Becoming Michelle Obama

Becoming,Booksamillion

Many months ago, before the book was even published, I put a hold on  Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming, at my public library. This week, it was finally my turn be immersed in one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. I finished this 421 page triumph in less than three days. I usually recommend books on the home page of my blog, but this one is worthy of the attention of all my readers, no matter what their political persuasion might be.

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Why do we read autobiographies? Because we are interested in the way other people create and live out their lives?  Because we want to observe other people’s families and say either “At least mine wasn’t that bad!” or “I wish I had that kind of family” or “Wasn’t I lucky to have a family just like that? Because we are interested in reading about other places and other times? All of these reasons are usually fulfilled in good autobiographies, but the best autobiographies also help us see and understand ourselves and our worlds better.  Michelle Obama’s autobiography is one of those.

The book is divided into three sections:  Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. Each section is funny, warm, engaging – and brutally honest, just like Michelle. It is also full of fascinating details of her life before Barrack, with Barrack, and as First Lady and beyond. Her determination to be true to herself and her upbringing through all the changes and challenges in her life are inspiring. Her commitment to Barack and her children and their life as a family is often challenged by her own career, his long-distance career, his entry into politics. Her responsibilities as a wife, mother, executive,campaigner, and finally First Lady battle with each other and cause internal conflict. Her willingness to grapple with all this and change as needed is an example for all women. Her honesty about being a woman in public life, especially a black woman, challenges us all.

BECOMING ME

Michelle Obama lived her early if an upstairs apartment above her aunt’s home and piano studio. She says, “My family was my world.  .  .  . Everything that mattered was in a five block radius.”  Her “stay at home” mother taught her the value of self-sacrifice as well as the need to be direct and speak up for yourself.  Her father, disabled by MS, taught her the meaning of hard work, doing your best, and loving your family. Her brother older brother Craig modeled studying hard, seeing the optimistic side of everything, and also treated her as his best friend. Michelle was a planner, thrived when her life was organized and everything was in its place.  In spite of her warm family life, Michelle describes battling a sense that even though she was smart and popular, maybe she wasn’t good enough. May-  be she had to work harder than everyone else to get where she wanted to go.

 BECOMING US

When Michelle and Barack Obama meet, she is already a successful lawyer. He has lived a totally different life, but seems to have found himself in the process. He is brilliant, constantly in his head, spontaneous, loving – and ambitious. They are as different as they could be – and adapting to these differences result in much of her personal growth. This section of the book is my favorite. Michelle’s internal battles to be a good mother, to have a warm and close marriage like that of her parents, and her desire to succeed at her ever-escalating career – all at the same time – are honest as well as fascinating. Her insights into Barack’s character and intelligence and growing desire to make a difference in the world (a desire she had been nurturing in herself since childhood) are just as fascinating.  

BECOMING MORE

This section is about a woman coming into her own.  Anxious about being a black woman in the most public job of the nation, she became a role model for us all. Determined to speak to issues that were important to her, she created initiatives that advanced the health and nutrition of children, the needs of military families, and the education of girls around the world in creative and enduring ways.  Determined not to let President Trump’s hateful and bullying language go unchecked, she popularized the phrase “When they go low, we go high.”  Leaving the White House determined to continue to make a difference, , she writes:

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim.  I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self.  The journey doesn’t end.  I became a mother, but I still have a lot to learn from and give to my children. I became a wife, but I continue to adapt to and be humbled by what it means to truly love and make a life with another person. I have become by certain measures a person of power, and yet there are moments still when I feel insecure or unheard. It’s all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done. 

So, this is why I read autobiographies: to be enlightened, challenged and inspired. If that’s your goal,  I encourage you to make time to read this book.

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From My Reading

“Miracle. It is badly identified when it is thought to mean that which we don’t understand.  That’s the popular way the word is used, but it’s not the Christian way. . . Miracle, through the biblical tradition, is not what we don’t understand but what is done for us that we can’t do for ourselves. Miracle is functional.  It’s what God does for us or does for us through other people that we can’t do for ourselves.  It’s possible you could understand it, but if you did, that wouldn’t make it stop being a miracle” (Eugene Peterson in Every Step an Arrival).

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“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds” (Henri Nouwen).

