Friday, December 10, 2010

I Collect Love

My grandfather owned an antique shop next to his farmhouse and I lived next door when I was a young child. I’d leisurely walk around the shop and barns, spotting new additions: a clock here, a old table and chair set there. Occasionally, there would be a newer item. I had my eye on it- a wooden treasure box. I must have been all of ten at the time that I bought it and I’ve been filling it with love ever since.

I collect special cards from my parents, loved ones and those who have passed on before me. There is a tightly packaged set of letters from my then military boyfriend, now husband with postal marks from all over the world, special momentums, poems and memories of days gone by. I’ve tucked my tiny bible in, along with a small evergreen scented pillow, filled with pine needles from a camping trip long ago, when my family was how I first knew it. It’s amazing how sweet the fragrance and memory is still.

I had a love spill long ago. I had to reorganize and start placing items that would no longer fit, in my antique blanket chest, which used to sit at the foot of my grandparents canopy bed. To my amazement, I found a square white box, which my youngest and I opened with wonder. It was my ring of roses and babies breath that I wore upon my head that hot July day when I decided against a veil. As my own baby tried it on wide eyed, I recalled my own momma giving it to me, as she had dried it while I was on my honeymoon. She said I’d need to see it again some day, and she was right.

I always have loved old treasures and antiques, especially old hope chests, as I have great wonder of what was in them before I owned them and what stories they might tell if they could talk. Then there are dusty corners that contain a few detours in the road, only known to the owner. I think about that day when I’m long gone and what will become of them all. I suppose we all have some surprises that surface tucked in amongst handprints and proud preschool glued button framed photos and dark crayon drawn ‘I love you momma’ pictures with my face and hands drawn so big.

Yes, I collect love.

How God must yearn for that too. Perhaps when one gets right down to it, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love; loving God in all people and extending it to all people is what really counts. (Galatians 5:6) What would it look like to love Him as my first love and to love him passionately for all of His people? To take all that I know as my truth and let it all plummet from my mind, deep within my heart.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”

A love affair - a heart contemplation put into action.

The beauty of such may begin in the mind, but surely settles in the heart and is the holy business of God’s people. Some days I seek God’s way and pray fervently for an answer to an item of discernment when the answer has all ready been provided simply where I stand. “…. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)

I’ve filled my box and trunk rather selectively through the years. Much to my sorrow when I announced my search and rescue mission to locate it after our last move, a few treasures I was positive I had saved were not there. My heart sank, as I do recall now the day that those went by the wayside, heart much afraid to hold them too tightly. Yes, I had discarded them. I let them slip through my fingers like sand. Some words can only be savored in the memory of the heart. These pieces deliberately tossed at the time and long forgotten give me cause to think why. Maybe it was more about whom I could not tolerate at the time or who could not tolerate them being a piece of me. Mean while it’s taken years, really decades later, to learn how to slide on over for one another with grace and make more room. God repeats some lessons until one has had enough practice.

I loved that old antique shop and this precious box and trunk, yet not the material items themselves, but the love they represent. I’m left with an image of God’s extravagant love overflowing without bounds that could not possibly be contained in these cherished chests. His love is huge. It never discards or fails; it is a patient love that tolerates and envelopes all, sealed with the offer of redemption. As I’ve made my finite attempts at loving, He’s been teaching me that bigger infinite Love- that baby in a manger every day offered Love. That Love at a distance is warm and comfortable, while Love close up is a transforming fire. That’s the kind of wild love freely offered inside all and not to be hidden away in an old chest of time.

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” ~John 13:34-35

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday Photo and Quaker Quote

"God stirs up our comfortable nests, and pushes us over the edge of them, and we are forced to use our wings to save ourselves from falling. Read your trials in this light, and see if your wings are being developed."
~Hannah Whitall Smith
Though we are rapidly moving towards winter and the Christmas holidays, my mind is not quite there yet! It may appear, I am thinking spring with my nest here, but it is just my crazy love of collecting birds nests. Us girls have begun talk about keeping our decorating and holiday simple, and will place all our nests in our tree as it is a joyful custom we keep. It is great fun to make the relatives and visitors find them. We have not begun much shopping either, as that part of the holiday some times wearies me. We are all so rich in so many ways it has become difficult to think of what small, but meaningful gifts to give. Once again, the girls minds have turned toward the most fun idea of all to them: sending bibles, blankets and chicken to Asia. In our frenzy here, we have lost the catalogue in which they begin to circle what they would like to give. The reactions of those they donate to in their name have been priceless other years. Perhaps it is good enough to enter into Christmas gently and slowly-to first think on baby Jesus and realize that all will be well if we keep God with Us every day of the year.
~May your season be filled with the blessing of hope and peace.~

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quakers and Gratitude

Life is hard. Gratitude eases that burden. It knows no limits and broadens life from the inside out. Being grateful is an important spiritual practice for me, and one that seems to take Friends by surprise at times I notice. However, I’ve learned I need to see beyond myself through noticing life’s joys and blessings and even by seeing the beautiful in the ugly if need be. It is God in our midst.

A big part of being Quaker to me, is the freedom to express myself as led- what the Light in my heart is illuminating. I find cause to give thanks in that alone. At times, I feel Friends have good news and a great opportunity to speak it. I have been gifted so much, and chances are that you have too, if you are sitting at your computer reading this today. Even in the stillness and silence practice of Friends we are free to contemplate, seek guidance, give thanks, and yes, even praise! That is a treasure in our fast paced world of today.

So often I notice we as Friends focus on the entire ill in the world, and we should unite in the cause of overcoming much ill with good. But in wishing to remake the world, it seems we can get very serious and not lift our heads up from these injustices. I think experiencing that ‘inner nudge’ toward doing good in the world is one of the most important of the avenues of religious experience, keeping in mind that one does not dwell on good works for personal gain. However, I think daily gratitude is some thing that helps to see and recognize the God within and working in our daily lives. Expressing that, for me, lifts my soul and becomes contagious when I experience others who do the same. Perhaps it is a balance. It need not be all about feeling which is fluid, but a natural symptom of the devotion of the heart.

