The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Whenever anyone asks me about my favorite holiday, or my favorite time of year, I’m always hesitant to be completely truthful. I love Thanksgiving and delight in all the food and family and friends. I also love Christmas, especially the Advent season before it, and I truly rejoice on Easter. But it is the seven weeks leading up to Easter which really mean the most to me. And Good Friday is my favorite day of the year. (You can read more about that HERE.)

Hello, I’m Nina, and I’m a Lentaholic. 

This year the first three weeks of Lent are going to have to take more of a backseat in my life as I am in the middle of moving and I won’t be able to be as focused. I do intend to light a candle each night and spend time in prayer and contemplation. And I hope to write here about various things as the Lord bubbles them up in my heart. And I still haven’t chosen a book to read through the season yet! Will do that later tonight or tomorrow.

Glad for grace. Glad this isn’t about perfection or performance, but about preparation of the heart.

I’d like to write more, but I’ve been working all day getting things ready for this weekend’s yard sale, and now I need to zip off to lead worship at our Ash Wednesday service.

I guess it’s Lent on the run!

Ash-Wednesday

 

This Year It’s “Gal-entine’s Day”

8465711750_d0b8af7ef5(image from alifeworthsomething.wordpress.com)

I didn’t know until recently that this was a thing — February 13 has become “Galentine’s Day,” a day for women to celebrate their friendships with each other, whether they are married, single, or somewhere in between. But I decided to skip the official day and make today, the 14th, MY Galentine’s Day.

V-Day has been problematic for me from the beginning. I lived in the pre-PC days where you didn’t have to bring cards for everyone in the class. I would always get cards from boys I didn’t like. (Once I received a homemade one that clearly took the kid hours, but I was 10 and he had cooties. I wish I could go back and appreciate the effort more. Morgan, if you’re out there, thank you. You deserved better.) And of course I wouldn’t get cards from the ones I liked/loved.

Then there was freshman year in college when so many girls on my floor got dozens of red roses delivered. None for me. *sigh* It’s funny, but 364 days of the year, red roses do little for me — I prefer yellow, lavender, fire-and-ice — but on Feb. 14, they need to be red. Or at least one red rose tucked in among the others. (Is this really all that complicated?)

Fast forward many years later, and V-Day became the source of some very deep pain which is not fit for public consumption. After fumbling around and adding salt to the wounds for several years, we talked last year about creating our own version of V-Day on Feb. 26 (the date of our engagement) and skipping the dreaded 14th. 

Nice idea, but it never happened.

This year, newly single, I decided to take the bull by the horns. I could wallow in all the disappointing V-days gone by, and/or wallow in being alone this year, or I could make this a day worth remembering. First thing I did was call the Children’s Hospital in Oakland and find out what I could do to help. What they really needed were cards, so I faced my V-day demons and went shopping for some boxes of cards for the kids. I hope they put a smile on the kids’ faces today. 

In a little while, I’m going to be getting the deluxe treatment at Cosmo Spa Lounge, with their “Rehab Mani-Pedi” which includes the usual stuff plus scrubs and hot towels and lotions and massage. (Oh my!) I’ll probably add a paraffin dip on my hands as it helps the arthritis feel better. What puts this over the top is that my Godparents (new name for my in-laws) are treating me to this. I’m not sure if there’s ever been kinder, more thoughtful gesture.

Then this evening, I’m having a few single gals over for my first Galentine’s party. We will range from mid-20s to me. 🙂 I’ve gotten used to be the oldest in the room, and these gals keep me young. With no men around, I figured some kind of beef was in order (*giggle*) and since I haven’t eaten any red meat in over a month, this will be a treat. (London Broil Caesar Salad to the rescue!) And chocolate truffles, of course. 

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(I made these and there’s hardly any sugar; I blended 70% and 85% cacao (organic chocolate) with healthy coconut oil and coconut milk instead of butter and cream. The darkest ones are boozy with Grand Marnier and rolled in a little brown sugar which has dissolved into the chocolate. Do I know how to party or what?)