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“Every day, I get closer to the brink of everything. We’re all headed that way, of course, even when we’re young, though  most of us are too busy with Important Matters to ponder our mortality. But when a serious illness or accident strikes, or someone dear to us dies- or we go to a class reunion and wonder who all those old people are – it becomes harder to ignore the drop-off that lies just over the end of our lives.

I’ll be nearly eighty when this book is published, so it shouldn’t surprise me that I can sometimes see the brink from here.  But it does.  I’m even more surprised by the fact that I like being old.

Age brings diminishments, but more than a few come with benefits.  I’ve lost the capacity for multitasking, but I’ve rediscovered the joy of doing one thing at a time.  My thinking has slowed a bit, but experience has made it deeper and richer.  I’m done with big and complex projects, but more aware of the loveliness of simple things: a talk with a friend, a walk in the woods, sunsets and sunrises, a night of good sleep.

I have fears, of course, always have and always will.  But as time lengthens like a shadow behind me and the time ahead dwindles, my overriding feeling is gratitude for the gift of life” (Parker Palmer in On the Brink of Everything, Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old).

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“Most of us can identify with the intoxicating feeling that comes when we are the center of attention. Solitude is a discipline that gets behind those feelings to who we are when we feel invisible and unrecognized. Who are we when productivity and recognition fall away and God is the only one watching us?” (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook).

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“When I asked an Indian pastor what the church in America might do to help spread God’s word in India, he replied, ‘Print it on bread.’ It is not God’s will that people go hungry. The gospel is never offered for as a substitute for the basic needs of human survival. Jesus longs to satisfy the multitude’s deeper, spiritual hunger, but he doesn’t ignore their physical hunger” (Lou Lotz in Words of Hope.)

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A Dream Deferred – The Gift of Granddaughters, by an anonymous blogger

We all have dreams – work we want to do, influence we’d like to have, places we’d love to see, children we’d love to raise, people we’d like to meet . . .  Sometimes these dreams come true; sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they are deferred or delayed. This group of blogs shares the stories of dreams deferred by members of two writing groups I lead in Holland, MI. In this post, our anonymous guest blogger shares how disappointments can fade into blessings.  For other posts in this category go to the home page and click on the category A Dream Deferred on the right hand sidebar.

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As a young girl, I played with dolls.  I enjoyed picking out their outfits, pretending I was taking them to church, and teaching them as my students in a make-believe classroom.  Thinking back, I realize they were all girl dolls.  My paper doll sets and coloring books also featured girls or women movie stars.  I always assumed I would have a daughter someday, someone who would be interested in, and value, these sentimental childhood experiences and memories.  I even saved some of my original dolls, paper dolls, and coloring books.

When each of our sons was born, I was so grateful for a healthy child, especially after two of them needed surgery as infants, but there was also a twinge of longing when I realized that many of my parenting experiences would be different than I had thought years ago.  Little did I realize how different!  Boys love to wrestle and play rough.  We spent one New Year’s Day in the ER when one of our sons fell, cutting his lip and needing stitches.  This same son fell off a swimming pool slide onto concrete.  Still in my swimsuit, I remember wrapping him in a towel and taking him to the nearby doctor’s office.  Another son’s nose was broken during a wrestling match.  Another son was climbing a tree with his GI Joes and fell.  The fall knocked him unconscious, and his little friend came running to the front door telling me, “Michael fell out of a tree, and he’s dead.”

Maybe it was because I had no daughters that I would not allow the “boys will be boys” rationale to guide my parenting.  I tried every day to guide them toward being sensitive and empathetic to others and didn’t excuse bad behavior because they were boys.  I know it sounds sexist to characterize boys as rough and tumble and girls as loving dolls and tea parties; I am speaking only from my experience.  

Raising Sons and Grandsons

I now realize that my sons are not as interested in the many sentimental items that I have inherited from my mother and my mother-in-law as a daughter might be.  I need to be realistic about what I will be able to pass on to them.  With one son living thousands of miles away and the others living in homes with little storage space, I must get rid of many parts of my history.  I cannot expect my daughters-in-law to care as much about her husband’s family heirlooms as she does about those of her own family.  I realize, looking back, that I was more invested and interested in finding out about my family’s history than about my husband’s.  I cannot expect it to be different for my own daughters-in-law.

An advantage I now see from having raised boys is that I can (at least partially) understand my grandsons.  Their need for speed and rough play does not surprise me, but I still find the words, “Be careful” all too familiar.  I have to trust that God knew best in sending us sons, not one of whom I would ever have wanted to be someone else.  Even though our youngest son sometimes says, “Yeah, I know I was supposed to be a girl,” there is no way I would want him to be anyone other than who he is. 

