Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Walking the Labyrinth::September 30

(Written on Sunday, September 27)

Today, after I prepared the altar for Eucharist, I went out to the patio at St. Mary's and walked the labyrinth.

I started walking around, keeping my eyes to the ground and my mind on praying. As I made it about 1/3 of the way through, I noticed a cigarette butt in my pathway, so I picked it up. As I continued, another butt, so I picked it up too. A little farther in was a broken clasp to a backpack, so I picked it up. As I neared the outer edge, I saw that there was a plastic bag laying by the bush. When I picked up the bag, I saw some cardboard that someone had written a "will work for help" cardboard sign that had blown under the bush, so I picked it up. As I continued walking and thinking, I picked up the trash and put it in my bag. Then, when I thought I'd been gone too long and better get back inside so I was on time, I walked by the outside garbage can and threw away the bag full of garbage.

I realized that those moments had been an allegory.

I started the journey for myself: I wanted to quietly meditate and walk before the service started.

As I walked in, at first I was totally caught up in my own thoughts, but after praying for a while, I noticed some garbage that needed to be taken care of directly in my path.

As I walked more and more, the more and more ways I saw to serve. A bag was provided, and I continued to see ways to improve the courtyard while still continuing on my path.

Isn't that so much like life? The more we pray and the closer we try to be to God, the more we see the "garbage" that needs to be taken care of and ways to be of service. The more we serve, the more we see ways prepared for us to help us help others. And so on, and on, and on.

♥ Melody

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Reminder::September 29

The Problem:

The Solution:

"Faith can move mountains, but don't be surprised if God hands you a shovel."
~ author unknown

♥ Melody

Friday, September 25, 2015

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O God, my strength and my redeemer::September 25

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O God, my strength and my redeemer." ~ Psalms 19:14

Those are the words that Peter, my priest, says before every sermon he gives. That scripture, and his example, has made me be more thoughtful about what I say, as well.

"Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

This prayer is found in the morning devotions, and I find myself more and more asking God for those same things as I interact with my children, my husband, my church discussion group, and my book club group, as well as with others that I come in contact with from day to day.

I also include a petition to help me keep my heart and mind open.

Important stuff.

Sometimes we (read: I) get so caught up in a conversation and a desire to say the things from my heart in such a way that won't block someone else, or perhaps I need to keep my heart open because someone is saying something that could really hurt my feelings if I let it (they aren't intentionally being rude, sometimes things are said that make us/me defensive, even though they don't mean it that way. If they were intentionally trying to be rude and hurt my feelings, I'd excuse myself from the conversation, hopefully before I returned harsh words.) but I'm unsure of what to say. I say a small prayer in my mind and heart and then proceed to try to get those thoughts out, hoping that the other person will understand the things that I'm saying in the same spirit that I'm intending them to be heard.

Lately I have been repeating the mantra to keep my heart and mind open a lot.

Sometimes it is hard to know the right things to say in each situation. Sometimes, God only knows what the person needs to hear to be comforted. That is why I love Peter's style of praying for guidance of his words. That is why I love the morning devotions prayer. And that is why I pray to keep my heart open.

My dad says that my life is a 3 ring circus; he knows me well. ;) Because of that, I have to live as close to the Lord as I possibly can, because I don't know the things that all of my monkeys need to hear, but He does.

Have a blessed day.
♥ Melody

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

God bless you::September 23

Yesterday I saw a person begging on the street corner. My usual response is to look away and pretend I didn't see. Don't stare, you know, it's not polite - unfortunately, that same adage of virtue can be a vice when we cease to see the people behind the traumatic scene.

As I approached, I thought of what my priest, Peter, has said about people who come to the church looking for money. Sometimes the church doesn't have enough money to really make a difference in a person's crises of a life. Sometimes the only thing to say is, "God bless you."

To look at someone and know that you don't have any money to give, whether it is because plastic has become the new currency, or because we ourselves are in the middle of our own financial crisis, is a hard thing. It is much easier to look away and pretend that everything is fine in your world.

One of the baptism commitments is to see Christ in all persons and to try to seek and serve them. It is much easier to see Christ in the Pope, the Dalai Lama, or any other good religious leader. It is easy to see Christ in the person who pays it forward. It is easy to see Christ in the firefighters, the police, or any other public servant. It is more difficult to see him in the homeless, the gay, the transgendered, the addict. It is easy to love loveable, socially accepted people! It is trickier to love the mentally ill, destitute, or those who do things contrary to what we deem as righteous.

