Home is Where Your Story Begins

April 22, 2011

Let Me Serve

Filed under: Life,Uncategorized — my3daughters @ 11:13 am

I love being Anglican  I love celebrating the different seasons of the church year.  It’s the same Bible I grew up with, the same stories, but brought to life in such an awesome way.  As Father Terry said last night, we take the events of the past and don’t just remember them, we bring them forward into the present and live them again.

Last night’s Maundy Thursday service was all about The Last Supper.  How many times have I heard that story?  Yet I saw it as if it was something completely new.  Never before did it occur to me that Jesus sat down and broke bread with friends that he KNEW would basically stab Him in the back before the sun rose the next morning.  He KNEW Judas was going to betray Him.  He KNEW Peter was going to deny Him, not once but three times.  He KNEW that He would be standing all alone, that the rest would desert Him and hide behind locked doors.

And not only did He eat with them, He SERVED them.  He washed their feet, a very humbling act.  Part of our Maundy Thursday service is a Foot Washing.  While the foot washing is going on, we sing The Servant Song by Richard Gillard.  (click on the link to see a video of him singing the song)

Brother, let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are brothers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night-time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through

The words in bold italics are the ones that really jumped out at me last night.  I have a lot going on in my life right now.  Its hard to focus on the needs of others when my own needs overwhelm me.  But I don’t have more going on that Jesus did that night.  He knew what was going to happen, and it was not pleasant.  Yet He served.  Far be it from me to be above serving.

April 20, 2011

Peace in the Shelter of His Wings

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 10:31 pm

W hen my heart is aching, when I feel I can’t go on, I run to the shelter of His wings . . . . . . . and there I find peace.

Tonight was our Tenebrae Service for Holy Week. (Tenebrae is the Latin word for “darkness” or “shadows”)  I arrived at church with a heavy heart, tears flowing from frustration, hurt and anger.  By the time service started, the peace of God’s home had begun to sooth me.  The service lifted my spirits and gave me hope and joy.  Following are my reflections and notes of various things that really touched me.  If you would like to read the service in its entirety, please let me know and I will see that you get a copy.  Note that there were fifteen candles on the altar at the beginning of the service.  After each Antiphon, an acolyte (in this case Nathaniel who is too cute) extinguished a candle.

Antiphon 1 was Psalm 69:1-23.  I felt as if I could have written this Psalm.  It was comforting to read it and know that I am not the first person to have felt like this.

1  Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck.

2  I am sinking in deep mire, and there is no firm ground for my feet

3  I have come into deep waters, and the torrent washes over me.

4  I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed; my eyes have failed from looking for my   God.

5  Those who hate me without cause are more than the hairs of my head; my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty.  Must I then give back what I never stole?

6  O God, You know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from You.

7  Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek You be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel.

14  But as for me, this is my prayer to You, at the time You have set, O Lord;

15   “In Your great mercy, O God, answer me with Your unfailing help.

16  Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; let me be rescued from those who hate me and out of the deep waters.

18  Answer me, O Lord, for Your love is kind; in Your great compassion, turn to me.

19  Hide not Your face from Your servant; be swift and answer me, for I am in distress.

20  Draw near to me and redeem me; because of my enemies deliver me.

21   You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; my adversaries are all in Your sight.”

22  Reproach has broken my heart, and it cannot be healed; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I could find no one.

Antiphon 2 was Psalm 70.  Again, I could totally relate.

1   Be please, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me.

2  Let those who seek my life be ashamed and altogether dismayed; let those who take pleasure in my misfortune draw back and be disgraced.

5  But as for me, I am poor and needy; come to me speedily, O God.

6  You are my Helper and my Deliverer; O Lord do not tarry.

Antiphon 3 was Psalm 74.  Verse 20 reads “Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed; let the poor and needy praise Your Name.”  Yeap, I’m the oppressed, the poor, the needy.  I don’t want to turn away ashamed so I need to praise His Name.

Lessons 1-3 were a reading from the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet (1:1-14).  Jeremiah’s descriptions sounded as if they were describing me.  “She weeps bitterly in the night, tears run down her cheeks; . . . Judah has gone into the misery of exile and of hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; . . . Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and bitterness all the precious things that were hers from the days of old; “.  At the end of each Lesson was the line “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.”  I personalized it to be “Dawn, Dawn, return to the Lord your God.” (not out loud of course, especially since I was the reader for these lessons)

Antiphon 4 was Psalm 2.  I liked the last verse.  It gave me hope.  “Happy are they all who take refuge in Him!” (v 13)  Although I am not one to put stock in happiness, which is fleeting, I am claiming this verse as my own.  I’m just changing it to “Joyful are they . . .” since joy is lasting.