We’ll eat, be merry, maybe even watch a chick flick or two. And celebrate womanhood and friendship…

…and the love of Jesus, who is truly the BEST Valentine there is. Like the song says, “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.”  I’m focusing on THAT today more than anything! Along with “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine…”

Whatever you’re doing or not doing today, know that YOU ARE LOVED.

you-are-loved(image from elephantjournal.com)

Another Day in Limbo?

images(Image from http://diaryofaresidencywidow.blogspot.com.)

I’ve been rethinking this whole notion of being in limbo. The above graphic sums up what so many of us feel when we are in transition, between what was and what hasn’t happened yet. There is some truth to this, of course, but my current thoughts are that we are ALWAYS in this state of limbo. It’s just an illusion of control to think we have “arrived” anywhere. There’s always something new around the corner, plus we never know when some kind of tragedy or crisis will strike that will change the trajectory of our lives forever.

As Christians, we often talk about “the now and the not yet” — the Kingdom of God is both at hand and is yet to come. So essentially, we’re always in limbo here on earth. But does that mean we’re stuck in some kind of barren wasteland? Of course not. We’re on a journey — we often call it a “walk” — with Jesus, and will be until we see Him face to face. And even then, I believe there will be all sorts of new adventures for us!

So I’m choosing to reframe this time in my life. I don’t know what I want to call it, but I’m not calling it “limbo.” I’m still on my journey, walking with Jesus, and we’ve taken an interesting detour where I have no idea what the future holds at all. People ask me questions to which I have no answers — When are you moving? Where will you live? What will you do for work? Will you remarry? No idea on all fronts. But what I *do* know is that I don’t need to know any of those things today.

I am more than grateful for how the Lord has helped me in the past 18 months become much more focused on each day as it comes and not think so much about what’s ahead. When I stay present in the now, then each day is very rich and beautiful and challenging and offers me so many opportunities for growth. If I focus too much on the past or the future, then suddenly “now” becomes where I wish I wasn’t; but since God is present in the present, then what I’m essentially saying is I don’t want to be where God is.

*thud*

So no more limbo. Any ideas for what to call it instead?

P.S. Thanks to Mark Heard for the song “Another Day in Limbo.” Listen HERE.

Soundtrack

 

il_fullxfull.370605713_e6kl When we moved to Alameda from Tucson nearly four years ago, we brought with us three boxes of CDs. I was slower to get on the digital music bandwagon than the rest of the family, but I did eventually jump on. When we moved, I planned to upload all of the CDs to iTunes “soon.”

Well…here I am, with another move before me, and I’ve had to face the reality that I never got around to the uploading project. So today I’m sitting at my dining table, with CDs stacked and spread out in front of me, determined to get this done so I won’t have to lug those three boxes with me again.

I’ve been dividing the CDs into categories — “mine,” “his,” and “his that I want to listen to.” The process of doing this, which involves looking at each CD and checking iTunes to make sure it hasn’t already been uploaded, is a very bittersweet one; it’s like I’m looking at the soundtrack of our lives over the past three decades. Some CDs make me smile, others bring a tear. I’m sighing a lot.

I don’t know how long it will be before I can listen to certain songs by the Beatles; “I Will” being at the top of that list. The tall stack of Beatles CDs takes me right back to September of 2000 when, for his 40th birthday, I bought him as many CDs of the Fab Four as I could find on sale (even finding one in Swedish, but I haven’t unearthed that yet).

This project, like so much of my life right now, embraces both holding on and letting go. The challenge is to discern which to do, and with what and when. It requires being fully present in the moment and to be mindful of what I’m feeling, thinking, and experiencing, and then to make the best decision I can from there.

As bittersweet as the project is, it is providing me with the wonderful gift of fine tuning my awareness of what I want and need in the present moment, as well as the awareness of the various emotions I am feeling all at once. I’m able to sit and be still, feel my feet on the floor, my rear in the chair, and know that I am anchored and OK.

