Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

Breaking up with a Church… October 6, 2017

Filed under: Communication,Grief,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:59 am
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When death happens in a family, I have always felt that church was where you go to find comfort… the place that reaches out and wraps its corporate arms around you to give you a bit of peace in the chaos that has just rocked your world… the place where you know you’ll find the words to ease the pain, share the grief, and unburden your soul. But what happens when the church isn’t there for you?BreakingUpWithAChurch

My mother died unexpectedly, 10 days before Christmas, this past year. Celebrating Christmas was difficult, especially since she always spent that particular holiday with me and my family, so I sent my choir director a text to keep him updated on my attendance. The idea of going to services was too painful for me to fathom. I simply wanted to spend time with my husband and children, so we didn’t go to Christmas Eve services. New Year’s came and went so I could concentrate on planning a service that would honor my mother’s memory. I grew up in her church, so I felt comfortable creating a service that would have pleased her in the choices I made. I had chosen Psalm 121 which had, unbeknownst to me, been included in services for both her father and that of her father-in-law, so I honestly felt her hand guiding me in the selections for her service.

January flew by in a blur… mum’s funeral service, executor responsibilities of bills and cleaning out her home, drives to/from Pennsylvania, along with growing concerns about my father’s health. I went to one church service, but couldn’t handle more. Clearly I was hurting, but there was no rest for the weary…

Seven weeks after my mother died, my father died as well… from complications of Parkinson’s exacerbated by a car accident in November. While I wasn’t as intimately involved in his service, my stepmother asked me to honor his memory by singing one of his favorite hymns. I asked my choir director for a copy of the music, since I couldn’t find it in the various hymnals at our house, and practiced it in my kitchen as often as I could. It was a heartwrenchingly difficult thing to do and as much as I didn’t *want* to do it, I desperately wanted to do something tangible to honor him. I may not have wanted to sing, but I’m so grateful that she asked me. They are Episcopalian as well, so the service was familiar and comforting even if I hadn’t been inside that parish since my father and stepmother were married almost 40 years ago.

A month after my father died, I saw my priest at the local store when I was working. I apologized for not being at church lately and mentioned that it was still so hard for me to get through services after losing both my parents. He said that he understood and said “you know where we are if you need us”. Maybe it was the place where we were speaking (I was hosting a wine tasting at a local liquor store), but there were no words of comfort spoken… no short blessing or prayer… no attempt made to reach out to me *as my priest* to meet with me in the future.

I’m not entirely sure why this phrase hit me so hard, but it’s the one that resurfaces each time I think about returning. Thinking about it now, I believe that by using those words, he was placing the next action squarely on me. I wasn’t, and still am not, in a place to make that sort of move… to ask for help… to seek consolation… to get back to church…

And so I don’t. I don’t attend church at the moment. I don’t sing in choir. While I pray daily and sing constantly in my car (those long road trips can be cathartic), I have withdrawn from the corporate church.

While it hurts my heart to have made the decision to “break up with my church”, I don’t feel the same comfort from this particular parish any longer. The two or three individuals who initially reached out to me have gone on with their lives, which didn’t include me from the beginning. I’m sure that some will say it was up to me to return and “rejoin the living”, but sometimes that’s just too hard. Priests are given the tools, and the personnel, with which to reach out to parishioners in the midst of whatever personal struggle they face. I truly believe that, by not having any contact with the people of this particular parish, we have been cast aside and left to our own devices.

While my faith is not entirely dependent upon corporate worship and prayer, I can’t help but wonder if the pain I still feel might have been lessened if I had felt welcome to share my grief at church… if someone had reached out after my mom died, and again after my father died… if my church had cared about me. I really tried to make this church our home, but it has become glaringly obvious that it’s not… grief has brought that into sharp focus.

