Sunday, December 14, 2014
Yes, it is time to move on. As noted in my last post, I have felt called to stop posting to this blog.
It has completed its task and but remains here for any who still want to explore its nooks and crannies or visit favorite places. It will remain as long as the powers that be (Blogger and the Internet) allow it to.
I have made a few small cosmetic changes to the left sidebar. I removed the "follow" option. No point in inviting someone to wait for e-mails that will never come. I also removed my Twitter link and my podcasting link, since I am no longer active with either. I added a link to my YouTube channel to make it easier to find videos that have been posted in the past. I have also added a link to the new blog I have started, A priceless thing.
One might raise the question as to why to stop one blog only to start another. One reason is that I had been contemplating a switch to Wordpress anyway because of some of its features. Another reason, perhaps more fundamental, is that this blog was established for patients. Over a five year period, many beautiful things were given to me to share with my patients who in their suffering might have a spiritual longing or struggle. I have been blessed perhaps more than anyone in the process.
Now, I feel drawn to write in a more distinctly spiritual direction. Anyone is welcome to read the new blog but there I am not writing as a psychologist as much as a believer. I cannot help but laugh at myself as I re-read that line - I have been writing much more as a believer than as a psychologist all along! I cannot help myself. ;-)
So, my friends, "findhope" remains here for those seeking a hopeful word or image or just a bit of virtual contact with me. And those who would like to peruse my spiritual ramblings are most welcome at the new blog as well.
Peace, love, joy, hope, mercy, grace and light to all.
Posted by mary at 5:35 PM
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Given my previous announcement of a theme and the subsequent absence of any posts for more than 2 months, one might readily conclude that I must not have been learning anything.
However, quite the opposite is true. In fact, I tend to think that God, having so much to teach my sorry soul, had to put me on sabbatical from some of my other imagined duties so that I would pay attention to Him.
There were times when I thought to myself: I must stop and write about this on the blog. However, it did not get done - for a number of reasons. One reason is that before I could formulate what I might say, I was busy learning something else. Another reason was that I could not fathom how I could possibly summarize what it was that I was experiencing in my spiritual life - or whether it was even appropriate for me to try.
It has not all been easy by any means. But I feel a corner was turned and a door opened. And, most interestingly, it was a corner that I didn't know I needed to turn and a door that I didn't know was closed.
Perhaps one of my greatest discoveries is how easy it is to think that I am a believer, a Christian, and how God, in his graciousness, can then show me how little I actually believe and how small my understanding of Him is. I can, in my pride, think that I am a pretty good person, only to discover that I am really quite the sinner.
But God, knowing how small and weak I am, has been patiently accepting me where I am all along. He knows I am but a baby learning to take my first steps - even though I might believe myself to be a grown-up. He nudges me to take more steps and then shows me how much more there is, once He can tell that I am ready to see it.
I expressed it to a friend that, since experiencing this spiritual growth spurt, it is as though I look back on what I thought was pretty good faith and now see it as this little dim, flickering light. What is more, I have the awareness and hope that someday I will look back on where I am now as a dim, flickering light when, in time, God opens yet another door and invites me further into Him.
There is no end to Him if I am willing to follow, as He opens more and more doors.
I entitled this post, "All good things..." as these three words begin three different adages, all relevant to me and my relationship with this lovely little blog.
First: "All good things must come to an end." Yes, I believe this blog has been a good thing but I also believe that the time has come for it to end. It will remain here so that all the little treasures I have received and shared will still be available to any who wish to view them. I simply will not be adding any new posts. (With one exception.)
If any are wondering why, I must say that I really don't know other than that is the call I feel. I began the blog 5 years ago Thanksgiving, answering the call from within with fear and trembling. Now it seems that it has completed its mission. I don't know how I know that, but I do.
Second, "All good things come from God." This also I believe firmly. If any good has come from this blog, it has been the gift of God. If my time and meager talents have been used in the writing, photography or art included here, I cannot claim credit because they too are His gifts. By myself, I am not at all trustworthy but I am ever grateful when God finds ways to make use of me for the service of others.