So, as I approached this woman, this daughter of God and daughter of two mortals somewhere who love her, I chose to see her. I chose to ask God's blessing to be upon her. "God bless you!" is what I called out my window. She returned a blessing right back at me, loud and vocal, "God bless you too!"

I hope that she felt my concern that I had for her. I hope that she knew that I was giving the best that I could at that particular moment. I hope that she felt seen, respected, and validated. And I hope that God blesses her through others to have the things that she needs.

God bless you, too.
♥ Melody

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Traci Schmidley's article, "Are You Really Pro-Life?"::September 19

This is one of the most thought provoking, well written, and well articulated blog posts I have ever read. YES! YES! YES! to all of it:

Are You Really Pro-Life?
Written by Traci Schmidley
Original article can be found (here)

I went to the supermarket today. I brought along five children. Yes, somewhat stupid I know, but my husband was with me, and after having ten children for a season, we tend to get a bit over confident in our kiddo management skills. Husband saw a friend he hadn’t seen for a while, and knowing that time was a bit tight, I proceeded to the check out. You know the scene that unfolded in the next few minutes: Most of you have probably lived it. The 7 month old I was holding got hungry and started clawing at my shirt trying to nurse. The 1.5 year old tried to grab candy that I wouldn’t let her have and starting wailing. (No, she is not spoiled. Sometimes, 1.5 year olds cry loudly. I promise that sometimes, regardless of how awesome a parent you are, they just do.) The 2.5 year old was trying to help his 6 & 8-year-old brothers put the groceries on the belt, and of course, he dropped the container of blueberries, which spilled all over the floor. To top it all off, I had WIC coupons for our foster daughter, and I grabbed the wrong cheese (I swear it was labeled WIC approved!), so the cashier had to call someone to come figure it all out.

I apologized to the people in line behind me. I hated to be that woman — that mess of a mom whose kids are out of control. One lady down the line shrugged her shoulders at me to say, “Hey, I get it. We have all been there.” But the couple immediately behind me had a different perspective. The man looked at the woman and said in a voice much too loud, “Some people should stop having kids.” Judging from her facial expressions and audible sighing and huffing, I can reasonably guess that she agreed with him.

Yes, I know how it looked. I was standing there by myself holding government free food coupons with 5 young children of two different races, and I myself look even younger than I am, which is young. I looked irresponsible. Nobody could know I was married, and that all foster children under the age of 5 receive WIC. Regardless of stereotypes and my appearance in that moment, my mind was absolutely blown when I saw the couple get into their vehicle that had a single bumper sticker on the back. The bumper sticker said — pro-life.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that same couple was pro-life.

In my simplistic thinking it makes sense that if you agree with the view that life begins at conception, you must also agree with the view that life doesn’t end at birth. Therefore, being pro-life shouldn’t be just about supporting a child’s rights during their nine months in-utero but should also be about supporting the children’s (and their mother’s) lives after they are born.

That snot covered, sticky fingered, wailing toddler is that same little clump of cells that you took a stand for. Why stop loving them when they are big enough to talk back, run off, and throw a fit? How you can tell a woman to choose life, when your comments, mannerisms, and lack of action toward a struggling mother are everything but supportive?

If you encounter a mother trying her best to deal with a child throwing a fit and your first thought is “Someone needs to teach that momma and that child a lesson!” I am not sure you are really pro-life.

If you encounter a family who is using government assistance to provide nourishing food for a child and your first thought is “Stupid welfare mongrels. My taxes buy that!” I am not sure you are pro-life.

If you encounter a couple who has more children than you decided to have and you think to yourself, “What ignorant, selfish people. Don’t they know what causes that?” I find it hard to believe you are really pro-life.

Let me take this a step further into really sticky political water:

If you hear about the unaccompanied children crossing the border and if you know that their parents were so desperate for them to simply have a chance at life, they urged them to risk death to run for freedom, and your reply is, “Damn, illegals. Let’s build a wall!” I need to ask you, are you really pro-life? Their mothers chose to give them life in the most impossible of situations, and if they do not escape that life, they will almost certainly die. Again, I ask you, are you sure you are pro life?

Choosing life is hard for so many women, because they know just how hard raising that life is. It is an overwhelming pressure to want to give an innocent child the world, especially when this world is so ugly and broken. All mothers, even moms with planned pregnancies feel that pressure. Imagine the fear, isolation, and trepidation you would feel if you are pregnant in a situation in which you are totally unprepared for. So, if you are going to tell a mom to choose life, than you also need to be willing to support her in the life that will follow her courageous choice, because life will sometimes, maybe often, be hard. How can you be adamantly pro-life but then be unwilling to do anything to help those lives out?