Obviously, we are not all the same. We ought to be part of the world and give back to God for it. We should strive for peace and betterment today. But somewhere in the mix of it all, it feeds me when the Light illuminates sparks of joy- surprises and the grace of God daily. This daily love affair with God, naturally then gives cause to see the sacred in each ordinary day. The truth is, I am looking quite earnestly amongst Quakers for gratitude and joy sparks. I think there is room to proclaim our thankfulness. Our roots are Christian and I am finding many stand firmly in those roots still, and their spirituality grows strong, but all of us are able to practice offering thanks. Every little glimmer of Light changes me and I believe for those around me. This daily giving thanks and expressing gratitude in meeting also seems logical and appropriate. Gratitude makes sense of our past and connects it to today. It brings more peace for today and creates more hope for tomorrow. To me, that sounds very Friendly. So, I continue my gratitude search and my own practice of journaling them, and on the darkest of days, God makes my heart glad.

George Fox quoted this verse in one of his journals: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” Psalm 4:7. He continued on to write: “Praise, honor, and glory be to the Lord of heaven and earth! Lord of peace, Lord of joy! Thy countenance maketh my heart glad. Lord of glory, Lord of mercy, Lord of strength, Lord of life, and of power over death, and Lord of lords, the King of kings!”

I think George had his head on straight when it came to praise, which is so often a lost art today. I want to diligently remember who to give it to. Every month of the year lends itself to continuing the count. So, I have scribbled in my journal and given thanks for so many things lately. Won’t you consider joining me? Here are a few from my page this past week...

Brilliant leaves
Two dogs in my window
Find my childhood bible again
My treasure box of love
Holding hands watching movies
Tired Husband reading scripture
Giddy girls anticipating possible new life here with their bunnies
A warm kitchen and help in it
Homegrown music on the harp and guitar
The stately pines out my bedroom window
My Grandmother who just turned 93
Old wooden benches and floorboards
The renewing gift of silence
Every new morning

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just from my Spiritual Journal....

As a dreamer, at my window
just in time to see
a gust of autumn
spray it's brilliance,
to reveal hidden corners
and brush off dusty dreams.

A singular leaf floats down.

That is when You breeze by
and I remember to choose joy-
to keep the door of my heart on a crack
and the key upon the shelf again.
I open the clouds like curtains,
as Your Love shines through.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday Photos

"If we better studied and understood God's creation, this would do a great deal to caution and direct us in our use of it. For how could we find the impudence to abuse the world if we were seeing the great Creator stare us in the face through each and every part of it?" ~ William Penn

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Take the Cure

As I set my tall glass of water down, the crystal coaster slammed to the floor and shattered to pieces. That would make it five out of a set of six for me. My heart sank. I was moving too fast in the land of mom, wife, teacher and now student this past month. While my new school challenges have gone so well, other occurrences have left me bent over breathless.

Down on my knees I hear the voice of Little One with the words that I’ve taught her, “It is just a thing Momma,” as I pick up the shards of glass. Sweet, but the truth is I’ve shattered, not just the glass, as old fear begins to rise up inside of me. I’ve dipped too far back into regrets and fast-forwarded in time to where I do not belong yet, worried how I will cope. That’s a sign to me to take a deep breath, hold some silence and let God work out what’s really going on, as the Living God does not intend the blessings of life marred with the burden of fear along the journey.

A quick review of the past couple of weeks told the truth of a precious one diagnosed with cancer, the death of a dear friend, and a tense email received and my pitch hit to ‘fix’ twenty years for others, which struck out immediately. In the midst, I’ve begun our home educating again and made several trips back and forth to my Philadelphia hospital for appointments. Needless to say, I have had to rush a bit through my feelings.

It is odd how emotions have a way of surfacing when least expected.

Daughter Two arrives with the vacuum and a sympathetic look. I thank them both and cover the heart of fear beating fast with a smile and move along, but the wounded trust slow. I arrive back to the moment and marvel at the good growing in these daughters. These young ones who read fractures better than others I have known, and how they dole out generous portions of love to others and me along their way.

I cry. I wonder how that will affect my children, but I live by my heart and just maybe it is just fine and important that they learn to cry too. I can’t always stop things from breaking. I can surrender and pray the pieces are safe when they land.

I remember the year our family broke and entire new glass set and how my patient husband recently drove me back to our favorite kitchen store, a state away to repurchase the same one. They were pretty. I accepted the kind offer, but it was not necessary. I think about passing priorities down to the younger generation in our extended family and I have naturally learned to follow suit. My Grandma said ‘things’ don’t matter, and I remember how she broke glasses too, and that she encouraged me to join in and laugh over it. Her laughter was so freeing to me then and she never fretted with herself over it. I can still smell the green Palmolive soap that she let me squeeze far too much of in the dishpan and how warm and slippery the water felt on our hands as we worked and giggled together. My own Momma loves to give abundantly, but has also taught the real gift that people matter far more than material possessions as well. I see the good and love in these women and am blessed that they are still in my life.

But people breaking- that’s another thing entirely. My heart wants to love big and fix old wounds and all who suffer. I fear that I cannot. I fear that in my imperfection and illness that I may sadden or break others. I am still learning in this journey toward further wholeness to sill still with God through storms. I sit with the word surrender.

Once again, I think to myself, sometimes letting go is the best way to hold on.

I am propelled back to my words the past few weeks. My mind is stuck on how I could have said more to Dear One while I still had the chance. Oh how I wish I could send just one more email or card. I think about how I could have been a better peacemaker in my family of origin. How I desire to sand the edges smooth of the conversations around me. Or better yet, leave that reply button alone and keep myself safe on the fringe to help hide the tender places, because the words repeat and throw me back in time then notoriously hurl me far into the future. My stomach twists and I realize I must comfort my own body too.

