It’s Wholehearted Wednesday on Pages From Joan, and I just have to share,
Twenty-Six Days ago, our hearts were changed, and Love was Everywhere.
Our family has spent most of 2018 watching two of our girls as they grew,
Then summer came to an end, our time grew short, our slow days just a few.
Our daughter and our son’s wife were due in September, two babies we would meet,
After 36 years of marriage, we’d be Grandparents, we’d carry babes in our backseat!
Since August 24th, 2018, I’ve lost count, I may have held a newborn for at least 60 hours,
One for each year of my life, I turned sixty August first, the blessings have come in showers.
I know that you know this, but I must remind you, holding a newborn is like holding a flower,
Fragile, sweet-smelling, a flower needs water, while it’s Mom’s milk the baby devours.
The neck, hold the neck, all will proclaim, soon the baby’s strong and wiggles out of your hold,
How could this be, wasn’t the child just born? Before our eyes, this one begins to transform.
Since meeting our two grandchildren, Tripp and Elizabeth, I’ve been studying the unborn child,
‘Cause as I’ve held these two-hour after hour, the miracle of each, all I can do is smile.
The Word says that our bodies are knit together in our Mother’s womb, a secret place,
That we, each one, are fearfully and wonderfully made, our fingers, our toes, our face.
As I’ve held these two young ones, tight against my chest, they both like to be in a tiny little ball.
For that is how they lived out their months in their Mommies, safe, thriving, heart beating and all.
I do not consider myself a poet, not in any shape or form, this comes straight from my heart,
This poem is not about a political issue, a choice or an organization that appears to be so smart.
Wanted or not, it is about a little innocent babe who makes a start when a sperm meets an egg.
And if all goes well, as nature has planned, this one will soon be Sue, Jack, Fran, or Greg.
A child or a choice, the argument goes on, despite the value and beauty of each one,
Either way, we know that once conception occurs, in “the oven” growing is a tiny little “bun”.
Our two “buns” are now done and we couldn’t be happier or more full of joy.
Our son and Jess have a daughter, our daughter and Scott now have a boy.
Who will she become? Who will he be? The future is so incredibly bright,
The devoted parents of these two will work real hard to always ease their fright.
We vow to love these two new ones with all of our hearts, no doubt about it,
We will pray for them, read stories, and spoil them a lot, we must admit.
‘Cause we’ve been told that’s in our job description, our duty, our responsibility and our right,
We promise to support these families as they journey on their ways, loving with all of our might.
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With four questions for God, I recently took a time of silent solitude for 48 hours in a monastery. Those who know me well will find that unimaginable. <smile> I truly did, though, as I arrived on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at the Monastery of The Holy Spirit located in Conyers, Georgia. The ecumenical retreat house welcomes people of all faiths. A silent retreat is something I had considered doing for a long time. Now going on age 60 in six short months, one of my mantras is “Dream of it, then do it!”
I sensed God calling me, so I answered by reserving a small room in The Retreat House for a 48 hour stay. I am not claiming to have heard His audible voice. I never have, and perhaps never will this side of heaven. I did, however, have ‘a quickening’ in my spirit, and I am so thankful now that I responded. For any details you might like to read about this unique and sacred place, click here to visit their website.
The room consisted of a twin bed covered with a soft comforter, a desk with a lamp, a chair, and a place to hang my clothes. The shared bathroom was right outside my room. The meals in the silent dining area were both simple and filling. Snacks, fresh fruit, coffee and tea were available 24/7.
The community of monks, 40 strong, gathered five times each day to read scripture, offer up prayers for the world, singing and chanting the verses in unison and in harmony. It was truly a beautiful experience. I made it to every prayer time, including the 4:00 a.m. Vigils on both Wednesday and Thursday. I didn’t want to miss a thing!
As I spent my hours in silence, I noted 4 questions I asked of God:
(1) What do You want to teach me here?
(2) How can I be more Christlike in any given situation?
(3) How can I best love/support my husband as he begins a season of part-time work?
(4) How can I best love/support our two married children and their loves in the current circumstances of their lives? Both couples are coming up to four years of marriage and are expecting their first child September 2018.
As I experienced the many shared prayer times, my own contemplative prayer time, took intentional time in The Word, and created a few collages, I found myself in a very sacred space. One I will treasure, always.
The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located close enough to Atlanta to allow a day visit for most. The Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Monastery grounds are open to the public every day. 2-3 hours is the suggested time for a day visit. All are welcome to join The Monk Community during their prayer times, a time they are dedicated to praying consistently for our world. And The Lord knows how much we need these prayers more than ever. Guests will also want to enjoy nature walks while admiring the exquisite architecture, taking time out from the busyness of life.
In addition to joining The Monk Community for worship in the Abbey Church, visitors will want to take time out to visit the fascinating Monastic Museum full of images telling the story of how this place came to be. In the museum, there is also a video to watch about the life of the monks at the Monastery.
There is a Monastery Garden Center and the Abbey Store where visitors will find many special and unique treasures, including books, crosses, and much more.