And I know God is right here with me, catching every tear and receiving every prayer.

 

 

 

And We Begin Again…

AWBA_logo_final_gate_JPEG_8-15-14-2 2(image from myawba.blogspot.com)

I didn’t want to start this entry with “I can’t believe it’s been nine month since I’ve blogged” because that just seems so banal. But it’s true and real, and so…yeah, it’s really been that long.

To offer reasons would take way too much time and energy, so I will share some bullet points of what has transpired since I wrote in May 2014 and you’ll know enough of why I haven’t been around for awhile:

• On June 7, Glenn and I celebrated our 29th anniversary at a delightful former hippie compound by the ocean. It start out as a non-anniversary trip because we were in a not-so-good place. But we wound up celebrating in the end, clinking glasses at a restaurant and saying, “Happy Anniversary! We’re still here!”
• At the beginning of August, we separated for two months with no contact.
• At the end of August, I completed a year-long certification process to become a spiritual director.
• In mid-September Glenn let me know he was not coming home after the separation was over.
• At the end of September a friend gave me the most wonderful trip to the Washington coast. It helped me process the inevitable. If you ever need to get away, go to La Push, WA!!! And try to go when there will be a clear sky at night; I have never seen so many stars in the Northern Hemisphere!
• Glenn filed for divorce in October.
• Survived — no, THRIVED — during the holidays with the help of God, friends, and family. (I thought about blogging through Advent but couldn’t quite get up the energy.) Was probably the most meaningful Advent season yet.
• Spent my first New Year’s Eve alone and enjoyed the peace and quiet; felt really good about how 2015 was beginning…
• …only to have my gut punched (emotionally) which sent me reeling for the remainder of January.
• Made the decision to move out of my place at the end of February and move in with friends.
• Made the decision to move to southern CA (Orange County) sometime in May or June.

A lot is ending, and much is beginning. As I prune away the deadwood from my life, new growth is revealed, and I am focusing on taking very good care of that growth. While I have much grieving to do — emotional health requires it, and a 29-year marriage is worthy of some honor — I also am rejoicing in the blessings of my life, and all of the possibilities that lie ahead.

I have a hard time journaling with pen and paper these days…too hard on these arthritic hands which are also plagued with fibromyalgia. I find blogging to be a helpful outlet, and if what I share can help someone else get through a tough day/month/season, then it’s worth the effort to cut open a vein.

Brené Brown talks about being willing to “get in the ring” and be vulnerable. Today I am making that choice, during what has been named one of the most stressful events a person can experience. Divorce is second only to the death of a loved one, though most people in my situation will tell you that it often feels like it would be easier if the person had died, because at least then it wouldn’t have been a choice. Unless it was suicide. But I digress… (PLEASE do not interpret that as saying I wish he were dead!) Of course moving is also in the top five stressors; might as well get it all over with at once, eh?

If my small audience is still around, sorry to have been gone for so long. I welcome your company on this journey of starting over…again.

I can’t wait to give Benedict a hug when I get to Heaven, and thank him for all the wisdom that was packed into his little phrase. I’m still pondering getting it tattooed on my arm.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

depression(Image from izthemonsterindsideme.blogspot.com)

 

It seemed to come out of nowhere this time.

I came back from Ohio exhausted, and the exhaustion never went away. I didn’t feel well physically, either. I didn’t want to get out of bed or do anything. I canceled most of my appointments and stayed inside with the blinds closed. I ordered pizza and Chinese food and watched Netflix. And didn’t take my meds.

And told no one.

Where was God? He was right here with me. I just ignored Him.

By the time Thursday evening came around and I was sitting on Margi’s couch, all I could do was cry. I finally told someone how bad it had gotten. And being the fine spiritual director she is, she didn’t try to fix anything. She did, however, begin to name all of the things I’ve been dealing with over the past month. I’d not put it all together…how could I when the black fog was surrounding me so tightly?