All swept up again, I realize it’s simply time again to take the cure, not to stop engaging and loving. I get a new glass of water, and begin to sip on the precious silence and prayer. I then enter into giving thanks in the moment. I unearth my gratitude journal, as it’s been far too long since my last entry. I take the cure. The fear ebbs along its way and God comforts me with safety once again.

Strange how we can forget how raw we as people really can be and how we need one another- how very connected our lives really are and God intended it to be that way.

The heart slows. Whispered prayer reminds me we are never left alone, not even in fear or loss. John Woolman evidently had a thing going for it as well when he wrote:

“….I saw this habitation, the place of prayer, to be safe, to be inwardly quiet when there were great stirring and commotions in the world.”

Silly, this careening back or tumbling ahead of time we are given. It is fear’s best friend. Some how slowing in prayer and giving thanks keeps me in the one glorious moment I might otherwise miss with the great I Am. I find myself in awe that Jesus cleanses all the inner places and extends his love to all, and I think that when we break each other and ourselves, how we must break Jesus. I am freed by the Truth that comes in that still quiet voice, to remind me that Jesus so loved the broken, and that each of our identities are unique and loved. I am working on remembering that includes me.

I’ve done my share of breaking at times and so I quickly add “Grace” to my journal, as I lean into this humanness, and try again a bit more gently to move into the new day with kisses and hugs for the helpers around me. I remember the Divine’s grace is in all people and lives on in the ones that I love.

“Be strong and of good courage; Be not afraid..” Joshua 1:9

Sunday, September 12, 2010

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s Autoimmune Disease, a few others (boring!)
2. I was diagnosed in: 1999 and 1007, respectively
3. I had symptoms since: 1985
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: focusing on basic daily needs at home
5. Most people assume: Being dry is no big deal if you sip water
6. The hardest part of mornings are: Trying to slowly and safely open my eyes
7. My favorite medical TV show is: No TV, movies and old dvd's only
8. A gadget I could not live without: The reassurance of having my epinephrine needle handy though I haven’t used it yet
9. The hardest part about nights are: Having to do a lengthy routine when I'm so tired-I make it worse as I am a night owl
10. Each day I take__ pills: (no comments please) 7 pills, 6 meds for eyes
11. Regarding alternative treatments I have tried: Acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga, relaxation techniques, massage, countless supplements, naturopathic doctor. None really helped and most supplements hurt due to salicylate sensitivity
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible one I would choose: Very hard. I might choose visible if I could talk and see as freely as before
13. Regarding working and career: I would love to be able to work to help support my family, but my health does not allow. I am thrilled to now be able to take care of the basics at home again and help facilitate my daughter’s learning
14. People would be surprised to know: Some days I cannot drive due to eye pain and I have 50% esophageal functioning
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Constantly disappointing people because I cannot participate in all the activities I once did before
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Return to school by Distance Learning
17. The commercials about my illness: Fibro-for drugs possibly/ Sjogren’s- none?
18. Something I really miss doing since diagnosed: cross-stitching, being carefree outdoors in the wind and sun
19. It was really hard to give up: most normal foods due to allergic reactions
20. A new hobby I have taken up since I was diagnosed is: carting miniature horses, raising rabbits and writing
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again: I would hope to be able to attend my children’s graduations/weddings
22. My illness has taught me: To be more patient and tolerate others who I do not understand
23. Want to know a secret? One thing that people say that gets under my skin is: You look great!
24. But I love it when: People do not pressure me socially and recall not to wear fragrance near me, especially in my home where it lingers and I react for days to come
25. My favorite scripture that gets me through hard times is: Psalm 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."....I've found him faithful
26. When someone is diagnosed, I’d like to tell them: It is time for ‘Plan B’ and God is good and will give one. Find an inner circle of trust-worthy friends, look for the Grace and life will go on.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: The smallest things mean the most now. Life is still beautiful, the sky is bluer and loving is more passionate
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: believed me
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I want to help raise awareness and support others
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Really grateful that you took the time to read and hopeful you will believe those whose illness is invisible. It saves lives.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday Photos

Here are some photos of how we spent the last week of our summer vacation at home...lots of good old free activity within our own area. I ended up having some Pre-Class assignments to do and needed to rest, but got in on some of the action. We visited an art museum in the area and took the girls to the Safari Park at Great Adventure-no rides, mind you. (What parents!) We were also blessed with complimentary tickets to a 5 stage outdoor concert not too far away with many Christian musicians. Amongst my favorite and most talented in my opinion, was Phil Keaggy. I did the math and realized my first concert seeing him was 32 years ago, so fair to say, I am getting old while he seems to simply be getting more adorable. We ended our week with a spontaneous bonfire. Hubby just hauled huge slate rocks in a circle and dug our own fire pit in the yard. Probably just another one of those situations where we were in need of another 'permit' this summer.......God provided much grace for me to do a few things that I normally would not always be able to participate in. As our girls would say 'Way Cool."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Growing Dreams

I’ve been living life in basic survival mode for a long time now. Life easily becomes about making it through the day. At times, taking care of a chronic illness and attending to family needs and expectations causes my cup to be quite full. That is when I am reminded to take life as a book and read at my own leisure as well, that balance is good, and so is time to explore a few dreams left living.

In this book of life, there are some chapters that I am a bit afraid to live and can only do it through Grace. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve set goals and dreams and watched them burn. I’m thankful that God always has my best interest in mind, that all from his hand is good. Though, considering new goals takes courage and at this point, a realistic consideration of abilities. Since the new year, I have felt a nudge, this gentle push to move me into action. Some thing more the than monotonous pass go and do not collect two hundred dollars as in a monopoly game.

So, I have prayed and listened and I’ve listened some more. I’ve mostly watched where God has already planted my own two feet the past few years. And I’ve spent a little time wondering where the next stroke on the canvas of my life will lead. I know now that it will not be even remotely what I had planned. I am taken back that God is again faithful to make his vision my own.

