My husband and I chose to sleep in this Sunday. The world and local news and the encouragement for social distancing kept us at home. Our spring-like weather turned to winter-like this weekend. We watched the gold finches fuss amongst each other for a perch to feed at the feeder. The purple and house finches do the same on the other feeder. Such the nature of animals, and people alike. The world’s concern (and ours, too), this corona virus has been much to think about and digest. Some planning has taken place in our communities, proactive rather than reactive. And there are those who are in a reactive frenzy to protect self, not thinking of the others around them. The empty shelves at the stores are the evidence with the hoarding of toilet paper and sanitizer. Remember while protecting yourself, think of your neighbor, too. Those especially who are elderly and the many who have comprised immune systems due to chronic health conditions. I have several family members in those categories.
We took my oldest granddaughter to the bus station for her first big trip by herself to Florida. This is a trip that has been planned for months. Hannah decided as a legal adult to still take this trip. Instead of fear and worry, I have prayed for her safe travels and health. My three classmates, the plumposity sisters (PS) and I have postponed our girls’ weekend here at the cottage. Sad, but totally understanding of their feelings. I busied myself with cap decorating to match our tie-dye shirts for the newly scheduled June weekend. I gathered more journal ideas for future projects. Love the birds. They teach us so much. Sing their birdie songs despite their circumstances. Most importantly I spent some quiet time in meditation and prayer. Such a vulnerable state we all are in. Yet this is a season that will pass as all seasons do. Life is still good. Keep smiling, and choose wisely.
During this week off from the everyday grind, I am present moment many moments of my day, and days plural. My senses are wide-open. I hear my husband’s heart beat in the silence. My vision becomes clearer by the hour in the solitude. What a difference capturing a subdued vacation dedicated to the rejuvenation of the mind, body, soul, and spirit. Old thoughts are changed to clearer vision and direction. Faith in my God and myself restored. Life is punctuated with grace, hope, and love. Courage and strength for the walk ahead. I see the path. One of prayer. Pray the Word of God. Meditate and then pray Psalms 119. Today’s verses 11, 18, & 148 …“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You … Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law … My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises.”
As an employee wellness coordinator for a large-sized government entity, I keep myself versed on health and wellness topics and periodically take certification courses. Depression and mental health are major issues in the United States. A person can know this by listening to the news or viewing social media at any given moment these days. More and more training in the health and wellness fields are focusing on the “7 dimensions of wellness” that make a person “whole”. If any of these are lacking, it affects the other dimensions of a person, and the community around.
These past few weeks God is urging me to write, more than I have written before with my journals, blogs, letters, and poems. I am writing a book about wholeness, the physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental healing for a woman with post-traumatic stress disorder which affects the social, intellectual, occupational, and environmental dimensions of her life. It is based on the true story of a Christian woman and her struggles after a traumatic event. Subsequent therapy reveals more than this sexual assault trauma, but the dysfunction she is living in her marriage. It is a story of hope despite the reality of trauma, and the fight against shame and demons associated with sexual assault. Life’s lessons are learned in every situation and circumstance, if we listen.
I have applied for a writing fellowship at a writers colony in Arkansas, and hope to hear good news by November. If awarded I will be granted 2-weeks stay at this writers lovely retreat center. My calendar will allow for this next spring, if I am awarded. If not granted the fellowship, well I may take 2 weeks off and hide out in my husband and I’s cottage to focus on this work with greater depth. Projects with my employer have shifted with earlier deadlines, so spring will be a lovely time to write, take walks, meditate, and write again. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” Ernest Hemingway is quoted. For me it will be my pen and journal, and pecking away on the keyboard of my laptop.
Emotions and the mind do funny things sometimes. Emotions can see-saw like the playground equipment, up-down, up-down. Sometimes the mind plays its own games. Truths and lies come into the mind, and I remind myself what is the truth. And people play games, too. But to know the difference requires discernment. I ask God for that discernment and wisdom. And my trust, my anchor, my foundation is in Him and His Word.
I am reading the book The Daniel Plan, and the chapter on “Focus” resonates so profoundly. Taking care of the body and the mind is essential to going older gracefully. A healthy body and sound mind equals good mental health. Fill your mind with good seeds. Then let your practice of those good thoughts bring harmony to yourself and those God has placed in your life. Bloom where you are planted.
Philippians 4:8-9 The Message (MSG)
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
I am a planner by nature and vocation. Letting things go for a whole day is not easy. I think the Lord designed the Sabbath for a reason. I am not faithful to take that day of rest each week. And it catches up sooner or later. I have a quiet time each day where I meditate, pray, and just sit in the quiet. But a whole day of this refreshes my body and mind. My spirit needed it, too.
At my little cottage house I created my boudoir, designed with a comfortable chaise and vintage forget-me-nots such as comfy pillows, a lace-paneled screen, brimmed hats, scarves, hosiery, aprons, gloves, a pearl-beaded clutch, and special evening attire. It is tucked in one corner of my husband and I’s large bedroom. I turned on the mood lights picking green to illuminate my boudoir matching the plush green outside the window this summer season. It invited me for an afternoon nap, a day of rest from my weariness. The dark memories of days from over 20 years ago fainted away. “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” ~ Psalms 116:7. The pitter-patter of the rain on the window panes serenaded me to sleep.
A week’s vacation is finally coming next week. And a retreat may be in order for this autumn. But also a sabbatical. Traditionally, this is a 1-year recess for every 7 years worked. I cannot see this happening until I retire from full-time employment. So maybe a whole month off next summer, before I move into another chapter of my life’s work?