Lastly, "All good things come to those who wait." I include this saying because I believe that where one thing dies, another is born. It is often my tendency to want to make things happen to satisfy the longings of my own will - but that is a tendency I wish to leave behind. My will is of little importance in the greater Design of things.
I do have some sense of another blog wanting to be born. I do not know for certain if it is meant to be - or if the wait for its birth will be long or short. (However, if it comes about, I create a post on this blog with a link so that any readers who receive e-mail notifications of my posts here will be notified of the new blog, should they wish to check it out.)
And now, one final story and image. Any regular readers, should there be any left, will know that my father died in June and that he and I shared a love of butterflies. And so it is appropriate to bring this blog to a close with a story that celebrates the mystery of life and death and love through eternity.
On November 5, my father's birthday, I decided to go to church to remember my father in prayer. It was a warmer than average November day, but certainly not hot. As I approached the church door, I thought I saw a butterfly out of the corner of my eye. It seemed impossible. Butterflies just are not seen in November in Cleveland, Ohio. But I looked closely and there it was. Such a delight!
Now I was sorely tempted to delay church and take a picture. But I knew I was already risking being late and so I did not stop. I knew that it was not the picture that was important but the gift of encountering the butterfly itself.
About 30 minutes later, I emerged from the church and decided to take a look where my winged friend had been seen, feeling silly but unable to resist. At first I saw nothing but the surprisingly vibrant flowers in the cool afternoon sun. And then...there he was.
I fumbled with my cell phone camera and asked the little one if I might receive his image. He did not object. So now, I share with you my friends, a little gift from heaven:
Peace be with you, O my friends, and may grace and mercy be yours always. Whatever darkness you find yourself in, never lose hope nor cease believing in the light. You have been promised joy - eternal joy! Love, love, love always and you will know the Holy One, Who by love creates and sustains us all...
To Him be glory.
Posted by mary at 3:56 PM
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
So much for new series...I haven't lost my desire to write, nor have I failed to learn new things. In fact, I have been learning so much much that I have hardly had time to catch my breath.
Finding the time to write about what I am learning is the greatest challenge. Or perhaps knowing where to begin.
But tonight, exhausted as I am, I was given a beginning point that I cannot ignore.
I had worked a very long and busy day today, seeing patients almost continuously for 10 hours. I had perhaps 30 minutes of time free to try to eat something and make trips to the bathroom. I was truly worn out as I got in my car to drive home.
However, I knew that my last patient of the day was even more exhausted than I was due to severe sleep deprivation. As I was began the trip home, I prayed that she would make it home safely - and then added a prayer for my own safe travel as well.
Traffic was fairly light on I-77 North because of the late hour but I kept my eyes on the road. Suddenly, just ahead of me and rapidly approaching, were two cars stopped on the freeway. One was at an angle, as though it had just skidded to a halt to avoid hitting the one in front of it.
I braked immediately but, given my speed of 60 mph, it seemed impossible that I could stop in time. There was no time to even consider a lane change - it was just there in front of me now. As I was braking, I waited to hear the sound of crunching metal, thinking to myself, "I'm going to be in a car accident..."
But there was no crunching metal. My car came to a dead stop, literally inches away from the nearest of the two motionless cars. We were so close that I could not see any distance between our vehicles from the driver's seat. Apparently no one was hit or hurt - there was some debris on the road that may have caused the first car to brake - and the two cars just pulled away.
As I resumed my drive, I said thank you. Thank you to God, to all the angels and saints who were at my side through this experience.
I am reminded that it is always much easier to be aware of and grateful for the presence of the holy when the outcome is a happy one. Am I imagining that those drivers whose cars collide failed to pray, or that God chose to protect me but not them?
Not at all. Although I am very grateful that I was spared injury or death, as I look back the true gift was something else all together. In those moments where I saw the collision as inevitable, there was a peacefulness. There was a bit of natural adrenaline flow, of course, but I wasn't terrified.
It was as though I was noting that I was going to be in a car accident and, well...we'll wait and see what happens next...surely my car will be damaged, quite possibly I will be injured, but ultimately it will be okay.
My mind only had time to process that I needed to brake, do it and then watch the results. As fast as it happened, this brief moment in time was also long and sweet. How can this be?