God has spoken to me through people, and through his scriptures and also significantly through the reading of Oswald Chamber’s writings this year. I’ve been reminded that God often can use the weak and I like what Chambers has to say:

“What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is to depend on him and on his power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish-his purpose is the process itself......It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.”

I like that quote as it has played a role in getting me ‘unstuck’. I now feel I can set a goal and not be all consumed with whether or not I will be able to complete it. I haven’t told many people as possibly some times in a life book, we fear the words themselves, finally written or even whispered a loud, may cause one to miscarry the growing dream. But I have to share it now, as my time and priorities will all need adjusting and I will not be nearly as visible around the internet as I have been. This blog may go quiet again for a long while until I adjust.

This week I am starting back to home educating my daughters, but am also beginning a two year Spiritual Formation and Direction Program for myself. As life would have it, I’ve paused and leaned long on this leading. I’ve had several affirm my simple desire to use it to continue befriending and companioning the chronically ill and hurting people that come into my life, and gain a little more experience to do so. I am only committing to one semester at a time and will determine the practicum and completion, depending on my own health. I think I will enjoy it a day at a time this way. God has been faithful to steady me and remind me that any eventual outcome or none at all is just fine. It’s the moments, the days and the experience that counts.

At times I even feel a bit selfish in all of this, as I have enjoyed preparing for this: planning, purchasing and beginning to read the books with the excitement of a little child. Even more so, is that I have grown to love relating to others who are ill. They are fun, creative and courageous people, which makes no sense for people in pain, but I’ve found it true and as it turns out, loving is good for our souls. My loving and giving in the smallest of ways helps me. It’s really as simple as that. I want to be a friend, a companion, that equally encourages another’s life and spiritual journey and I’m done running from this seed of a thought that was planted in me long, long ago which I feared.

God comforts me through Oswald Chambers words, “His training is for now, not later. His purpose is in this moment, not way down the road in the future.” So, I am fixing my eyes on God, rather than if I can meet the ultimate goal. I will attempt to be mindful to live each day, and we will all learn together side by side- each moment, in attempt to be obedient to our Guide. I will give this a try. There, I said it and wrote it.

See I am doing a new thing.
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
And streams in the wasteland.
Isa 43:19

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Slipping Away

I’ve been watching them. Watching the girls grow what seems like inches this summer out my window as they meander along, care for their animals and swim. Son is now towering over me and I don’t know his schedule day to day and this has become the norm here.

It is a different experience to slip under that water with children 4 years older also. I have been able to swim this season with the purchase of a new salt water pool, without chemicals so it has been a pleasure once again to take the plunge with them. Then, all of us have been delighted to learn that our new puppy, just 8 months old, is an excellent swimmer as he skims the surface and beats me to the water balls.

The past 3 years, my son has vacationed independently. I am getting used to this. I did the same about his age I recall, as I watch him venture out of the lane, destination beach house. Other times to my in-law’s cabin in the Adirondacks, where love first made my own heart flip and memories for me come flooding back. It is amazing to me that he is now about that age I was then. Time does not stand still!

Next summer they will be even taller. I’m ever so aware that calendar will turn soon and so will the leaves.

I wonder, really, how many summers I will have left to cherish like this.......? Soon my youngest and I will share our fall birthday month, but I will be 47, while she will be just 11. I think to myself, twenty would be a miracle, ten maybe, and then possibly none? I swallow hard on that one, but how it makes me savor the day.

Lately, I have been visualizing a calming picture of walking hand in hand with God through each day. That is what it feels like when I am trusting him. Some days, I am strong, moving confidently side by side on the trail. Other days, I feel God’s hand gripping me tighter in my weakness, helping me up, guiding me and teaching me to stand firmer and trust him deeper as I make my way forward onto more arduous steps.

How blessed I am to look back down the path and see it strewn with God’s provision and faithfulness.

It will be time to pack away the pool in a few short weeks. I will be left to swim in box upon box of the girl’s warmer clothing to fill their dresser drawers for cooler days ahead. Their vacationing will come to a sudden stop as the cabin and shore house will close to the routines of autumn. I’d like to think I’ve learned more this season of the blessings of solitude, rather than viewing at times what in the past has felt a bit like loneliness. There is a enormous difference, I am learning.

I’m getting prepared. I do love autumn, and so I soon will be ready to catch the new season and gather leaves together- ready to make each moment count.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. Ps. 136:1

Monday, August 9, 2010

Friends Meeting Friends

Some of my most favorite people live inside my computer. There, I said it and it is true. Some days, I think how wonderful it would be to gather them all up to be my neighbors. Yet I know, God has set me in this place for a purpose and them in theirs and so I must enjoy these friendships for what they are and be content. I cherish the connectedness and find it is another area in which God has blessed my some times small life here.

I’m amazed with God’s creativity and surprises. From faithful and frequent notes in my e mail box, blogging friends and to precious people in online studies like the ones here. I’ve had several people offer help with my allergic food elimination diet when I’ve been at my wits end and give loving advice for treating my daughter’s Lyme disease. I have even come to know my family history more since the new year, from a online friend who freely offered to do my family genealogy 'just for fun’. There are some I’ve come to love as family and learned that one can choose them if you need to. And as Friends, there are some that have gone quiet for a while, but the connection we’ve shared remains valuable in the silent times even. After all, us Friends are good at silence...

Perhaps the most significant change this little screen has given me is the opportunity to exchange conversation on faith and to be where ‘two or three have gathered’. This has occurred for me in various forums and in online worship. Never did I really plan or expect to meet anyone face to face, but God had other ideas, as always, and much bigger than mine. Last year my family was afforded the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania and experience a conservative Friends meeting. This was a good opportunity to grasp in physical life the broader scope of Friends on the internet with some like-minded faith. It was a gathered meeting and unapologetic in it’s sharing of scripture as vocal ministry. Then this past month I had a request to meet up at my meeting, Buckingham Friends, here with a recent internet contact. This came as a sudden surprise and how fun it was to meet and raise our voices together in song! (Yes, that’s right-my unprogrammed meeting here does have a hymn sing for 15 minutes prior to our expectant silent time.) Then, the highlight of our summer thus far has been for our family to meet a Friend and his family from the Netherlands who was vacationing on the East Coast of the US who we share a much longer history together.