I am not an affectionate person but with my husband only. There are many deep-seeded reasons for that. I have opened my heart to be warm and kind to the people put on my path of life. Many years ago I read a book Open Heart, Open Home by Christian author, Karen Mains. It provoked me to develop my gift of hospitality. This gift is not about impressions but acceptance and warmth to all. Not just in my home, but in my heart and wherever I am. Hospitality is not just for my friends and family, but for all people and creatures that cross my path. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” the book of Hebrews (13:2) tells us.
The mineral, salt symbolizes hospitality according to this bible study website https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/salt/. “As one of the most essential articles of diet, salt symbolized hospitality; as an antiseptic, durability, fidelity and purity.” Salt’s ability to preserve and to sustain life has made it an allegorical symbol in many religions. “Called a ‘divine substance’ by Homer, salt is an essential part of the human body, was one of the first international commodities and was often used as currency throughout the developing world,” citing PW Reviews 2001 November. We need salt to regulate the water in our bodies, both necessary for survival. Did you know that 60% of your body is water? “All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came, ” John F. Kennedy is quoted.
As a Christian, “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another,” Mark’s gospel (9:50) encourages me. Do not take it for granted. By God’s grace I keep myself salty by prayer, meditation, listening, and reading. My hopes are my oral and written words shared season your heart with life and God’s love.
Ever notice when our President is first sworn in, he may be mildly gray. By the time his duties are handed over to the next President, he has a full head of gray hairs. Example: Barack Obama. For me those wispy gray hairs seem to be coming in each day. I know the natural aging process causes me to lose stands of hair and my new hair lacks pigment and regenerates gray. But there are some of those days the grays seem to grow by the minute! That may be the difference between peace and strife in my life. Stress multiples hair loss and grays. Example: I decided I was going to work a part-time 20-hour a week job on top of my full-time job to put that extra income into my savings since I had not had a salary increase in 6 years but want to retire in 2 years. Local government work is definitely service to the public, as it does not always serve self well! Humbling as it is, I could not keep up those new job duties and hours. My brain was mush working 2 office jobs by that first Friday evening. I wanted to sleep as soon as I was home every night. No life in that, or should I say “quality of life” in that! I was striving. Lost my peace. My husband saw by the 2nd evening at my 2nd job I was struggling physically and mentally. He simply said, “if it is not going to work, it is not going to work.” No lecture or ultimatum. Relief. Grace given, and received. Lesson learned. I put in my notice to this new office, and back to square one.
I am praying and seeking God’s plan. I want to retire from my employee benefits job with the local government at age 60. Planned to work part-time some place(s) while pursuing my master’s degree in writing. Tuition is 1/2 price at age 60 at the university of my choice. I want to teach college students the gift of writing. My dreams are noble and good, achievable. Are they God’s plan? Maybe my timing is off? Maybe putting off retirement another 2 years to make up for lost income with the salary freeze? Maybe thinking outside of the box? Henry Ford made this statement, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Peace is returning with prayer, meditating, gardening, my husband’s love, and even the midst of chaos this last week at that 2nd job. God’s provisions are endless. God continues to mend me with His pure gold. He has aggrandized me through Jesus Christ!
A wooden birdhouse nailed to a backyard maple tree was home to Eurasian tree sparrows year after year. Eventually the squirrels chewed a bigger hole and took residence. Now the tree does not exist as we made way for a room addition to the house, but the prized songbirds still return to our feeders every winter. The Eurasian tree sparrow finds its citizenship in some select communities in the St. Louis, Missouri vicinity. “Its presence in Missouri dates back to shortly after the Civil War. At that time it was a fad among nature enthusiasts to import nightingales, chaffinches, bullfinches and other songbirds from Europe. This was done in the false hope that new birds might help control insect pests, but was also an excuse among nostalgic immigrants who wanted to see birds ‘from the old country,'” written in a Missouri Conservationist Magazine article. These meek songbirds entertain us humans by making nests in our birdhouses and stay around for winter dining on seeds left in the feeders. Not native to Missouri, but they thrive.
Writers and artists need their own space to allow their creative juices to flow. Writers’ and artists’ retreats can be found around the world. Michael Pollan’s cites in his book, A Place Of My Own, “a room of one’s own … is a space of solitude a few steps off the beaten track of everyday life.” I think we all need that space whether it is a nook in your house, a favorite bench at the park, or trail to walk amongst the trees and wildlife. Creativity is for all people. Historians, sociologists, and National Geographic photography and author, Dan Buettner study people around the world, seek those who thrive and live as centenarians. These century-old people have 9 common threads in the communities they live in what has been now dubbed the “Blue Zones”. These threads are unique to their culture but can be tied together. These threads are: they move naturally, have purpose, consume plant-based foods and stop eating when 80% full, practice moderate wine consumption, have daily down time, their family comes first, live in the right tribe for self, and belong to a like faith community.
As a wellness professional I stand by the concept of “The 7 Dimensions of Wellness”: physical, spiritual, vocational/financial, emotional, social, intellectual, and environmental which I can easily tie into the Blue Zone’s 9 common threads. With all this, what is one dimension that the others surround around? It is the spiritual dimension. It defines our purpose, beliefs, and values. It centers our thoughts, prayers, and meditations. It is big enough that it allows us to accept others. And your spiritual practice, is it integrated in everyday life? Are you thriving? Where do you find your citizenship? Are you here by chance or did the Creator create your place/space for a purpose? And where will you be after the Earth is no more? Your spirit lives forever.