Thursday, November 26, 2015

Five things

On this day of thanksgiving Americans all over the country show their thanks by overstuffing themselves with food that is rarely seen on the table any other day of the year.  Sure, we eat turkey on other days, but how often do we take the time to baste and roast a full bird?  The same goes for dressing, sweet potato casserole, and cranberry sauce; foods that make you go “Ugh, I ate too much! Pass the pie.”

More important than the food is the thanks we are supposed to be giving for the blessings God has bestowed upon us.  Using gluttony as a tool for thanking God has a certain oxymoronic ring too it if you ask me. Perhaps Thanksgiving should be a day of fasting instead of feasting.  Or perhaps we should be more mindful of giving thanks every day instead of saving it all for the last Thursday in November.

My aunt, the Sister, has the right idea.  This is what she has to say about being thankful, 

“I tell you what.  Every morning think of five things that you’re thankful for.  I can name all my five I name every morning.  Five things that you’re thankful for, every day.  That will make you feel a little bit better.”

Since she told me this I’ve tried it many times.  It’s hard to think of five things at 5:45 in the morning, but I think God appreciates the effort at least.  The first thing at the top of my list is “Thank you, God, for letting me open my eyes on another day.”  Then I stumble out of bed and hobble around until the muscles in my back warm up enough to allow me to stand in an upright position and continue my mental list of five things. 

I am thankful for my family every day.  I am thankful I have a home to keep me warm and dry and a job so I can continue to be warm, dry and fed.  The list could go on and on, and sometimes there are so many things to be thankful for I have a problem prioritizing them into a list of only five.

My aunt is a wise woman, and her daily list of five things is an inspiration to me.  But on Thanksgiving I think we should set aside the list of five and give a sum total of all the things for which thanks should be given for the whole year.  Here is mine for this year:

Thank you, God, for my family, my home, and my job.  Thank you for ten months of opportunity to prove to myself I can do a job that is beyond my comfort zone, even if I blundered at times.  Thank you for the blunders to prove to myself I did not want the job.  Thank you for new friends, old friends, new experiences, and refreshing changes. Thank you for the moxie to make a life changing decision and stick to it knowing it will be hard at times but worth it in the end.  Thank you for sending me to church even on those days when I would rather go back to bed.  Thank you for time spent with my sister cousins and friends.  Thank you for card games that run late.  Thank you for allowing me to wreck my car and survive, proving that every minute is a gift not to be taken lightly.  Thank you for pennies from heaven, rocks with faces, bird feathers, and all of the other little things you set in my path to brighten my day.  Thank you for the laughter and tears, and the stability to know the difference.  Thank you for giving me words to express my feelings, and your Word to live by.

Tomorrow morning I must try to remember to list my five things.  As my aunt says, “That will make you feel a little bit better.”  I’m agreeing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Six years

I remember a few years ago, six to be exact, when The Boy left us.  By proper definition he was a man by then, all 24 years of him.  But if you knew him as long as I did he was still just a little boy with a spirited grin that could melt your heart.  Nephews can be like that. Well, when The Boy left us on that evening six years ago I was set on a path of many wet, flowing tears.  You might say tears are always wet, but just like Forrest Gump’s varied description of rain; there are just as many kinds of tears.  There are tears that sting the eyes but don’t fall, tears that well-up in the corners of the eyes and drain down the side of your face and into your ears, tears that drip, tears that stream, and wet tears that fall involuntarily and drench your entire face. 

These wet tears are the ones I had for weeks after The Boy left.  Sometimes without even knowing I was sad my face would be drenched to the point that only a washcloth could clean up the mess.  In fact, that night six year ago, I slept with a washcloth in my hand.  I clenched it, and kept it close like it was a lifeboat keeping me afloat in a sea of wet tears.

He was a good boy, truly.  He was adventurous, funny, kind and tender-hearted just for starters.  A person, especially an aunt, couldn’t help but love a boy like that. It’s no wonder I struggled so when he left.  To have a light in your life extinguished so suddenly is a shock to the system, and a feeling of loss and void sucked me up like a vacuum.  Now here’s the part where I’m going to sound selfish.  As much as I missed that boy and felt the void he left in the world, I shed all those wet tears because I missed having that love shine on me from those twinkling eyes of his.  When you love someone and you lose them you still continue to love.  Love for a person doesn’t fade just because they die.  Your heart can still feel warmth when you think about them and you can keep them alive when you speak of them freely and without regret.  But when you are loved back, and you know you are loved back, and then that goes away cold turkey, well, wet tears are the least of your problems.  And I know down deep in my broken heart that The Boy loved me back.  I’m just knowing it. 