This was such a vivid example of why we need one another. Why we need community. When we can’t see our forest for the trees, someone else can. And Margi was able to show me some of the trees that were blocking me from seeing the forest.

It didn’t make the depression go away, but it normalized it for me. Helped me understand why my system was shutting down. One thing I have learned over the years — my brain can only handle so much. When there’s a lot going on, lots of transitions, lots of emotional intensity and lots of processing to do, I get overwhelmed, and more easily than most. Meds help. A LOT. But when I’m in the pit of emotional and physical exhaustion/depression it’s too easy to stop taking the meds. After all, the thought of opening a can of beans was overwhelming; so much easier to order food via the laptop. (Too bad Cymbalta isn’t offered as a pizza topping.)

If you’ve never been depressed, this will make no sense. I understand.

Of course, my left brain knew what to do: I needed to go outside. I needed to take a walk. I needed to take a shower. I needed to take my meds and my vitamins. I needed to turn off the TV. I needed to eat veggies and fruits and beans. I needed to talk to God and lament and process. I needed to get out my gratitude journal and count gifts, even the hard ones. I needed to set my mind on things above. And when I realized I wasn’t able to do any of this?

I needed to ASK FOR HELP. (“M’aidez, m’aidez!”)

Lesson learned. (I hope.)

It took a few days to start feeling better. Getting outside helped. Going to the ocean helped. Going to church and worshiping helped. Finally telling my husband and my pastor that I’d been depressed helped. Talking with Anne (my therapist) yesterday helped a lot. Getting Cymbalta back in my system probably helped the most. And eating healthy yesterday made a difference, I’m sure.

Speaking of yesterday…I turned a corner, but it was a slog. After seeing Anne and my chiropractor, I didn’t come home and stare at entertainment. I managed to get a lot done even though I felt like I was trudging through oatmeal all day. But that’s OK. I committed to moving slowly and taking the day one breath at a time. I wrote in my gratitude journal for the first time in over a week and that felt good. I made healthy meals. I met with one of my directees and we had a fantastic session. And I had a good night’s sleep. Something definitely shifted.

Today feels much better. Making a smoothie for breakfast wasn’t overwhelming. I’m not canceling appointments. I’m looking forward to going outside.  I’m eager to talk to some friends. Another corner has been turned.

All I can do is offer a broken Hallelujah of praise.

If any of you are suffering with depression of any kind — chronic or acute, mild or severe — please ask for help.

And know you are not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Ordinary Time?

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(image from voiceofthesouthwest.org)

Technically, it’s still the Easter season, but life has been feeling kind of ordinary.

I returned a few days ago from a ten-day trip, exhausted and bleary-eyed. The three-hour time difference is always a hard adjustment for me, especially on the return. I came home and the Lenten wreath with all of its candles was still on the table; I didn’t have the heart or energy to put it away. But every day since I’ve been home it’s been a reminder that the Lenten journey and the glorious celebration of Easter is OVER for this year. Like a Christmas tree still up in mid-January, the wreath on the table had become a bit of an eyesore; its meaning used up for the year.

That is, until I picked it up.

After gathering all of the candles, I lifted the wreath off the table and felt the smooth wood in my hands. I noticed some wax had hardened on the surface; as I scraped it off, the memories of those days in March and April came flooding back. I loved the beauty and simplicity of lighting one candle each day, and moving the carved figure of Jesus carrying His cross around the wreath.

I started to think about the journeys of descent and ascent…how we are always on a journey toward death or resurrection, often at the same time. Things in our life are either dying or rising. Dreams are coming true or ending. Transitions are around the corner and change is a-coming.

It’s inescapable.

I needed the reminder that there really isn’t such a thing as “ordinary” time. Each day holds the possibility of being quite extraordinary, especially if I purpose to stay awake and aware of God’s presence and movement in my life. Even though the days are moving away from the “official” Lent and Easter seasons, I can keep them in my heart by living fully present to both the Cross and Resurrection.

May that become ordinary for the rest of my days!!