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Pick your “person” carefully… January 30, 2017

Filed under: Communication,Friends — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:48 pm
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My mom had two best friends who lived close to her. She did nearly everything with them… from singing in choir to celebrating birthdays to just dropping by for a glass of wine on a random evening. She shared her life with these two women… her hopes, her fears, her dreams, and her plans. These two were her “people”… the reference comes from Gray’s Anatomy where Meredith says that Christina is “her person”… as in, these were the two people she could call in any sort of emergency, or I could call regarding anything involving my mom. I was always felt so blessed that she had people like them in her life… that is, until she died.

One of her people (we’ll call her “G”) was the woman who found my mother after she died. G sat with her body while she called 911… she stayed in the house until the paramedics arrived… G was the person who called to tell me that my mom was dead… and she didn’t leave her until the coroner sealed mom’s house after the funeral home came and took her away. G did everything she could think of to honor her friendship with my mom while grieving for the loss of her dear friend. She brought photos and items to add to the remembrance table at the funeral and she checked on me and my family to make sure that we were ok.  She seemed to truly mourn the passing of my mom and her dear friend.

Her other person (we’ll call her Y) has been strangely absent from the picture. I didn’t call Y after I found out about my mom because I thought it would be better if G did that notification. Honestly, I was so broken, especially by the immediate tasks at hand, that I couldn’t have formed a coherent sentence to speak to Y. No matter the reason, I never heard from Y. She never called, never wrote, never even posted a FB message. While she did attend the funeral, she never spoke to either my sister or me or go through the receiving line to see us. I still have never heard from Y. Maybe *I* should have been the one to call her, but I still feel betrayed and incredibly upset by her actions. I’m so hurt that she has blocked me out of her life. She knew my mom in a way that I never will… because she was my mom’s friend. I called Y’s home number a week after the funeral to apologize for not telling her about mum’s death, but she never returned my call. I called her today to wish her a Happy Birthday tomorrow, because that’s what my mom would want me to do, but I have sincere doubts that she’ll call me back… and I have no idea why.

And now, here’s my dilemma: 

You see, shortly after my mom died, both G and Y started asking about an envelope of money… a total of $45… that they were sure had been in my mom’s possession when she died. It was the ‘party money’ for their Just4Fun group and they wanted to make sure that it was returned to them for their next get-together. They asked my brother-in-law… they asked my husband… and they even went so far as to ask mom’s cleaning women, T, (the woman who, imho, has been the most incredible blessing to our family by stepping up and simply *doing* anything and everything when I couldn’t think past the next day… this woman has been our fairy god-mother/god-sister )… but neither one ever asked my sister or me. After a few days they called T and suggested that they privately take and sell an item that they had seen left in the house so they could recoup that $45… and both my sister and I were dumbfounded. A day or two later, they called T again but wanted to tell her that they think they may have been mistaken, that only $10 was “owed” to the Just4Fun group, and they felt they could “forgive” that amount. “Forgive”?

I try very hard to take the high road in most situations. I follow The Golden Rule and use that to guide my actions as often as I can. I do my best to be kind to everyone. How am I supposed to react to this situation? How am I supposed to feel each time I see these people? How am I supposed to simply “let it go”?

As of now, I’ll be praying about this… I’ll be trying to take the high road… and I’ll be kind. I won’t be anyone’s doormat… but I *will* be kind.

 

The Benefit of Compliments August 18, 2015

Filed under: Communication,Life Balance,Random Thoughts — beatitudesofmylife @ 12:58 pm
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Have you ever been at the store and someone, totally out of the blue, pays you a compliment?  I’m sure we’ve all been in this situation… and doesn’t it just put a lovely positive spin on the rest of your day?  I was on the receiving end of a compliment this weekend and it’s been playing on “repeat” in my head ever since… which means to me it’s something worth discussing.

There are so many benefits to offering someone a compliment.  Every day, we have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the people with whom we come in contact.  It doesn’t have to be something astounding, like “Wow, you look like you’ve lost a lot of weight since I saw you last!” or “You look 10 years younger with that new haircut!”, to have a huge impact on another person’s day.  Complimenting someone, especially someone you don’t know, on the color of their shirt or even their choice in a specific purchase can boost another’s confidence in such a unique way.  