When a love you can feel like sunshine on your shoulders is suddenly gone you can feel the hurt deep down in your soul.  And on the surface, too. 

In these six years my pain has eased for the most part because I have found a place of well-being in keeping him alive in my memories of him.  Today though, just like six years ago exactly, I found myself mopping my face throughout the day.  I didn’t even know I was sad yet those wet tears fell involuntarily and caused a general mess and revealed my red-rimmed eyes and nose where the make-up had washed off in the deluge.

Part of me will always miss The Boy, but most of me will miss his love more than anything.  Aunts have a right to be selfish when it comes to these things.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A little soul for All Souls Day

This weekend I had another one of my 4:00 a.m. wake-up calls and my thoughts went to the word, soul.  I knew I needed to get up and write it all down, but God must have known I needed sleep so he didn’t push me.  But that Spirit, ever so Holy, has been needling me since, and I still can’t get the thought of the soul out of my mind.  Now here it is All Souls Day, a flashing sign to get to work if ever there was one. 
Last year my sisters, my cousin the Artist, one of the twin girls, and I spent a day with my aunt, the Sister, and I recorded the whole day on a small voice recorder I bought just for that purpose.  Being a nun afforded my aunt the honorary title of Family Spiritual Advisor.  My mother never put much credence in anything her children told her, but there were three people to whom she heeded all advice: her sister the Sister, any priest, and any doctor (in that order).  If my aunt said it to be so then it was and that was the end of that.  So it was no surprise many of the questions we asked my aunt that day leaned towards spiritual matters.  One conversation went like this,

The Artist: “Aunt Frances do you believe that your mama and daddy and sisters and brothers will be sitting there at your last breath waiting to take you to heaven?”

Aunt Frances: “No, because they say when you die you don’t think of anybody. It’s such peace, such happiness you don’t see anybody.  Just God.  You know, we try to figure God out; we can’t do it.  We can’t.  It’s impossible.  It’s impossible.”

I could see the disappointment in my family’s faces and hear it between the lines of the recording.  We all want to believe we will be reunited with our loved ones, that they will be there waiting to embrace us like the end scene in “Ghost”.  I want to believe that, truly, I do, but I’m beginning to shift towards my aunt’s beliefs and another idea entirely. 

You see, I believe we humans can only think in an earthly way because that is the way we are wired.  The bible says so, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground..” Genesis 2:7.  Our meager human minds cannot grasp the reality of heaven.  We can only imagine it from the smidgen of description that has been revealed in God’s Word.  We have too much dusty ground in us to understand the whole truth.

That verse continues, and it is this last part which holds the basis of my theory, “… and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

God gave life to mankind and we became living souls.  Have you ever counted how many times the word, soul, appears in the bible?  I have, with the help of an electronic bible, of course.  In the King James Version the word, soul, appears 459 times in 432 different verses.  The bible pairs the words heart and soul about 73 times.  As in Matthew 22:37 when Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  Our soul is as much of our being as our heart or our brain. 
All of these little tidbits are meant to bring you to my new revelation.  I think when God breathed life into Adam and made him a living soul He gave a bit of himself in each of us.  We strive for heaven not because we will be reunited with individuals, but because our souls must be reunited with God’s.   Each of us carries within us a piece of a puzzle that fits in a certain place.  When we get to heaven our souls will interlock with each other’s and stitch together as a collective, eternal voice of praise.  In this way, yes, we will be reunited with those who have gone before us, but in a way we cannot possibly understand while our bodies remain grounded.  I am not a theologian and I did not spend hours studying God’s Word to come to this conclusion, so this is only my opinion, not gospel.  You should study for yourself and listen for God to reveal Himself to you. 

As my aunt said, “You know, we try to figure God out; we can’t do it.  We can’t.  It’s impossible.  It’s impossible.”  I have to believe she’s telling the truth.  My mother would insist on it.