Antiphon 5 was Psalm 22:1-21.  Could anything describe my feelings better?

1  My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?

2  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; by night as well, but I find no rest.

10  I have been entrusted to You ever since I was born; You were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

11  Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

Antiphon 6 was Psalm 27, one of my favorite Psalms.

1  The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

7  For in the day of trouble He shall keep me safe in His shelter, He shall hide me in the secrecy of His dwelling and set me high upon a rock. (those of you familiar with Jan Karon’s Mitford series may recognize this as Olivia’s Life Verse)

8  Even now He lifts up my head above my enemies round about me. (to me that was an immediate victory—even now in the midst of my misery He is lifting up my head through this service)

Lessons 4-6 were a reading from the Treatise of Saint Augustine the Bishop on the Psalms.  It started out with a cry that I could readily apply to my life.  “Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide Yourself from my petition.  Listen to me and answer me.  I mourn in my trial and am troubled.”

Saint Augustine said that “Every wicked person lives either that he may be corrected, or that through him the righteous may be tried and tested.”  When I heard that I thought “I’m being tried and tested.”  A little further on Saint Augustine reminded me that “most of the time, when you think you are hating your enemy, you are hating your brother without knowing it.”  My response—Ouch.

Lesson 6 talked about the glory of the cross.  I love the line “He has conquered the world, not by steel, but by wood.”  Many times I’ve heard that the pen is mightier than the sword.  In the great game of eternal rock/paper/scissors, wood conquers all.

Antiphon 7, Psalm 54, began and ended with the entire congregation saying “God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my life.”

Antiphon 8 was Psalm 76.  Verse 11 told me to “Make a vow to the Lord your God and keep it; let all around Him bring gifts to Him who is worthy to be feared.”  I vow to tithe 10% and then back off when things get tight.  I vow to have daily devotions and then get distracted.  It’s time for me to make the vow and keep it.

Antiphon 9, Psalm 88, was a perfect description of where I was at when I walked into church tonight.  Literally, I felt like I’ve been crying out constantly for help and not being heard.  Many times I have thought of ending my life.  Thankfully I have friends who always seem to pop up to encourage me when I need them most.  And not just local friends who can see on my face, in my demeanor, that I am hurting.  My most supportive friends are miles away in other states and even in other countries.  I thank God that they are sensitive to the leading of His Spirit and reach out to me.

1  O Lord, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you.

2  Let my prayer enter into Your presence; incline Your ear to my lamentation.

3  For I am full of trouble; my life is at the brink of the grave.

Lessons 7-9 were from the Letter to the Hebrews (4:15-5:10; 9:11-15a).  This was exactly what I was learning as I participated in tonight’s service.  “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Antiphon 10 was Psalm 63:1-8.  “O God, You are my God; eagerly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.” (v 1)  This does not describe me at the moment but it’s where I need to be.  I want to be able to say, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand holds me fast.” (v 8)  (I know there’s something significant in that it’s the right hand but I can’t remember what it is.  If you’ve read this far and know the answer, please post in the comments, thanks)

Antiphon 11 was Psalm 90:1-12.  Nothing really spoke to my heart from this one but I didn’t want you to wonder why I skipped from Antiphon 10 to Antiphon 12.

Antiphon 12, Psalm 143, was again something that could have been written from my own heart.  I really don’t understand why people feel they are holier if they have “original” prayers.  Why improve on the perfection that is the Bible?

1   Lord, hear my prayer, and in Your faithfulness heed my supplications; answer me in Your righteousness.

3  For my enemy has sought my life; he has crushed me to the ground; he has made me live in dark places like those who are long dead.

4  My spirit faints within me; my heart within me is desolate;

5  I remember the time past; I muse upon all your deeds; I consider the works of your hands. (I’m counting my blessings, or at least trying to)

6  I spread out my hands to you; my soul gasps to you like a thirsty land.

8  Let me hear of Your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to You. (and if that could be tomorrow  morning, Lord, it would be extra great, thanks)

10 Teach me to do what pleases you, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  (please, oh please, give me some direction.  I am so lost)

Antiphon 13 was The Song of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:10-20).  You were expecting another Psalm weren’t you?  Verse 7 is my prayer—“My weary eyes look up to you; Lord be my refuge in my affliction.”