A Dream Deferred Becomes a Blessing

Yes, the dream of having a daughter has not been fulfilled, but part of it was only deferred until I was able to experience life with granddaughters.  They now range in age from a preschooler to teenagers, so one still loves being read to, and another has a blog and dreams of publishing her own book someday. 

Although I imagined that raising girls would have been a very different experience, now having several granddaughters has shown me some specifics.  They have loved coming over to play with those dolls and paper dolls from long ago.  Our annual tea party has been a highlight. They dress up for the occasion and used to bring their dolls along.  We pour tea from a tiny teapot and eat bite-size pastries on fine china. They enjoy their annual birthday shopping trip and lunch in a restaurant of their choice.  They are interested in old letters and photo albums.  I am truly grateful for these opportunities and hope that I can be a meaningful part of their lives well beyond the years of dolls and tea parties.

Living longer gives us the privilege of reminiscence and reflection. It allows early disappointments to fade somewhat and perhaps be balanced by more recent experiences and blessings.  I have found this to be true when I think back to those early playing-with-dolls years and then realize that God had a different plan.  I am grateful I have lived long enough to see much of it unfold.

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Transformed Lives Transforming the World – “Every Step an Arrival”

“Holy habits deepen into fixed patterns of life. We experience a growing preponderance of right actions flowing from a right heart” (Richard Foster in Streams of Living Water). 

This powerful quote from a major figure in the revival of the concept of spiritual formation teaches us that when we are focused on the transformation of our own lives, we can also transform the world around us. This post is the eighth in a series devoted to transforming our inner selves in 2019 through simple spiritual practices.  Find the earlier posts in the Category List on the menu under Transformed Lives Transforming the World.

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Transforming our inner selves is a life long journey.  It begins when we recognize that our lives belong to God – not to ourselves.  Every choice we make is part of that journey.  We learn that we are either with God – or not. Eugene Peterson has helped me understand this journey.  As regular readers of this blog know, I have adopted his phrase “a long obedience in the same direction” as my definition of discipleship.

Now I have a new phrase, the title of Peterson’s new 90-day devotional, to add to this understanding: “every step an arrival.”  We now can describe a transforming life as:

A long obedience in the same direction. Every step an arrival

What a comfort this philosophy is for followers of the Jesus Way (another Peterson title.)  For example, this week my little Renovare Spiritual Formation group, composed of women my age and stage of life, was brought to its collective knees by a paragraph in opinion page article in the New York Times by Arthur C. Brooks.

People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. . . . .  [Our problem is] contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

All of us cried “mea culpa” as we recognized our participation in some level of contempt in the political and even spiritual realm for people we disagree with.  Much hand wringing followed. It is appropriate to disagree, we agreed.  As Brooks says, “Disagreement helps us innovate, improve and find the truth.”  But it is not appropriate to live with contempt for others. So then we tried to sort out how we separate passionate disagreement over ideas with passionate disdain for people who hold opposing views. We finally agreed that refusing to include contempt for people with contempt for ideas was a choice – one that has to be made dozens of times daily and one that can become our usual practice if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts. So we all decided to practice the choice of separating people from ideas as a spiritual discipline, a soul-training exercise.   

Which leads me to my new mantra: “every step an arrival.” Every choice we make to respond to life in the way that Jesus did is an “arrival.”  It is a new place we have come to. And it is a new place to launch from. Hand wringing usually isn’t helpful. Guilt can be a motivator for an instant, but it is not an appropriate response for a life-time. Resolving to make different choices about our attitudes and behaviors is. 

Looking at our journey of discipleship, our long obedience in the same direction, as being made up of daily “arrivals” is comforting to me.  We all endure stops and starts along the our journey. We are provided with many opportunities to choose life-giving instead of life-thwarting. We find many occasions to choose to love not contempt. Therefore we experience many “steps of arrival.”

 We can’t change everything about ourselves instantly, but we can change constantly if we are in tune with the model for life that Jesus presented and are listening to the Spirit of God. “A long obedience in the same direction” and notable steps of arrival create transformed lives that  can and do transform the world.