Wim N. and I met online about three years ago when at that time, I had completely stopped attending any worship out of my home due to illness. When The Online Meeting for Worship shut down suddenly, we relied on a few e mail addresses we had along with other vital and instrumental Friends that formed Quaker Faith and Fellowship so we could continue on with our small group fellowship. Since then, the forum has slowly and steadily gained an international membership of 131 members and has a core group of committed members from various faiths and branches of Friends that worship together weekly. It has turned into an e-community, and has combined efforts with others to worship once again. As each member came and initiated taking on different roles, the contributions added up to where we all are today, all sharing this special place together where all are valued as equal and welcome. Kind reader, you are welcome to follow the link to QF&F, but encouraged if you do so to take the time to register, which is very simple, as then one is able to see a much larger forum than what is available to see to the general public, including blogs and the way we are slowly making more community planning decisions as Friends. Included there, also, is a much more in-depth history of our website.

So, for my husband Dave and I, meeting Wim for the first time at the train station here was like watching him walk out of our computer. After what has seemed like miles of correspondence over the net, I cannot fully put into words the happiness and memories that it has given me to meet in physical life after all this time and share a weekend together and to worship at the Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia. We discussed that we consider our internet lives to be ‘real’ as we connect with others and share in that which is eternal, but agreed that to get to meet in person is very special and I’m humbled he would give up vacation time and allow me to meet him and his beautiful family. Our family was blessed and hopes that many more physical meetings will occur from our ever-evolving community as well as other ones on the internet. The world seems enormous to me at times. However, every so often God graces me with opportunities to see that while it is large and we are all so different, we have much in common and the world of Friends meeting Friends is not so impossible.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Believing in Love

It was perfect, with a charming stone front, nestled in a wooded area with spacious rooms to spread out in, and even a bright airy room to claim as a school room. But the sudden phone call revealed that we had lost it, that hopeful bid in which I had prayed would be our next home.

We were meanderers moving frequently, never getting too attached to a place we’d call home, rather to each other. This time, our search was finally in the country and we were both old enough to be weary of the walk and determined this would be our last move. Our price range was so narrow, for me it was time to call off the search party. Not so with Tired Husband. He’s never given up easily on my dreams.

Step far back into our story and we were young love, barely grown up. I was just coming out of a slight slip off the straight and narrow that had previously been my life. Draw me a line and I’d cross it, roll me a rule over and I’d break it. But this guy- he was fun and he was a rock at the same time. He came from a family that was still together, that lived in the same home- on the same street- all his life. Go figure. That was not my experience. I was more than interested in the package deal, after all, he’d become my best friend.

It was a young love determined to last. However, I was cautioned to ‘let it go’ as young love is often too weak to last. The past kept whispering in my ear of all the insurmountable odds I’d been acquainted with all too well, but love is bold; it doesn’t stand still too long, calculating the risk. So, I slipped on the gold promise while far from home and we decided it best to return home for the wedding, and have our two ministers do the ceremony, one from the Midwest where we were living and one from back East, our family’s home. Yes, two, I was going for the guarantee!

I can still hear the clergy’s door closing behind me, leaving me alone with one of the ministers for premarital counseling and did I have any questions? Slightly shy at this point and with a quivering lip I managed to stammer out the all important one.

How does one make it last forever, a marriage, that is?

I got a bit lost in the long speech, but I still recall the words today: to keep the promise before God, believe in each other and let the words and the true promise of the cross empower you. I can close my eyes today and still see that wood cross at the front of the dear church we attended together at that time. And so, we followed just that and the years of practice led us to this place once again, searching for our final home, the one where we’d put our hands, feet and mark on the land and in the dirt for good.

So, excitedly Husband pushes the realtor print-out next to me on the table, of the last home left in our price range in the beloved area, but the address read ‘Goat Hill Road’. I quickly assured him I’d never live on a road with that name! But love believes and so agrees to schedule a visit to see what was apparently an old one bedroom cabin with an addition built on it.

Peering out the car window, it was obvious this home was completely over grown needing love. Driving up the long lane, one glance across the yard revealed one special tree, in what appeared to be in a tiny grove of ancient unkept fruit trees. Toward the base of it’s trunk, it had a hollow, distinctly formed in the shape of a heart. My heart flipped. It was precious as was the home, which was a blend of the old rustic cabin and a new contemporary angle-lined main part. I loved the distressed wood floors in the old portion and its plainness, which was slightly crooked compared to the new! There was beauty in it’s imperfections and it had land...more open land and that tree. The one that sealed the deal. The one that we were told to cut down as is was weakened by the hollow at the base and all the woodpecker holes in it, just destined to die.

I don't take down trees easily, no not at all.

We won the bid on that house and are going on eight years here today, but more importantly I am humbled to say, twenty-five years of marriage this month. The tree still stands. What some times looks dead just may be dormant and be about to bloom and bear fruit. That is, if we have a faith that does not die as it’s roots are firmly in Christ.

We have kept the tree, believed in one another and our promises together in the reality of the Love that was shaped in the wood.

.......The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden.
Isa 58

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Weekends are for Sauntering

Our weeks have been packed with things unplanned and things complicated. Regardless, in the midst of appointments, teeth extractions for little ones, a bad case of Lyme disease that persists and a pool that has not yet passed it's permit we pause.....

We pause for family time. To remember to rest in the routine and to take a break to listen, worship and renew. These memories get tucked away in my mind.