I wonder what would happen if we as a pro-life people, rather than rely on bumper stickers to spread our message, begin to rely on our actions. It’s not complicated. It’s the simple things, like how about we help some children in front of us pick up some spilled blueberries? How about we help a mom who has her hands full put some grocery bags into the buggy? How about we use our words to tell moms “Hang in there! You’re doing the best you can, we all see that.” Let us spread grace, understanding, empathy, and compassion to the families we encounter around us to send a message to women who are considering abortion, “We will be here for you and your child. We will help you. We will love you.” Let our pro-life stance be more than a slogan but a lifestyle — a lifestyle of supporting life, even when it’s covered in poop screaming at the top of it’s healthy little, living, lungs that an abortion clinic did not get to harvest. Let’s not just gather at prayer rallies and abortion protests, but let’s call up our neighbor and offer to babysit, bring by a meal, or simply offer an encouraging word. Let’s be a united, supportive village to help raise all of these children we are begging women to give birth to rather than abort. How about adoption? Yes! Absolutely! We need to be willing to do that, too! I won’t even allow myself to start in on that topic. Pro life should not mean pro nine months. Pro life should really mean pro life.

♥ Melody

Friday, September 18, 2015

Daily Devotions::September 18

In the Book of Common Prayer, there are daily devotions for individuals to be read at different parts of the day: Morning, Noon, Evening, Bedtime.

Here are a few of my favorite readings/prayers:

Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought
us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty
power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by
adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your
purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring
forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I
am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still,
help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it
patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit
of Jesus. Amen.

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all of the worlds.

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is
past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and
awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in the
Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake
of your love. Amen.

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the
enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in
peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
♥ Melody

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Genderbread Person::September 16

Years ago, I had no idea that a boy could feel like a girl, or that a girl could feel like a boy. There were men called drag queens who liked to dress like women, I'd heard of them, but beyond that, I was clueless.

Even when Jared first told me that he felt like he was a girl, I had no idea that was even a thing.

I'm so thankful that he was born exactly when he was, because paths are being open to the LGBTQ more now than ever before. And even though Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner doesn't do education well, and sometimes muddles things even more, people are more aware now than ever about transgendered people.

It is getting much more commonplace to hear about sexual orientation and sexual identity. A few weeks ago, I saw this Genderbread Person on a blog that I follow. I saved it, because I knew it would come in handy. :)

People are complex and no two are alike. As for me, I've never been a girly-girl. I was raised in Wyoming for a time and saw strong women who could run their ranch by themselves just fine, thank you. Their examples were some that I followed most. I love working outdoors much more than indoors. I don't mind getting dirty or working hard. I stayed home with my children because I felt that was best for them; I would have been a career woman otherwise. I never called my girls "princesses" - to me that nickname was synonymous with needing others to take care of them, and I was raising self-sufficient daughters.

Who would have known that my third-born, boy by birth, would be more girly than I am? (though it isn't hard, trust me. ;) ) Today she told me that there were a lot of girls at work who want to "do her nails." She thinks it's "cute". LOL I think it's creepy and want no other female anywhere near my fingernails. :)

I wear men's t-shirts because women's t-shirts are too form fitting, and I hate that! I wear sneakers, loafers, and flip flops, and you will never catch me wearing stiletto high heels! I wear jeans, sweats, or yoga pants. I'll wear dress pants/slacks to church and to do a photoshoot. I will wear a dress when I have to - but the last time I had to was last year at Josh and Hayley's wedding. (Though if I could find a jumper like I bought a couple of decades ago in Tennessee, I'd wear it in the summertime! It was a perfect cotton dress that I could wear Keds, loafers, or flip flops with. ;) )

So, Jessica realizes that women and men can present themselves however the heck they want to. But she reminds me that I simply don't understand, and she's right. I don't understand how the "wrong" genitalia can give you anxiety or feel despair. I've never felt that in my life.

There is so much to gender identity that happens in the brain. It really has very little to do with genitals, in fact. Which again, I don't understand, but I totally am aware of.

Back in the 80's we called people fags, faggots, and gay in place of idiot, creep, and stupid. We don't do that anymore. Education has happened and empathy for others has given us a better understanding. (There might still be the "EW!" factor when we see boys kissing boys or girls kissing girls on television, but I assume that homosexuals feel that same "EW!" factor with hetorsexual kisses.)

The same way that our understanding of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals has grown since 1980, our understanding of transgendered people will also grow as we begin to recognise and meet more members of our communities and own families that feel this way. Empathy and respect is bound to improve and grow.