Surely the scientists would have another explanation for it, such as that I was unnaturally calm because my brain had not had time to truly process the danger. And this may be so. But I also feel quite certain that this moment was so beautifully sweet because I was resting in the hands of God.
It is not as though I were praying during these crucial seconds - there was no time for that. And I believe that if the cars had collided, I still would have been safe in God's hands. And I am in God's hands at this very moment - as are you.
The gift is that now I truly know it. Whatever happens, however I feel, whoever or whatever hurts me, I am in His hands, ever safe, ever loved.
To Him be glory through all eternity.
Posted by mary at 10:59 PM
Monday, September 1, 2014
Episodically I seem to lose the urge to write. I don't feel drawn to write about anything in particular and my blog sits dormant for a few weeks. Often it seems that I am thus afflicted during the summer months. I don't know why - I would like to write but nothing comes and then I feel bad for neglecting this, my small bit space of cyberspace.
However, I am ready to begin again (and, of course, to do penance for my sins of omission). So I have decided to begin a new series of posts. Because I am just beginning, I have no idea how long it will go on but it seems to have potential to continue for a while.
I would like to write about things I've learned recently. And it feels like I have been learning a lot.
Many years ago, I frequently encountered a friend of a friend at parties. In the course of party small talk, he often asked the question, "Have you learned anything lately?" I always loved this question and loved reciprocating it. As an introvert, I didn't always find it easy to move past the obvious small talk to the deeper topics I enjoyed.
As it became almost a tradition to exchange the asking of this question, it became evident that it could be answered in many, many ways. I could comment that I had learned how to change a tire or I could relate that I had learned that it was more important to respect others' feelings than to argue my most dearly held political views. The possibilities were endless.
In keeping with this old tradition, my plan to is to post about things I have learned in recent times. Some of them may be light, others deeper - but all in the interest of sharing. I hope that what I have learned may be of help to you, my reader, but also that it my stimulate you to reflect on what you have been learning at this time in your life...
So here we go... I decided to start out a bit light...
Things I've learned: #1
Rhyming poems can be a lot of fun and still communicate something thoughtful.
Aside from sonnets, which often seemed like too much work, for quite some time I had developed the notion that a "serious" poem should not rhyme. In other words, if I wanted people to take a poem of mine seriously, I should not have it rhyme. Rhymes made it seem too amateurish, like something a child might write because they thought all poems had to rhyme.
How utterly snobbish of me.
I have learned that poems can rhyme or not rhyme. People may or may not take them seriously. It is up to me to write what is given, whether in a spirit of fun or deep contemplation. Life needs both - and sometimes they walk hand-in-hand.
The other night, I was doing a little mini-retreat at home and had thoughts of how I would spend the time with God. However, I found myself so very tired that all I wanted to do was sleep. I walked out to my kitchen window and saw a number of moths and winged creatures lusting after the light bulbs hanging from my ceiling.
The first line of a rhyme-y little poem appeared in my once weary mind and the rest of the evening opened up to words and images that were completed the next day. Nothing so terribly special - but important lessons contained within.
And so I am learning...
greetings little winged things
who to my windows cling!
each summer night we thus begin
as you flutter at the light within.
you think your joy will be complete
if this obstacle you can defeat.
but this, my little friends, is sin,
for the true barrier lies within.
so still your wings and end your strife;
turn to Him who gives us life.
rely not on your own poor might
but make His love your heart’s delight.
for when our wills to Him do bend
they find the joy that has no end.
(Look for more posts in this series - have I learned anything else lately?)
Posted by mary at 11:35 AM
Sunday, August 3, 2014
This past week, another of my brave and beautiful warriors departed this life victorious. I am so proud of her.
I am sure that she would not have thought of herself as a warrior nor would most of the people who knew her. Certainly she would not have thought of herself as brave or beautiful.
And yet she was all of these things.
Who or what was the foe that engaged her in battle? How could she have been a warrior without anyone knowing?
I can only say that some of the greatest battles are fought within.
This courageous soul had a dark place inside of her, a place so dark and awful that she was terrified to go there, to find who or what lurked in that inky blackness of self. Most likely that part of her was born from a very troubled childhood in which abuse was a routine part of life.