"It is a great art to saunter." ~ Henry David Thoreau

May all your weekend wanderings be blessed.....
Jan Lyn

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What I Can Say Now

Now, approximately 2 years after being diagnosed with autoimmune disease I know it is okay to feel scared at times, to question if I am taking the right medications and to wonder about the future. God is already there.

I can say I know how emotions and self-doubt can get the best of you. I’ve learned how faith is stronger.

I now know for every ignorant comment someone will make, five other people will see me beyond my illness. When there are those who don’t understand my limitations, God will also bring me others who are willing to journey along with realistic expectations.

I can say I now know that love and hugs may come from the most unexpected places, when others walk away. And that I know when my heart breaks, God will mend it and that some times letting go is the only way to hold on.

I now know that some of the most genuine and compassionate people are fellow sufferers and that the internet has opened up my world a bit larger. I can tell you that the love of God and the love for one another flows freely at Living Whole with Chronic Pain and the support there has changed my life.

I want to say that all I want to be isn't, but I know that God still is.

I’ve learned doctors don’t always know everything and at times it’s best to stay home and trust my own instinct. I’ve learned the answers to life are not found in the ER.

So what happens when you get a chronic illness diagnosis?

Life will never be the same. It will be unpredictable and you must look for peace within. Some days you will become unglued. But I can tell you there will be strength and grace when you never thought you’d have it. You will fine tune your faith as you are given opportunities to believe. You will learn to love and cherish the smallest of things. You will indeed go on and find that God has many gifts to offer in the midst of it all. Then in some mysterious way, I believe it is an opportunity for a deeper relationship with the Spirit and for good. Right now we catch only mere glimpses of it in the moon’s reflected light but some day we will see more clearly.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Just Sharing....

Kind Readers,

I have been reading some books lately on the topics of listening and trust which are becoming more and more a concern of mine. One book that has been insightful is The Sacred Art of Listening, by Kay Lindahl. It is a good read on the importance of listening openly to others and God. I can't say enough about this simple book that I read in 2 evenings, which says something due to my eye strain! I loved it. (It is not of any particular denomination or group.) Today there seems to be a temptation to form most communication, not just by our young people, but adults as well through texting, twitter, etc. Not enough....

I thought I would also share this short but meaningful poem and queries that followed that were a good guide to me as I revisited Practicing Peace's trust chapter one evening in thought that might be of use to someone:

There is no going back.
We are a pilgrim people
who must take to the road again,
learning as we go to sing a new song
and to trust the God
who is always bringing new things to birth. Jo Farrow

Do I make understanding God a prerequisite for trusting God?

What helps me trust others, knowing that trust offers no guarantees or safety?

What criteria or process do I use to assess whether I am too trusting or not trusting enough?

In Friendship and Light,

Jan Lyn

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Knowing Place

It all began far back on a hill in a field about an acre from my first childhood home. Back then, it was an enchanted place for us kids and we called it 'Indian Hill', which would not be socially acceptable today. Back then life was simpler. I didn’t know it at the time, but I believe this special place to be the birthing of My Knowing Place.

I had to walk an acre or so and cross a crystal clear, bubbling brook. It was worth the walk in my creek sneakers, as mother called them back then. I’d walk the creek and all over the field and finally make my way up the hill. Up top of that hill was just out of earshot of the voices raging out of the open windows in the summer breeze. Even now if I sit still enough with my eyes shut, I can imagine being back there, watching an ant dancing on a blade of grass, crickets jumping and billowy white clouds slowly passing by. Tucked in amongst it all and the encircling trees was all that was good, safe and true. It was there, I really met with the God of church from Sunday morning and discovered that God could be the God of my every day.

Like a baby blue jay, I was just getting up the courage to fly. Before one does that they must be prepared, observe the world around them, determine the risk and decide where to place their trust. Pinching and sipping on honeysuckle there, I found that place in nature and deep inside of me. It was the place that I could turn off the voices, the noise, the expectations and my deep seeded need to make everything alright. There, I could be myself with abandon and confidence in Christ. Returning again and again, I had found the secret place of the Most High where I sensed God move and speak and a place where he was making me. Other times my sister and sister-cousin would just run and play there completely carefree.

Through the years, I realized that The Knowing Place could be taken with me anywhere I needed it, though beautiful, the priority there was not nature, but all Things Unseen. I found my abiding place with Christ to be true and when I wandered, it remained there for me whenever I needed it, in fact it came along with me. Through difficulties, rebellion and the winds of change and loss it held strong.

Some times we lose things and people before we are done needing them.

My Knowing Place was where I sensed Christ inviting me to spend more time in. Through the years, the Spirit was calling my spirit to know that the more I accepted this offer to abide, the more my cup gently overflowed with real Love and Peace. Some where along the way, I didn’t need that hill or a particular location, but rather the interior place that dwells with God, sanctified and where all is transformed into beauty there, even the ugly. This place-this relationship came along me everywhere I joyfully traveled, lived and grew so that I was never alone. I found this went beyond my relationships on earth, but at times am given circumstances that challenge me to live up to that.

One day, my world shrunk, which actually forced me to enlarge it again and found me in places that I could not normally let me go. Small places, in rooms with arguments, rooms with doors shut tight, elevators, hospitals and very entrapped medical test facilities. I often am reminded of the children’s story Country Mouse, City Mouse, as I frequently make my way to the city now for medical care. I still find comfort in out-stretched open land. Now I smile inside though, as any where I am or have to go or will ever be, I now find my source of living and trust to be in this God Space itself and these days I do not wish to wander from the holy of holies but abide daily, minute by minute in this place of assurance with solid ground. Most days, I can now go where he leads which is my heart’s desire-to fly like that baby bird.