While it’s not necessarily fair, comments (positive or negative) from random people can sometimes carry a little more weight simply because we see them as being more unbiased than those coming from people who are familiar with us.  Our friends see us on a regular basis… they get used to what we typically wear or how we tend to look.   Our loved ones want to see the best in us… just as we always want to present our best selves to them. Seeing ourselves through “fresh eyes” can provide a new prospective which can really lift a person’s mood. 

The other benefit of a compliment, especially for a woman, is when that compliment comes from another woman.  Instead of trying to tear each other down, what would happen if we tried to build one another up when we have the opportunity?  While this may seem totally out of whack, I stand by the idea that a positive compliment, no matter how insignificant or random it may seem, will have a positive outcome for the other person.  

Does it really take much out of our day to look for the good in another person and pay them a compliment?    It may be the only kind thing that person hears all day… it may be the only positive thing that person experiences all day… and it didn’t cost you a single cent.  Paying someone a compliment is simply sharing “The Golden Rule” with another human being.  Treat others as you, yourself, would like to be treated.  A kind word, a helpful gesture, a simple compliment… they can each go a long way toward making this world a much more loving place in which to live.

I think a positive compliment trumps a negative comment in any situation… don’t you?

 

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude May 27, 2014

Simple things… they are the things that make everything in life so much sweeter.   Recognizing these morsels of sweetness can be both difficult and rewarding, but being grateful for each one is even more important.  It’s the idea of developing an Attitude of Gratitude that can be your individual key to happiness.

Think about a time when you were given some bad news.  Maybe it had to do with a medical diagnosis you didn’t expect to hear.  Did you face it head-on or did you bury your head in the sand?  Did you work to think about all the positive things that are possible or did you dwell on what you may eventually lose?  Did you turn to God for His divine support or did you close yourself off and try to handle everything on your own?  Your reaction, and ultimately your attitude, is a choice… it’s one that you’ll make daily in both large and small ways, but understand that it is a choice.  You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be miserable.  This is where I believe that an attitude of gratitude comes into play.grateful1

It’s not easy to be grateful for everything in your life, but your life will be infinitely better if you are grateful… for everything.  I love this blog post in Psychology Today that talks about how developing a habit of gratitude can lead to happiness.  I had never read this blog posting before, but I have uses their suggested technique many times over the years.  Each time, there’s been a large event (medical diagnosis, move, etc) that has precipitated my need to focus on the positive aspects of my life… and each time, this plan has helped me turn my mental focus into something more productive.

The idea is simple… which is why it works so incredibly well.  Each night, before you lay head to pillow, take a piece of paper and write down three things for which you are grateful.  I’m not suggesting that you write a paragraph about your day and how things went… that’s not the reason for this exercise.  Your list can be as short and concise as the following:

  1. Got dressed before 10AM
  2. Ate lunch
  3. Talked/texted with my sister

Nothing exciting or overly thrilling, but these three small things help you recognize that there were some positive aspects to your day.  If I were to write a list from yesterday, it would look like this:

  1. Spent time with my cousins
  2. Spent time with my entire family (both boys included)
  3. Made a really cool dessert that M suggested and everyone loved

Nothing earth-shattering, but it reminds me that I now live in MD, so we’re close enough to be able to do this more often than we have in the past.   It’s the simple aspect of spending time with family that sweetens my day and allows me to appreciate those moments even more than I might have otherwise.

I also want to add this short vine of a llama jumping across the field. Each time I see it, it makes me laugh and that can easily be one of those things for your journal. This animal is simply hopping across the pen, but listening to the music that’s been added can make just about anyone laugh hysterically.  It’s something totally unexpected and incongruent with your expectations of this animal… and it makes you grateful for the person who thought of putting these two things together.  See?  Two of your “three things” for the day done in less than one minute…. Bam!