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Ash Wednesday Devotional: Being with God

In her book Firstlight, Sue Monk Kidd relates this charming story:

One evening as I sat in the rocker working on a piece of needlepoint, I got one of those feelings of being watched.  Looking up, I saw my five-year-old son standing from the doorway.   He wandered over and crawled in my lap. “What do you want?” I asked.  

“Nothing,” he said. “I just want to be with you.”  He laid his head on my arm content to be near me, to curl up in my circle of lamplight and be in my presence.

The most beautiful prayer is to sit with God that way. To pray, not because I want something, not because I’m in trouble again, but because I simply want to be close.

Soul-training Exercise:  

This story presents a delightful picture of what it is to share time with God.  Spend a few moments being a child again and imagining what it is like to be with God. Here’s are some examples: 

sharing time with God is like relaxing by a warm fire with an old and well-loved friend, reminiscing, looking ahead, and feeling  safe and loved .”

♥  sharing time with God is like sitting in warm sunlight, listening to bird songs, smelling new cut grass, smiling at squirrel antics, and feeling grateful and comfortable.”

♥  sharing time with God is like strolling along the beach, taking in the glory of a pink, red, and orange sunset, and feeling wonder, awe,  and joy. 

Use one of these examples or choose one of your own and spend 15 minutes just “being with” God once or twice this week.  Inspire other readers by sharing your examples in a comment to this post.

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A Dream Deferred – And the Years Flew, by Guest Blogger Robin Tucker

We all have dreams – work we want to do, influence we’d like to have, places we’d love to see, children we’d love to raise, people we’d like to meet . . .  Sometimes these dreams come true; sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they are deferred or delayed. This group of blogs shares the stories of dreams deferred by mem- bers of two writing groups I lead in Holland, MI. In this post, Robin Tucker describes her life-long dream of living on a farm.  For other posts in this category go to the home page and click on the category A Dream Deferred on the right hand sidebar.

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I stood at my bedroom window with a sorrowful gaze, staring at the neighbors’ house.  From within, I could hear the mother yelling once again at her children.  Why can’t I be looking at a barn and fields instead?” I wondered.  I thought once more of my grandparents’ acre of paradise with its fruit trees, vegetable garden, and the old shed that had once housed chickens.  I remembered galloping across the grass with my cousin on pretend ponies and picking juicy, plump berries with Grandma for pies and jam.

Why must I be here instead of there?  My third-grade mind replayed the explanation.  My parents, concerned about the increasing violence in Detroit, had chosen to move our family to a smaller, safer town. Clean, family-friendly Holland, MI had won their hearts.

My father was a barber by profession and wanted his own shop. To afford that, a compromise on housing was necessary.  Mom and Dad had settled on a small “fixer upper” with a shared driveway and a postage stamp yard within easy walking distance of our elementary school.  The neighbors on this shady, tree-lined street were sociable and kind.  To my parents, it seemed the perfect Mayberry for their young girls.And yet within me, a hunger burned.  For from birth, God had made me a country girl.  I had a dream:  I wanted to own a farm.

The desire fired my imagination.  While other girls pretended to be princesses in palaces, I was a farmers’ wife feeding my animals.  When we were finally allowed to own Barbies, I wanted Johnny West, the cowboy with his action horse and cardboard ranch house.  When our ancient garage collapsed during a West Michigan snowstorm, I tried to convince my parents to replace it with a small barn, failing to understand why neither the city nor my parents were livestock friendly.

My expressive dreams were met with tolerant nods, smiles, and encouraging words like, “You could grow up to be a teacher or a secretary…”  After all, I was a city girl.  No one in our family was a farmer, except of course, Uncle Ken the horse rancher who had problems with alcohol and was getting a divorce.  Even my beloved Grandma, with her love for all-things country, had learned to find contentment in her flower and vegetable gardens in a suburb of Detroit.

Gradually, I perceived how foolish and immature my thoughts sounded to others.  Embarrassed, I tucked them away in a deep corner of my heart, only allowing them to reappear to myself in lonely sorts of times and places.

And the years flew by.

In college, to be sensible and pleasing to my mother, I pursued a secretarial degree.  Never mind that I was awful at typing and hated shorthand.  I lovingly supported my husband through graduate degrees and job changes.  I led my children through life, encouraging them to follow dreams of their own.  I willingly recognized this as a season of “others.”  My own passions would…could…just wait awhile.