And for now, we can learn from the Genderbread Person. :)

♥ Melody

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

::September 15

I saw this and thought it was very appropriate :)

Have a good day!
♥ Melody

Monday, September 14, 2015

Words of Affirmation, Kindness, and Peace

It is always difficult to talk about hard things. Things that you know some will judge unkindly. Things that expose you to your core.

But often in life, it is necessary.

When hard things shake me to my core, I turn to sage advice. Interestingly enough, often such wisdom is found in quotes on facebook. I gather these little gems and save them for moments in which they apply. Today happens to be one of those days; I hope that these can inspire you as well.

♥ Melody

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Answers::September 13

From "A Significant Moment::September 8"

picture taken from my kitchen window
I'll be talking in the future about why this moment was significant to me. It is a moment that induces melancholy because things will be changing a bit for our family, and change is something that is difficult for me and my heart.
♥ Melody

Answers::September 13

This is the message that my 21 year old son put on his facebook wall yesterday:

"So this Is the kind of post I've had to make it seems like a million times in real life but hopefully I can make one more here and people will know. I am transgendered. That means I was born a boy but I have always identified as a girl. I've been seeing a therapist for about 6 months now and he has been a huge help. Now to answer some commonly asked questions yes me and Ruth are still staying together. I told her about this a long time before we got married. Yes I will be dressing like a girl from now on. Yes I am using medical avenues as well to transition to being a woman. I love all of you wonderful facebook people tons and tons. I hope that this isn't something that hurts your feelings or causes you distress. But even if it does I've been worried what others think for way to long. I need this out there. You probably wont see me using this account anymore. If you have questions about my new FB account and wanted me to add you please send me a private message and I will review it. I love you all and hope we can still be friends."

pic taken from my window - after work, 1st day presenting as Jessica

Now, for the rest of the story:

When Jared was about 14, he came to Steve and me and said that he felt like he was transgender. At the time, I had no idea what that meant. As I googled it, my heart fell - life is hard enough without added complications, and I felt like this was a huge complication.

We talked about it, and I told him my fears and concerns, probably not in a very gentle way - this is not an easy thing for a mother to hear, especially this mother. I am a mother lion. I protect my young. To have my young put themselves in a scary situation makes me react in a harsh way - not too much different from a mother lion striking her child with her paw to teach them things that keep them safe. Only, I used words...

He stopped talking about it, and he didn't mention anything more until he was 18. He said that he'd been feeling more and more that he wasn't really a male, and he wanted to "come out". He told his siblings, too, this time. I still didn't react well. By now, I had discovered that my fears were valid: violence against transgendered people is high...

He dusted it back under the rug.

Last October, he married Ruth and this feeling has again returned, and he is going forward this time. Thankfully, he had talked to Ruth about it before they were married, and she had been very accepting back then, and now, she is very encouraging that he be who he feels that he needs to be.

I know that this is a huge shock to all of you who have known "Jared" - it has been to me too. I don't expect anyone to truly understand - I certainly don't fully understand it, and I don't think anyone truly does unless it is another transgender person.

I do hope that you will be accepting though. That you will love HER regardless of what your personal feelings or understanding is.

She will go by the name Jessica. She and Ruth's marriage is still strong, and Ruth is very supportive of her wife.

Though I don't have all of the answers, if you have questions, I will be happy to try to answer - please keep comments respectful.

Jessica, as she is now.
♥ Melody

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Asking Questions and Seeking Answers::September 9

So, I had a dream last night.

In my dream, Steve and I lived in another country without any family or friends around, and I felt like the company that he worked for exploited the natives by using them as cheap labor. I was so frustrated!

I dreamed that I saw my French teacher from high school, and he and his wife lived in the same area that I did. They were happy! I told them my plight and just how miserable I was and asked them about their lives. They said that they loved living there, so I asked them what they loved about it. They liked to go boating and did so as often as they could.

That is about all I remember about the dream. When I woke up, I was frustrated with myself: why would I talk about my private "stuff" with people I barely know? What is wrong with me?!

As I talked to Josh about it, I realized that what I'd done was a great thing, not terrible at all! I talked to people who were happy with their life in that country and asked what made life bearable, and even enjoyable, for them.

As I've mentioned before, I go to Al Anon. I tell perfect strangers (and those who have become friends through the program) about my life. Then I listen to what makes life bearable for them. Sometimes I am the one who tells what makes life bearable for me. We learn from each other. Sometimes it is give, other times it is take.

The people in Al Anon that I listen to most are the ones who have found serenity in their situation. The beauty of a 12 step group is that we are all alike in one way or another, and some people have already survived the stuff that newcomers are going through.