Don’t wait until you have “the perfect notebook” or “the perfect pen” before you start a journal of gratitude.  Your attitude and your outlook is more important than the paper upon which you will write. It’s the physical act of putting pen to paper, coupled with the mental exercise of focusing on the positive, that’s most important.  Promise yourself that you’ll commit to writing in your journal every night for a month before you reevaluate this project. Developing an attitude of gratitude is not something that happens overnight… it happens over time.

I wish you a more positive tomorrow and a brighter outlook for your future.

 

Carry The Load – #whoareyoucarrying May 17, 2014

It’s almost Memorial Day…. a day that was created to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This day was originally intended to be celebrated with accolades for those who made it home safely while remembering those who will only make it home in our memories.  Sadly, its history can be as confusing and confounded as the way it is celebrated each year, especially if you try finding out any basic, decisive information via Wikipedia by clicking this link.

I feel that there is a big question we should be asking ourselves these days.  “Is this how our children willCTL-LOGO-W-TAG remember Memorial Day?”  Is this how we *should* remember Memorial Day today?  If your answer isn’t something even remotely patriotic, what are we doing to change that fact?

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. I remember celebrating Memorial Day by marching in our local parade; first with my elementary classes, then the Girl Scouts and later with our middle school marching band. For what seemed like “hours in the hot sun”, we would follow the parade route down the center of town before ending at the local cemetery where we would lay flowers on the graves of local fallen soldiers. It was a solemn day… but one that would end with baseball and fireworks at the local rec park.

It wasn’t as if we didn’t know *why* we were marching on this day. We discussed Memorial Day in school for weeks beforehand to learn just how important this day was to the history of our country. What I can’t remember now is, “when did we stop”? When did we, as a town, decide not to continue to celebrate Memorial Day in a way that would honor our veterans? When did we, as a country, turn Memorial Day into a day of “burgers and beer” instead of one in which we visibly appreciate the sacrifice of the fallen? When did we, as a people, stop being grateful for the service of every man and woman in uniform?

I have to say that I am a huge “America” geek. I get teary when we sing the National Anthem before a sporting event. I get choked up anytime I see a video of service member being welcomed home. I love holidays that celebrate our great country and all that it represents. I may be a huge wimp when it comes to fireworks, but the pomp and circumstance of it all? Thanking our military for standing in harms way? Honoring every single man and woman who has ever willingly chosen to defend our freedom? I’m ALL for it… believe we don’t do enough of it… and am praying that we start recognizing the need to do *something* before it’s too late.

Carry The Load is a non-profit organization focused on restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day by remembering and honoring America’s heroes. They conduct events which raise money to support existing non-profit organizations which benefit police officers, fire fighters, veterans, and active-duty military and their families. They are walking… picking up their packs and literally walking… speaking along the way to anyone who will listen… as they make their slow, deliberate journey from West Point, NY to Dallas, TX, just in time to hold a 20-hour Memorial March which will culminate in what is sure to be an incredible closing ceremony on Monday, May 26, at 12:30PM. If there is a chance for you, dear reader, to be in Dallas for Memorial Day, I would most heartily suggest you do anything you can to attend this event.

I stumbled upon it too late this year to really *do* much to help. Flipping through my FB newsfeed, the back story of Clint Bruce and how he came to create such a worthy organization spoke volumes to me. This organization was created in such an organic way that I couldn’t ignore that small voice inside that pushed me to reach out to Clint and find out if/how I could help.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn about Carry The Load, please consider doing something over the coming year to help change the face of Memorial Day… if not for this year, then for next year and the next and the next, until Memorial Day once again means something more than a day off work.

We should never forget all that others have given to protect and defend our way of life.  We should appreciate all the blessings of our life and look for ways to give back to our neighborhoods, our communities, and our world.  We should remember… and in remembering… we should be thankful.