Every so often my mind wanders back to that land and merciful hill. I hold those memories dear. The house and farmland are changed now and new towering homes that all look the same stretch out far behind. I hear there are no children stomping that land and I assume they are all in daycare and organized camps instead of our lusciously long, imaginative days. I have not passed that way again, since I last walked it with my own little family and a lump in my throat, before my father sold it 6 years ago. I said my final goodbyes. My younger sister of strength and courage has walked along the land that remains to the side of our old home, past the brook and sat once again on that hill. Father mentions driving by it and how it has changed and I nod and ah ha. I make my way far around it when in the area, as to never look back. I find it easier to keep my well chosen memories and put my faith and trust now in Christ alone. I have my own house that comes undone at times now. So my aim is to be more like Jesus, and less like me now and to spend every day in My Knowing Place, trusting and living every breath and heartbeat there as best I can.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oh Right, I Have a Blog

I thought I’d have a short ramble about my blog. Honestly, what it has become is far off from my initial intent. I simply wanted a place to write about life a bit-topics near to my heart like all things Quaker, home school, nature and good old honest transparency about chronic illness and faith. I wanted to share peaceful photos for my family. I even thought eventually that I’d offer some speech articulation downloads for free to home schoolers and then push myself to write that Charlotte Mason style Speech and Language book I’ve thought about for years. Sounded reasonable, but life keeps getting in the way.

I remind myself that the internet world is secondary to real life and that some months I may post once and other months more frequently and I need to be ok with that. For a while there, I felt I’d write more Quaker posts as I was feeling the need to respond to other conversations else where and explore my own. But I am not totally taken in by this Quaker blog-o-sphere thing. It gets very heavy and a day or so will go by where I actually miss my own experience of connecting with God due to reading and thinking about Quaker issues. Not good..... So, I don’t think I am a Quaker blogger, but a blogger who happens to consider herself Quaker and not an intellectual one at that! The truth is some days when I am feeling up to it, I want to be a big kid, lay on the floor and play with my kids and get giddy or go outdoors and get good and dirty in nature rather than all that. Then when night falls I want to enjoy watching the stars and moon out my window here and listen to music.

Regardless, I may keep writing as it is a good outlet now that I can’t talk as much as I’d like. So, the rough draft to volume one I attempted of my book is scattered across my bedroom floor. I just got done using it with my youngest daughter. It is seasonal, so if I had a fire lit under me, I’d now be on volume two which would focus its story around the next season. Needless to say, I’m lethargic. The thought of it makes me weak. Really. God just may intend that I leave that chapter of my life (my career) behind for good. I think I am ok with that now.

I’ve felt a strong leading for a few months now to spend more time on our home school and family life and not so much being plugged into the computer, but I do not want to totally give up blogging and I’ll tell you why. I had no idea how it would widen my world. I had no clue that I’d actually have even one reader. I enjoy the friendships that I’ve made and they’ve come as a surprise to me. I look forward to reading each of your blogs when I see a new one displayed on my page here. I love hearing about your lives. So, if you will bear with me, I will continue writing when I can and my range of topics will be unpredictable, like my life here these days. I will try to remember, however, that I still have a blog.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sure Signs of Spring

I admit it. I am not quite ready to return to blogging yet, but when I look here to get to friends blogs that are linked with more ease, I'm finding the snowy photos all wrong as there are sure signs of spring all around me. Here are some I thought I would share in the mean time. I wish peace and blessings of the season to all of you-here is my first white trillium.

Each day in a new and living way the brooding Spirit of God teaches us. As we begin to follow these nudgings of the Spirit, we are changed from the inside out.~Richard Foster

Lord, do your spring cleaning in me from the inside out...Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter and the Seasons of Life

Kind readers, here are some photos of my world right now. It is definately winter on the East Coast. All around me are glimpses of God's presence in his creation and I am forever in awe of it all and ever grateful to take it all in.

I am reminded that just as there are seasons in nature, there are seasons in life where I need to slow down. I need to return to what is needed, as Jesus told Martha. (Luke 10:40) I am in need of simplifying my life here at home, much rest and to just keep my priorities straight. I want to be still and just be known by God and know God. So, I am setting my blog aside for a time-just a season-and will return again.

When the presence
of the Lord
really becomes your
experience, you will
actually discover that,
you have gradually begun to love this silence
and peaceful rest which comes with
His presence.
~Madame Guyon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Here is the reason I may indeed, need to go wordless for a while!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

For the Birds....again

Continuing on in our unit on birds, we made this very simple recycled bird feeder out of a soda bottle. It has only been up for a week or so now and we’ve had to fill it numerous times and it seems to attract even more birds than the large, expensive gazebo one we purchased a few years back. I like this as it attracts the smallest of the birds and I can see it from my chair.

For as long as I can recall, I have had a fascination with birds. They are such a joy to watch and to listen to in the thicket while I take my late afternoon walks. Birds also are a tangible reminder to me that God cares for them and will certainly take care of me. I’ve had that strong thought come to me at various times in life–when I was laid off my first good teaching position, when I first was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and when that weird stomach virus just would not go away and turned out to be a get the point. I find them comforting and reassuring when my emotions are ready to take flight. They are chirping little characters that remind me of God’s presence and provision.

This February 12-15 marks the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count in North America. It is organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and invites anyone who has interest in birds, old and young, to celebrate and collect data in their particular area. They have great lesson plans, print outs and information on their site to assist in this and only ask in return that you input your data on types of birds and vital numbers counted in the location you live in. It will be our 7th year of participating and is a good way to brush up on bird identification skills. I feel we were much more accurate when my son participated with us, but us girls are preparing with anticipation. It becomes a bright spot during these bleaker days of winter.

"Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!"
Luke 12:24 NIV

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homeschooling is not for Cowards

This week we dissected an owl pellet. I don’t advise this before lunch. Heavens no. It would have been much better first thing in the morning or late in the day. Regardless, it was one fascinating project once the initial shock of dividing the bones from the fur wore off. The girls loved it and were able to identify the bones of a mole and mouse as the delicate fare the owl had before the big event.

Gone are the days we sat and cuddled on the couch simply studying and talking about owls and reading one of my favorite winter books Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen.