For those interested in a little more structure and an overnight visit, many weekend, as well as midweek retreats are available in 2018. Some of these include Emotions: “Our cross and our crown” (Feb. 5-8), Embracing Deep Rest In Turbulent Times (Feb 9-11), Spiritual Rx for Stress and Anxiety (Feb. 23-25), Contemplative Prayer (Mar. 19-22), Image Faith & Photography (May 11-13), Yoga and the Christian Contemplation (May 25-27), just to name a few. The entire retreat schedule can be found on the Monastery website. Click here.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
This time of solitude and silence and contemplation was certainly time well spent for me. I do realize that many cannot carve out the time for a day visit to a Monastery, much less an overnight stay. I recommend a time for solitude for every soul, but I recognize that this is nearly impossible for most. Therefore I encourage you to find small ways to be alone and quiet. A hot bubble bath? A walk in the woods? A visit to an open small sanctuary? With timer set, sitting in a comfy chair alone? I bet you, too, can think of some way, somehow, to have some quiet, solitude, a time of rich and rewarding contemplation.
“Be still and know that He is God.”
In the hallway on the way to the dining area, there was a framed prayer by Theologian Thomas Merton. I found myself reading and rereading it several times each day. I wanted to share his thoughts with you.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) an American Catholic writer, and theologian.
Today, I want to share with you three touchstones of showing up.
Acts of love that will truly help during difficult seasons of life.
When is the last time you heard some grueling news about someone you know? A few days ago, a week or month ago? It seems the older we get, the more frequent it is. Someone has a new health diagnosis. A tragedy has happened in a family you love or a marriage has split up. Someone has passed suddenly.
This book gives many great ideas about how to best reach out when someone you love is going through a hard time. Here, I will give you just a fraction of what I learned in this quick, colorful, informative read.
Three Touchstones Of Showing Up:
(1) Your kindness is your credential. (page 58) “At its core, kindness is a total absence of ego and self-interest in doing something for someone else. The defining feature of kindness is that it comes unsolicited, and in its most awe-inspiring moments, it comes to the aid of those who are shunned. ” (page 60) Kindness comes from a basic social emotion: compassion. Compassion is to Notice, Feel, and Respond.
(2) Listening speaks volumes. (page 90) “Knowing how bad it can feel to hear the wrong thing, and how easy it can be to say the wrong thing, many of us would rather remain silent and walk away from an emotionally difficult situation.”
'I loved her texts. Just knowing that she noticed and cared, was all that I needed; it's not like she had a magic lever that would release balloons from the ceiling and make my disease go away.'
-Ken, diagnosed with MS
“Even if we know from experience how comforting it can be to have someone to talk to, when we’re in that position to provide such comfort, that conversation can easily feel too overwhelming to handle.”
“Thankfully, the conversations get easier with practice, and they can pretty much guarantee us the absolute best way to build deep, trusting, unshakable relationships–the kind most of us can use more of. The best way to have a conversation with someone in a difficult time, is not in the talking, but in the listening. And thankfully, it’s much easier to listen than it is to find that elusive ‘useful’ thing to say.”
'If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but do not love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain 'Jump!', and it jumps, but I do not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. Love Never Gives Up. Love Cares More For Others Than For Self. Love Does Not Want What It Does Not Have.'
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
(3) Small gestures make a big difference. (page 145) “Sometimes, what’s holding us back from offering comfort isn’t that we don’t care enough, but that we don’t feel we have the time or the bandwidth to do something that will make a difference. We may feel that we have to be 100 percent available all the time when we’re around someone in a tough situation. It’s not unreasonable to think that saying ‘I’m sorry’ is an inadequate response to, say, the loss of a loved one. Or that asking ‘How are you?’ and genuinely wanting to know means we are then responsible for talking with this person about their situation until the end of time. The good news is these fears are normal. The better news is these fears are not rational. Empathy Tip: (page 167) “The sick, grieving, or freaked-out person ALWAYS gets a pass. Always offer up your gift with a ‘No need to write a thank-you.” And mean it.
In the days and weeks ahead, how can you and I better love the hurting folks who end up directly in our life path?
I want to follow that age-old verse found in First Thessalonians Chapter Five:
“Rejoice Always, Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
Blaise Pascal, philosopher, 17th century
For me that means to maintain a grateful heart regardless of my circumstances. To carry on a continual conversation with my Creator. It also means I yearn to keep a short list of my wrongdoings as He lovingly convicts me and brings them to my mind and heart. I truly believe that prayer makes a big difference in my personal life journey.
And we are in the middle of the Lent Season where believers choose to say “no” as a gift to God…a way to purify themselves during this penitential season. So it’s a perfect season to ponder the purpose and place of prayer in your life and in mine.
I recently ran across an anonymous prayer from the 17th Century. Transparent and honest prayers such as this are received and valued by God. He is listening. Are we talking to Him? Are we listening out for His still small voice? He wants to hear from us and He covets a personal relationship with you and with me.
“Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will be someday old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy with my vast store of wisdom; it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tails of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that I occasionally may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person. Some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.
2 Samuel 22:33-34