Antiphon 14 brought us back to the Psalms with Psalm 150, the last Psalm.  It ended with “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (v 6)

Remember, we had been extinguishing one candle of the fifteen on the altar after each Antiphon.  If you’ve been paying attention you will see that there was one candle left.  Remember also that this was evening in Michigan (service started at 7:00 pm) so the entire nave was lit by one solitary candle.  Actually, the lights were on very low because we still had one more Antiphon to go, Canticle 16:  Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel.  At the end of this Antiphon, the entire congregation said “Now the women sitting at the tomb made lamentation, weeping for the Lord.”  Then the remaining candle was taken from the altar and removed from sight (and the lights were turned out).

We said the Christus factus est—“Christ for us became obedient unto death, even death on a cross; therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name.”  After a brief silence was observed, we quietly said Psalm 51.  (the rubric says to read it quietly but I think part of the quiet was because it was hard to see the words in the dark).  I like verse 9 “Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.”

Deacon Bob concluded with a Collect.  In the silence that followed a noise was made (Joseph:  “What was that noise?), the fifteenth candle was brought back in and everyone departed in silence.

Hanging on by a Very Thin Thread

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 6:01 pm

I’ve been doing everything in my power to stay in Michigan so that I can be involved in my children’s lives.  I have no job, no vehicle and no home.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not laying around all day playing Facebook and mooching off others.  I have applied for every job opening that I am even remotely qualified for, followed up on every job lead that someone has told me about and gone on every interview I have been asked to participate in.

Until I get a job, I cannot even think about trying to find a place to live. Unemployment doesn’t pay me enough even before they take half of it to give my 6 figure a year ex-husband his court ordered child support.  And before you ask, not that it’s any of your business, but I have to pay him child support because, although we have joint custody, his residence is listed as the primary one.  And no, I cannot ask for a reduction in child support because I’m on unemployment.  Michigan Friend of the Court will not even consider changing a court ordered amount while I am on unemployment.

“Surely there must be some sort of help,” you say.  “Have you gone to the Department of Human Services?  Have you applied for Section 8 Housing?”  Again, not that it’s any of your business, but yes I have.

I have commitments here in Michigan until May 22.  I had set this as my “deadline.”  The plan was that if I hadn’t found a job by then, I was going to have to leave my children and move back to Pennsylvania.  First off, I am not one of those people who had children just to say I did so.  I had children because I wanted them, because I wanted to be involved in their lives.  So moving 300+ miles away is not my idea of a good time.  Secondly, note that I did not say I was moving back to Fayette City.  Apparently, moving back home is not an option.  I can’t say for certain because I haven’t been able to get a response to my calls, emails or text messages.   I’m just assuming I’m not welcome.  Fortunately, I do have friends willing to welcome me into their home.

I honestly don’t know if I can make it another day in Michigan, much less another month.  Continuing to pick myself up, dust myself off and continue the fight is getting too difficult.  And it doesn’t help that there are so many people who seem to delight in kicking me when I’m down.  For those who look down on me because I “spend too much time on Facebook” let me say this—“Be glad that I do spend so much time on Facebook.  I have friends on there who support me and encourage me.  If it wasn’t for my constant contact with them, you would be walking around with the guilt of knowing that you were part of the reason I blew my brains out.”  Of course, you are so self-centered that you would never dream that it was your fault.  Plus you would probably agree with the family member who told me that I deserve all the misery I get, that I asked for it and that if my friends knew the true me that they wouldn’t support me (this family member has spent about 2 days with me in the past 20 years so I’m not sure how they think they know the real me).

To each and every one of my friends who has helped me keep going by encouraging me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  If you have someone in your life who blesses you even a tiny bit as much as you have blessed me, you will be blessed indeed.

To each and every one of you who have looked down your nose at me, kicked me when I was down and basically helped to make my life even more of a living hell than it already is, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  While the right thing for me to do would be to never wish this or any misery on you, what I really wish is that you will eventually get as good as you gave.

NO!

Filed under: Life,Parenting — my3daughters @ 10:34 am

“No!”  It’s one of the first words a young child says.  It’s cute for the first two or three times then it quickly becomes annoying.  So we as parents say, “don’t you tell me that!” and break our children of what we consider a “bad habit”.  I agree that the disrespectful and stubborn “No!” of most toddlers should not be encouraged.  However, I think a lot of adults need to re-learn the word “No.”

Have you ever heard the saying “stop me before I volunteer again”?  It applies to people who don’t know how to say “No.”  They volunteer to be room parents, join the PTO, help with the bake sale, coach the team, lead the troop, provide the snacks—the list goes on and on.  ”But I’m doing it for my child,” they say.  To which I reply, “Really, and how does it benefit your child when you are too busy, too tired or too stressed to spend time with them? When you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and taking it out on them? When you are rundown because you can’t even find the time to eat properly or get enough sleep?”

