My little bit of heaven on earth…

I am in the place that is one of my absolute favorites…the mountains of North Carolina, between Blowing Rock and Boone.  There used to be a summer camp here, named Camp Yonahlossee, that operated for many, many years… it closed down in the early 1980’s, when it was bought out by the people who developed the area as a resort…

The developers of the resort were sensitive to the fact that many of the people who had been a part of the camp, either as a camper, or as staff, or in some cases, as both, really loved the camp and the area… so they named the resort area with the camp’s name, and when several years back, some of the “campers” who had kept in touch with each other, decided to see who else they could find, and then began to have reunions from time to time, the people who ran the resort welcomed the former campers and staff with open arms…

I was one of the camp counselors for a few years, and I am here this weekend for a reunion…  why is this one of my favorite places to be?  I love this place for it’s beauty as well as it’s quietness, sense of peace, and timelessness…   and in this area of North Carolina, there is a scent in the air that I have found in no other place… I can only describe it as a gentle scent of sweet earthiness…

Being here restores and rejuvenates my spirit and soul…   I am blessed!!

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The Gifts of Grief…

During the summer of 2011, I participated in a unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education).  Each week our small group would gather together to explore different concepts that were a part of our learning.  Grief was one of the topics that we explored, and grief was something that I was also personally struggling with… something I’d been struggling with for many years.  I wrote the following short reflection after watching a video entitled “The Gifts of Grief”… and after I wrote it, I realized that I had found an image I could use that would help me in my struggle with grief… not only past grief, but that which would come in the future.  I share this reflection with you… it is part of the story of my life:

Grief brings gifts?  I am not sure that I have found any specific gifts coming from my grief…as the people in the video have.

At this point I know that my deepest grief comes from Lemmy’s death.  It is a deep, deep well, full of pure sadness and loss.  It cannot be analyzed, evaluated or explained away…it just is.

The grief of other losses add to it…they add to this “well”…they broaden it and deepen it even more…until all losses, all griefs merge together and overflow the boundaries of the “well”.

I find myself approaching the edge slowly, especially as I am now dealing with events happening in my mother’s life.  Where is she on her journey through life?  Is she getting close to final, physical death…or just getting closer to losing one thing at a time…to dying “little by little”?

And I am not really sure if I want to approach this “well”.  I get close to the ever changing edge…I back away…maybe I should want to dive in and swim deep, but all I want to do is to escape…

And I wonder, because I am not sure if I can dive in and swim deep until my mom does finally die…

Once upon a time, they lived joyously ever after…

Once upon a time … They lived happily ever after!

The typical fairy-tale beginning and ending… life nicely and neatly described, wrapped up and summarized with these statements.  It is a fact though that real life lies between the statements… in the spaces where the periods (…) are.  And the “real life” that most people lead cannot always be summed up so neatly with “…they lived happily ever after” because not all of life’s stories end like that.

Actually, living “happily ever after” does not indicate the end of life, but rather the end of some difficulties or challenges that have been resolved, so that from that point on, one lives “happily ever after”…  Implying no more problems, difficulties or challenges will ever again be a part of that person’s life…

And that’s where the fairy tale quality comes in… because everyone knows that for as long as one is alive, in reality, there will always be difficulties and problems to encounter and challenges to overcome.  That is just the way life is in our world.

But what if we tweaked the phrase a little?  What if, instead of saying, “they lived happily ever after” we said, “they lived joyously ever after”?  Can one live joyously in spite of problems, difficulties and challenges?  Can one live joyously amid hatred and violence and war?  Can one live joyously in spite of sickness or suffering or death?

While some might say, “No! It is not possible!” I believe that it is possible.

Living joyously does not mean that you always feel happy… It doesn’t even mean that you always like what is happening… because living joyously is an attitude towards life… a way to face what comes at you.  It suggests a hopeful outlook, in spite of (whatever)… It means living courageously… It means asking for help when you need it, and giving help when others ask… It means trusting… It means not giving in to the fear and despair that can so easily overwhelm…

I don’t know about others, but I can’t live joyously on my own strength… I need help to live joyously… and my help comes from the Lord… from Almighty God… from the Creator of all that is… from the One who walks beside me through all of life’s ups and downs and to whom I look for strength and courage…

One of my favorite Psalms (Psalm 121:1-2) says it all:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

This is my story… this is how I try to face life… joyously ever after!!

Night Time…

There is something about the night…  quiet… peaceful… the world surrounded, enveloped, shrouded by darkness… the world asleep… waiting and gathering strength for the new day to come…

That is the way night should be anyway, although I know that for many people, it is not…

For many people, night brings fear… terror… because they have experienced scary things in the dark… monsters can hide in the dark… and so for some people night becomes a symbol for darkness, and darkness becomes a symbol for evil… and so night becomes evil…

But I think that in the beginning, night was not meant to be a thing of evil…  instead, night was only to be a time of rest and peace…

I pray your night will be one of quiet, restful peace… that brings you strength for the new day…

And may you use some of your strength to help get rid of monsters that plague the night for so many others…