On the outside, she gave the appearance of being a meek and agreeable person, kind and perhaps a bit goofy - but certainly not "crazy".
Yet, from that dark place in her mind, she was regularly bombarded with vicious words telling her that she was stupid, bad and worthless. It told her that she didn't deserve to get better and that she should die. It badgered her, telling her to kill herself, to "just get it over with" and "do it! do it!"
She grew tired of the noise within. Often she wanted to kill herself just to make it stop.
Yet this voice was not the only voice within. There was also a "teensy little voice" that did not believe these accusations. A voice that spoke up about wanting to get better and live.
While the battle raged on the inside, the body struggled with more and more serious medical conditions, each offering its own variety of pain and suffering, as well as fears about more suffering in days to come.
"Why not just kill yourself now", the inner voice urged, "before things get too bad or out of control?"
Each illness also brought medical bills and increasing stress to her family, enabling the dark place within to issue even more accusations that her life brought more trouble than it was worth.
Everyone would be better off without her, it claimed. And all of the evidence seemed to point to this, as her illnesses eventually rendered her unable to get out of bed.
That teensy little voice of hope was almost smothered. Stripped of nearly all control over her life, our brave warrior seemed to have nowhere to turn. What could she do in the face of such an enemy?
I was but one sent to walk with her, unworthy, but privileged to be called to help fight so holy a war.
Throughout our long walk together, we talked many times about suicide. Although the demons of despair were never far from her, she had one very powerful weapon: she loved her family.
I am always awed when I encounter someone like this courageous soul who can love their way through untold pain and suffering, despite having received so little nurturance early in life. How does one who has been given so little learn to give so much?
However, the enemy was not willing to cede victory, despite this formidable weapon of hers. In fact, the enemy sought to use it against her - to convince her that she had failed even at this. It tried to convince her that she was so bad and worthless that she had now managed to destroy whatever love she had previously created within her family.
At this point, the teensy little voice was barely perceptible.
And so we began to talk about God.
The God she knew - or didn't know - was one of threat and punishment more than one of healing and forgiveness. While acknowledging that he might be loving, she feared encountering him and hearing him sadly inform her that she just wasn't good enough for heaven.
When I told her that forgiveness and healing were already hers and she had only to want them, she responded, "It can't be that easy."
And I replied, "Actually, it can."
As the brave one's health steadily deteriorated, I told her that I wasn't opposed to her dying, though I would surely miss her. But I told her that suicide was still unacceptable.
Many might question what possible difference it could make at this point. If she was going to die, she was going to die. Why would it matter if she ended it herself or if she waited?
"It matters," I told her, "because I don't want you to leave this life with your final act being one of despair." I told her that I wanted more for her than that.
I encouraged her to find peace with herself and her family so that, when her time came, she would not leave her children feeling conflicted or abandoned. She still had the choice of leaving them a legacy of love rather than one of despair.
The last time I saw this lovely person awake and conscious she told me that where before there had been tension and stress, she was now at peace with each member of her family. A month or so before that, she had told me she had been talking to God and asking for forgiveness.
As things went from bad to worse with her ailing body, this past week her family was faced with the difficult decision of discontinuing life support. I had the privilege of being with them when she was relieved of the equipment that tethered her soul to her body.
Though she was sedated, I talked to her and prayed for her. I left her breathing on her own, my final words granting her permission to move on when she was ready.
Approximately 12 hours later, she did so, surrounded by love and leaving love in her wake. Despair was nowhere near her, the demons scattering as the Savior claimed His loved one for Himself.
She was victorious and she was free.
Her soul is now made beautiful in Love for all eternity.
All praise to the Savior,
for in His love
He has trampled down sin and death,
delivering us from suffering
and bringing us to glory
Posted by mary at 10:24 PM
Saturday, July 26, 2014
my soul sings
of butterfly wings -
of all that is glorious and free.
let us fly the sky
and praise the ways
of the One who made
you and me.
for He loves us all
the great and the small -
to Him all glory be.
(Enjoy this poem and a collage of some favorite butterfly images received in the last couple of years. Click on the collage for a larger view. Many blessings.)
Posted by mary at 11:50 PM