But a curious pattern began to emerge.  When David’s first graduate studies took us to Lincoln, Nebraska, the duplex I liked best was on the edge of town, backed by nothing but cornfields.  The townhouse where our first daughter was born was surrounded by woods.  The house we built in Massachusetts was on 3 acres of wooded hills and yes, I had my first chicken coop there because it seemed educational for our home schooled girls to know where their food was coming from. When circumstances led us to live in an apartment for 9 years, I made sure that the slider faced an enormous field so that I wouldn’t have to look at other apartments and then found a way to brood meat chicks in the storage room of the garage.

And the years flew by.

My husband established his career.  The girls grew up, got married, and moved away.  And finally, during a simple empty nesters’ conversation about what to do with the rest of our lives, the clouds of distraction and delay parted, and clarity shone down.  The time had come.  We bought a farm.

Five years have now passed.  I wait for the births of this year’s goat kids.  I prepare the pen for the new piglets and begin taking orders for grass-fed lambs.  I think about the 300 meat chickens we will raise and mentally schedule their butchering dates as I stock the farm store refrigerator with today’s fresh eggs.

While I work, my heart sings with thankfulness for I am living the dream that came true.  Delayed?  Maybe, but having waited for decades I now understand what only time and wisdom can teach.

When a dream is from God, it never dies.  To others, it may sound like foolishness and that’s okay—it’s not their dream, never was, never will be.  He intended it to be solely for you. To ignore a dream implanted by God is to ignore the person He created.  Like the foolish servant who buried his master’s entrusted talent, ignoring our passion means wasting what we have been personally given to do.

Dreams entrusted to God find their fulfillment in His perfect timing, in His perfect way. It was right to help my husband. Ignoring the needs of my daughters to insist on my own agenda would have been wrong.  God knew when and how.  I only needed to wait.

Besides, it’s more fun!  Who could have guessed that we would buy our first real farm at the age of 55 and that it would be successful?  What a surprise to learn that 3 ½ acres, a mile outside of town would be more suitable than 17 acres buried deep in the country?  God knew, and I think He smiles as He continues to gradually unfurl His plans for me to see.

I watch my daughters as busy mothers. Traces of their own dreams manage to peak through their distracted lives.  I smile a remembering smile and whisper a prayer that they will keep right on dreaming until their day of fruition arrives.  For it will.

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Bouncing Back – Resilience

For the last month my husband has been critically ill.  I have become a nurse.  Wellness is not only the main topic in our home, it has become the main topic of most e-mails and phone calls from family and friends:  “How’s Fred?”  “How are you holding up?” “I can’t imagine the stress you must be under.”

I’ve been pondering these comments for a while.  Why are people so surprised that I have not cracked under the pressure of administering 15 prescriptions four times throughout the day and insulin 3 times a day, monitoring a low carbohydrate, low salt, and restricted fluid diet, as well as keeping records of medical data, speaking to doctors and nurses on a nearly daily basis, and driving to lab tests and doctors appointments? And, probably just as important, why haven’t I cracked? I finally hit on the word resilience.  When we are dealing with setbacks, suffering, pain, and even the unknown, resilience is the character trait that  is key to coping rather than caving.

In an interview with Onbeing host Krista Tippet on February 14, 2019, Richard Davison defined resilience as “the rapidity with which we recover from adversity.”  He goes on to remind us that “stuff happens. We can’t buffer ourselves; that’s the nature of life.  What is really important is how we relate to these challenges.”

An interesting dictionary definition of resilience is “the ability to spring back into shape.” Picture a baker removing a freshly baked cake from the oven. She sets the cake carefully on the counter and lightly pushes her finger into the cake.  If the cake springs back into shape, it is perfectly baked.  Our goal in times of difficulty is to spring back into our best selves.

If our resilience is weak or absent, we dwell on our problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed, or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. The good news is that we don’t have to get stuck in emotional baggage or wilt under pressure, or  hide away from life’s realities. 

RESILIENCE IS A CHOICE

I think, as in all emotional or spiritual growth, becoming more resilient is a choice – little hour-by-hour choices during a difficult time strengthen our resilience muscles and help us bounce back from minor or major setbacks.  Here’s an example of some of my recent situations. In each case, making a choice about my attitude made it possible to move forward: 

♦  Fred comes home from the hospital with 35 pages of discharge instructions, six new meds and changes in dosage in two current meds.  I line up all the medications on the table and count 15 bottles. I look at the new ones; four are antibiotics that are all white, rectangular, and imprinted with nearly indecipherable words and symbols. I read the first ten pages of the discharge instructions and look at the line of pills in horror.  How will I ever figure all this out!? I decide to read a book instead. The next day I spend about 90 minutes making a chart of all the meds needed and when and then load up a pill-box for morning and a pill-box for night-time and little cups for the 3:30 and 7:30 pills.  It is still unpleasant task but no longer a fearful one. 

