have a good sense of humor (for my oldest, most serious child), prayer that they would look out for younger siblings and respect their elders, prayer that they would catch on to all the niceties that I teach them a thousand times over (please, thank you, you’re welcome, how can I help?), prayer that they would have a heart of service and be Jesus’ hands and feet on this earth, prayer that the rote prayers would become heartfelt and true for each of them as they progress in maturity.

But also, the hard work is being a good example. There are times, like today, where I am sick and would love to crawl back into bed instead of getting the kids off to school, and with a good attitude. But I do it – anyway. From love. There are times where you hide worry and shame and guilt and fear so that your kids can live their lives unencumbered and worry-free. Times when the uncertain future of each child can so burden you – that you can barely catch your breath; and then I breathe, and pray, and watch a good comedy or watch them goofing off with each other, and it’s oh, so worth it.

I try to operate from love. Sometimes the worry gets in the way, or one of the teens’ attitudes or dismissive nature, and then I get caught – Adult Behaving Badly. (I need to get a bright red t-shirt – preferably tie dyed – that says ABB so that my kids have ample warning.)

But I get up the next day, and be again.