The girls want more hands on activities. So we created our own curriculum for science this year as we all feel that we want to experience and fulfill certain final urges before we step into the highschool lab scene in our household once again. I chose the topical units to be covered and the girls determined all the projects and experiments. Here, without further ado, is a glimpse of the dissection.

Regardless of all this, I still have my well-loved copy of Owl Moon and have read those comforting and familiar words again, if even to myself:

....When you go owling
you don’t need words
or warm
or anything but hope.
That’s what Pa says.
The kind of hope
that flies
on silent wings
under a shining
Owl Moon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

We were blessed to be able to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday this week with my 92 year old Grandma present. Four generations of women in our family are represented in these photos...lots of love.

Love has it's source in God, for love is the very essence of his being. ~~Kay Arthur

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Just One Friend and Prayer

Quakers are individualists, so it is no surprise to find wide views on the topic of prayer or ‘holding in the Light’. I tend to see all of life as a prayer. I have not achieved such, but believe in the practice of ceaseless prayer. I envision it as a link to God. Lovers talk; it is how we connect and get to know one another intimately and it is possibly the closest space to God we can get to in the present. I use the terms interchangeably and I like the phrase to ‘hold in the Light’, as it reminds me that it is more about abiding rather than a list of requests to check off at day’s end.

I never learned rote prayers as a child. I approach prayer with awe and respect, but much as a child in natural conversation as I go about my day uttering whenever I am led. I often find myself praying for others, for an issue, or asking God what is up with a certain situation, what direction I should take or if I am being released from something. I pray for forgiveness and many times, I am just silent. It is then I feel God reaching out and initiating to me more. I am grateful for that form of prayer, knowing I may rest in it and I am covered.

Because I believe in an open universe view, I feel we can co-labor with God. He holds his plans and purpose, but in some mystical way I know that it is possible for him to change them through that of God within us. I don’t feel that is a ticket to peppering God with requests or bargaining, but rather another avenue to discern and align myself with him. It’s not all about wishes, dreams or winning a prize, but a process of transformation. My thoughts on this evolved through years of physical challenges that started in my early adulthood and while getting to know others with chronic illness and pain.

John Woolman said, “The place of prayer is a precious habitation...” I often wonder why prayer is so infrequently discussed and consistently lacking as part of a meeting for worship. No, it usually will not bring back a baby, stop a friend from dying, mend a family or cure a disease–though it could. Possibly, it could do more, like cure my rotten heart attitude, comfort, or heal in another unexpected manner.

I recall as a teen asking my youth group leader why my best friend could not be healed and had to die. He told me, God did heal her but it was just not how I wanted. I’ve taken that with me throughout life and believe while I cannot see all the purposes in that, I have been the recipient of good and a life road map from her–a way of living unto dying. What once was broken in me is a mended treasure wrought from years of prayer and memories from that experience.

Something in me about prayer opened up wide about four years ago. I wrestled for pain relief, amongst other serious items for myself and others. I came to the conclusion that although God loves me, he is not as interested in my physical well being as he is in my soul. During those first few years I learned about yielding to his path rather than grasping for my own or what I perceived others to need. I often feel that God heals on different levels, in his own time and often to our surprise. Back then, some of my experience was painful, but when I revisit it now I can behold the beauty and the way I was never forsaken. I’ve learned that holding others and myself in the Light is a process of God initiating a change in me and my desires more than anything else. God does not need my suffering to act, but if I remain open, I may know more of him. It is an honor Friends have to commune in this miraculous space, and a humble privilege to whisper prayers on behalf of others that are placed before me by the Spirit.

This practice of being a Friend has reinforced to me the importance of moving slower as led. It has also helped explain to me why I’ve been uncomfortable being on large prayer lists of people who I do not know. At one point, when I was very fragile, I had literally hundreds of people praying for me, many groups who did not know me. When no answers were seemingly in sight, I longed to rest in that and accept that as my answer. I needed it to stop. Not many people understood. At silent times I tend to recall the times in which I’ve felt closest to God and find comfort in knowing he remains the same. I also began to sense that if I did not feel the connection of those praying, or I did not feel the prayers were paralleling God’s will at the time, they were futile. I could be mistaken, but they felt more than futile, they were unsettling to me and possibly disobedient for me personally, though a comfort to others. I fervently believe in prayer, but often times it becomes a very personal item to me as I’m sure it is to others. I was then shown my need to learn to respect other people more.

Likewise, when I became strong enough to volunteer in the chronic illness ministry, I was overwhelmed with the sheer number of encouragement and prayer requests. I was quickly given good advice to take on those cases that which I felt empathy for. Jesus himself often was moved by compassion and said to come like children to a father. I learned to distinguish amongst them what was my concern or what I call my “inner yes.” If I sensed a certain dread, I set that case aside in trust that it was for someone else. Most of these people are not asking a way out of their problems or diseases, but rather seeking a touch from others, God’s presence and the grace to endure. The most life-changing thing I’ve learned from these dear ones is that prayer puts pain in it’s place, which is not before the priorities of God. I’ve watched healing of the heart occur, bitterness melt away and hope be born of suffering. I’ve touched spirit to spirit with some of the most courageous souls and together we have learned that prayer is a means of connection and ability to come into an awareness of the Divine Presence working in us and through us. I have so far to go. They continue to teach me, and I find that prayer is no longer like that of a chore from childhood, but an invitation. It is alive, moving and breathing communication that is summed up in Thomas R. Kelly’s words that are left for us:

“How then should we lay hold of that Life and Power, and live the life of prayer without ceasing? By quiet, persistent practice in turning of all our being, day and night, in prayer and inward worship and surrender, toward the One, who calls in the deeps of our souls...Begin now, as you read these words, as you sit in your chair, to offer your whole selves, utterly and in joyful abandon, in quiet, glad surrender to the One who is within...Walk and talk and work and laugh with your friends. But behind the scenes keep up the life of simple prayer and inward worship. Keep it up throughout the day. Let inward prayer be your last act before you fall asleep and the first act when you awake.”