(As an aside, one great message that touched my heart from last night's meeting was, "You don't need to apologize for who you love." It was told by a person who had lost their spouse - who was also their qualifier - recently.)

Every single message that I hear in Al Anon applies to another portion of my life. Like Step 12 says, I take and "practice these principles in all [my] affairs."

Anyway, to circle back, I am thankful that I am learning to be authentic and that I have relationships in which I can talk about my demons, my skeletons, and the just plain crap I go through, and that there are those around me who can tell me what makes life bearable, and even enjoyable, for them.

I can take their experience, strength and hope, and I can find the thing in my life that is the equivalent of what boating does for them.

♥ Melody

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Significant Moment::September 8

picture taken from my kitchen window

I'll be talking in the future about why this moment was significant to me. It is a moment that induces melancholy because things will be changing a bit for our family, and change is something that is difficult for me and my heart.
♥ Melody

Thursday, September 3, 2015

More quotes from "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger::September 3

I finished the book Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger today. This is what I wrote as a review on

"If I could give it more than 5 stars I would. This book is amazingly well written. It isn't just a "good" book, it is a great one. It is bound to be a classic."

I have already written a couple of  quotes from the book, but here are a few more:

"I had been to visitations before and have been to many since and I've come to understand that there's a good deal of value in the ritual accompanying death. It's hard to say good-bye and almost impossible to accomplish this alone and the ritual is the railing we hold to, all of us together, that keeps us upright and connected until the worst is past."

* * * * * * *

"We stand the three of us where an important part of our lives lies buried. We can see the river brown with silt and on the far side the patchwork of fields and beyond them the wooded hills that long ago channeled the glacial flood of the River Warren. The sun is low in the sky and the light is pollen yellow and the afternoon is blessedly still.

'It's been a good day,' my father says with satisfaction. 'It's been a good life.'

In the way he did as a child whenever my father finished a sermon, Jake whispers, "Amen."

Me, I throw an arm around each of them and suggest, 'Let's go have a beer.'

We turn, three men bound by love, by history, by circumstance, and most certainly by the awful grace of God, and together walk a narrow lane where headstones press close all around, reminding me gently of Warren Redstone's parting wisdom, which I understand now. The dead are never far from us. They're in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air."
To explain about "Ordinary Grace" and "awful grace", I will take some quotes from the story:
"'Could I have your attention?' Deacon Griswold called. 'I'd like to ask Pastor Drum to offer a blessing for this meal.'

The room became quiet.

My father composed himself. He always spent a moment in silence before he prayed. His blessings tended to be comprehensive and include not just the immediate food on the table but reminders of all we had to be thankful for and very often a reminder of those who were not as fortunate as we.

In that silence while my father's head filled with the words he deemed proper, my mother spoke. She said, 'For God's sake, Nathan, can't you, just this once, offer and ordinary grace?'

There had been silence in the room, a respectful silence awaiting prayer. But that silence changed and what we waited for now was something filled with uncertainty and maybe even menace and I opened my eyes and saw that everyone was staring. Staring at the Drums. At the minister's family. Looking at us as if we were a disaster taking place before their very eyes.

My father cleared his throat and said into the silence, 'Is there anyone else who would care to offer the blessing?'

No one spoke and the silence stretched on painfully.

Then at my side a small clear voice replied, 'I'll say grace.'

I stood dumbfounded because, Jesus, the person who'd spoken was my stuttering brother Jake. He didn't wait for my father's permission. He rose from his chair and bowed his head. 

I looked at all those people present none of whom could bring themselves to close their eyes and miss the train wreck that was about to take place and I prayed as desperately as I ever had, Oh, dear God, take me away from this torture.
Jake said, 'Heavenly F-F-F-.' And he stopped.

O God, I prayed, just kill me now.

My mother reached up and put her hand gently on his shoulder and Jake cleared his throat and tried again.

'Heavenly Father, for the blessing of this food and these friends and our families, we thank you. In Jesus's name, amen.'

That was it. That was the all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.

'Thank you, Jake,' my mother said and I saw that her whole face had changed.

And my father looked mystified and almost happy and said, 'Thank you, Son.'

And all of the people as if released from some hypnotic trance began to move again though slowly and got into line and filled their plates.

And me, I looked at my brother with near reverence and thought to myself, Thank you, God."

* * * * * * *

"'There was a playwright, Son, a Greek by the name of Aeschylus. He wrote that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'

'Awful?' I said.

'I don't think it's meant in a bad way. I think it means beyond our understanding.'

'I guess there are graces I like better,' I said."
Amazing book! One that I will reread through the years.
♥ Melody