Now, before you get mad at me for pointing fingers, know that I speak from experience.  There was a time when I didn’t know how to say “No” and my family suffered from it.  Fortunately someone wiser than me taught me to slow down before I ended up crashing.  Now I schedule downtime into my calendar every day, week and month.  I’m not suggesting you ignore your children.  That’s not healthy either.  I’m telling you that they will survive if you let someone else handle the bake sale.  Actually, they will thrive because they will have a less stressed out parent.  And you will be teaching them the value of a life that is a balance of work and play.

Not only do we need to tell others “No”, we need to tell our children “No.”  They may think they need every new toy and gadget on the market but they don’t.  I’ve had to tell my girls “No” a lot.  Amazingly, they are still alive.  I suggest giving your children an allowance instead.  Sit down with them, discuss what they will be required to spend their own money on and then help them budget.  If they really want something, help them develop a plan to save up the money.   Not only will this teach them a valuable lesson but it will remove stress from your life as well.  I know people who work two jobs just so their little prince or princess can have everything their heart desires.  Sure, everything but a relaxed and stress free parent who actually has time to spend with them.

Again, I speak from experience.  I was the only child of older parents, both of whom worked outside the home and had good incomes.  I was given everything and anything I wanted.  Imagine my shock when I had to start paying for things on my own.  It was very hard to go from having a new car, designer clothes, and the ability to eat out whenever I wanted, to driving an old car, shopping at a thrift store and considering a trip to McDonalds a major treat.  My parents thought they were being good parents, but in the long run it would have been better if they would have said “No” once in a while.  I am thankful that, while they indulged my every whim, they modeled a thrifty lifestyle.  I am able to look back now and put those lessons into practice.  Trust me; life is a lot better now than when I just had to have everything.

Not only do we need to tell our kids “No” when it comes to things that cost money, we need to tell them “No” when it comes to how they spend their time.  “No” you can’t watch TV while you do your homework.  Concentrate on your homework and get it finished so you can watch TV later.  What, do you really think their employers are going to let them have a TV in their cubical because “I can’t concentrate without the TV.”  Music played quietly (not burst your eardrums loud) is okay in my opinion.  There have actually been studies that show that certain types of music help with studies.

Here’s a hot topic—let’s say “No” to cell phones.  Now I’m not talking all the time because I would go crazy without my Crackberry.  However, I was at a party a few months ago and one of the parents commented about the girls all texting each other when they were in the same room.  Another parent pointed out that even some parents are guilty of it and used me as an example.  Yes, I was sitting there checking email and Facebook.  Thanks, friend, I appreciate your honesty and I am now very conscious of when I need to put my phone away.

Cell phones have no place in school and I love that our school district has a ban on them.  I just wish the parents would step up and help enforce this.  No cell phones in school means I should not be seeing Facebook status updates during school hours.  I have a lot of kids on my Facebook and they know that Ms Dawn will say something if she seems them on during school hours.  But why am I parenting your child?  And why aren’t you one of their Facebook friends?  There’s the parent who said, “I want my daughter to be able to reach me if she needs me.”  I didn’t have a cell phone growing up and I was still able to reach my parents if I needed them.  See, there are these interesting things in the school office called telephones and if you are sick or need your lunch that you forgot, the office staff will let you use them to call your parents.  Actually, all the schools in our district have a telephone in each classroom.  Little Sally or Tommy don’t even have to walk to the office to use the phone.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Cell phones also have no place during homework time.  Exactly how can you focus on your homework when you are getting and sending text messages constantly?  You can’t.  And Facebook (or any other socializing) can wait until after homework is finished.  We weren’t allowed to play or talk on the phone with our friends (yes, it is possible to actually have a verbal conversation with a friend using a phone) until our homework was done.

So how are your child’s grades?  Not so good? Well then how saying “No” to the cell phone, computer, trips to friends’ houses, parties, dances, trips to the mall (for those of you with girls) until the grades come up?  Wait, you say, weren’t you just talking earlier about a need for balance between work and play?  Yes, and I still am.  But if your child is doing poorly in school, they should not be rewarded with “fun” activities.  They can stay home and read, play games or watch TV after they finish their homework.  This is especially true for teens.  In my experience, they will be motivated to get those grades up so they don’t miss out.  And when they get into the “real world (not the one on MTV), if they do poorly at their job, they won’t have the money to do anything “fun.”  For now, school is their job and they need to do it to the best of their ability.

I could go on and on about areas that I feel we need to say “No” to our children.  Say “No” to staying up late on a school night (on a regular basis).  Say “No” to cooking them something different if they don’t like what’s for dinner.  You get the idea.  So learn to say “No.”  Say it loud, say it proud.  It’s what’s best for you AND your entire family.

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