♦ I’m on hold with the cardiologist’s office, trying to make an appointment.  This is my third phone call – same results. Finally,  I am promised a phone call if I leave a message.  I do. Nobody calls. Days later, the office calls my husband’s number to offer an appointment date and he cancels it.  I am angry, but finally choose not to try to control his choices.

♦  I have gone on my health portal to try to refill some prescriptions but nothing happens.  So when my husband has an appointment, I ask the nurse to check.  She gets distracted, so I go to the main desk.  The receptionist cannot find any trace of my e-mail.  She gets the names of my prescriptions and says she will tell the nurse.  The next day I get a call that the refill orders have been sent to the pharmacy.

♦ The doctor’s office calls on a Friday saying that Fred needs a blood test immediately so the results will be ready by his appointment on Tuesday.  It takes a couple of hours to motivate Fred and get him dressed and moving.  By the time we get we find out the lab closes at 2:00 on Fridays  and  is not open again until Monday.  I have to cancel coffee with a friend to make sure I can get him to the lab on a busy Monday. Thankfully, the results of the test are good.

These are a few of a long list of current large and small setbacks and issues and stressors.  But I have learned that Fred and I live in the unshakable Kingdom of God; no matter what happens we are safe. I learn that if I stay calm I can work to solve these problems. So my goal becomes to keep moving through the fear or anger or frustration. And issues are solved . . . or shelved for now or kept in escrow for more contemplation and consultation with the Holy Spirit. I am understanding that persistence is a precursor or companion to resilience.  Giving up is not an option; giving over is the solution. 

NEEDED:  MORE RESILIENCE 

On Friday Fred has an appointment with the pulmonary specialist to see if his lungs are healthy enough for biopsies for possible cancer in each lung.  His internal medicine doctor has gone over the options with us: 

  • if the biopsies are an option, go ahead with the knowledge that the needle could collapse his lung whereupon he will have to be hospitalized with a chest tube (and other atrocities) to try to inflate it.  Since his lungs are functioning at 22%, this is very risky.
  • If the biopsy reveals cancer, choose whether or not to have chemo.
  • Choose not to have the biopsy and live with the concern that he is living with cancer. 

If anything is going to make me crack, these decisions might. But recently I read a beautiful poetic statement by Pir Elias Amidon:

“Between the dark sky and the dark  earth  we hang a light in a dark tree and sing of our wonder together.”

I am heartened and amazed by what I am learning about God’s constant presence and about standing strong and hanging a light in a dark tree and singing together. 

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From My Reading

“Jesus says: ‘You have a home . . . I am your home . . . claim me as your home . . . you will find it to be the intimate place where I have found my home . . . it is right where you are . . . in your innermost being . . . in your heart.’ The more attentive we are to such words the more we realize that we do not have to go far to find what we are searching for. The tragedy is that we are so possessed by fear that we do not trust our innermost self as an intimate place but anxiously wander around hoping to find it where we are not. We try to find that intimate place in knowledge, competence, notoriety, success, friends, sensations, pleasure, dreams, or artificially induced states of consciousness. Thus we become strangers to ourselves, people who have an address but are never home and hence cannot be addressed by the true voice of love” (Henri Nouwen, You are the Beloved).

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“I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love” (Wendell Berry).

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“There is no single expression of discipleship that is prescribed, other than to follow. When I look at my companions on the way, I see such diversity in how we live out our callings. Some people quietly, gently touch the people around them. Some have endured great suffering and even death because of their beliefs. We are teachers, prophets, retail salespersons, trash collectors, clergy. We live in mansions and under bridges.

What unites us all is that we travel together as disciples, seeking daily to follow in the steps of Jesus. Sometimes we lose our way. But always, we are called back to the way of the one who guides our steps through the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of life” (Beth A. Richardson, Soul Care for Spiritual Leaders, Upper Room).

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“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.  It took me years to understand that this too was a gift” (Mary Oliver).

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