May we all find ways to be genuinely thankful this Memorial Day.  For if we are free, then we have been blessed by the blood of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

To all who serve, we thank you.  To those who gave all, we honor you.  #whoareyoucarrying

 

Be Kind May 14, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Life Balance,Moving,Random Thoughts — beatitudesofmylife @ 1:22 pm

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall recently and it resonated with me so much that I needed to share it with those who read my blog.  While I’m not a fan of the grammatical error, I like the thought.BeKind

 

I met a woman yesterday at the local grocery store and we struck up a conversation. It wasn’t about anything overly significant… I commented on how pretty her top looked and she told me where she got it… but then we got to talking and that little bit of “normalcy” really meant so much.  I hadn’t realized just how much I missed recognizing people in my local grocery store… or seeing a familiar face at the gas station… or waving to a friend across the aisle while shopping.  Being transplanted into a new world can be very exciting, but it can also be very isolating.  She may not have known it, but she was the only real conversation I had that day.  While I didn’t get to thank her for her kindness, I can pay it forward and take the extra effort to be kind to the next person who’s put in my path.

You see, we are in the middle of a move that has taken over our lives.  While we have a million things that are falling into place for us, it’s still a challenge to be positive and stay focused on all the small tasks at hand each day.  For someone who is inherently social, a move of this magnitude can be a bit traumatic.  It’s so much easier to simply stick one’s head in the sand and just “soldier on”, but that’s really not the best way to handle this sort of challenge. Even if the only human interaction happens at the mailroom of the apartment building, the focus should remain… be positive… be friendly… be pleasant.  You never know if the person you meet in the hallway has had a much more difficult day than you.

This journey that we are traveling at the moment is not as difficult as it might have been.  We are blessed with a lovely, quiet place to live… we have our cats with us who provide us with company… and we have access to the internet, which allows us to stay in contact with friends and family throughout the move so we don’t feel so isolated.   It’s difficult to push away from the computer at times… to leave the relative safety of the known friends via the internet and speak to a three-dimensional person who is standing right in front of me.  That’s scary, but that’s also life.

It’s my own private battle… and I am so grateful to those who are kind enough to speak to me when I muster up the courage to say hello.  Just remember that all battles aren’t bloody… all wounds aren’t visible… all injuries aren’t apparent… so to all I ask…

be kind… always.

 

When Someone Truly Cares… May 12, 2014

I had a birthday recently… a “milestone” birthday”.  I had anticipated it and knew that it was going to be mentioned with gentle jokes, happy laughter, and loving joy… what I hadn’t expected were the feelings that hit me as the subsequent days rolled along.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that we recently moved away from our home of 13 years.  Since this was the place where I’d put in the most effort in making, and keeping, friends, I was actually looking forward to this birthday.  I was looking forward to wearing my “It’s my Birthday” pin (which I apparently forgot to pack) and have random people wish me a Happy Birthday.  I was looking forward to scads of emails, texts, and Facebook messages sending a bit of birthday love my way.  I was even looking forward to having some of my “nearest and dearest” complain that I wasn’t close by to visit for coffee or a drink.  Isn’t that what usually happens when someone close to us celebrates a birthday of any age?

Before I go any further, I must say that I was overwhelmed by the kindness and love that were showered on me throughout my birthday weekend. There were texts, calls, emails, and so very many loving FB messages that I truly felt blessed… and I thank each and every one of you for reaching out in any way possible.  My mom called and invited me to meet her for lunch… and  brought a special birthday cake.  My husband planned a special dinner at my college friend’s restaurant so we could celebrate.  Thank God for Facebook (really!) for reminding people about my birthday, because my feed was going crazy (in a delightful way) with wishes of fun, joy, love, etc… I read and appreciated every single one.  I was also touched that so many sent emails or texts… in this age of instant/constant activity, I was grateful for all forms of communication.  The cards that arrived at our new address or forwarded from our old one were especially sweet… when one isn’t “on the clock” or scheduled to  be somewhere, the trip down to the mailroom can sometimes be the brightest spot in an entire day.  I pray that I remember this piece of information in the coming years when friends move, because any and all written correspondence has been a balm to my bruised soul.  FYI:  No… bills do not count as “correspondence”.  😉EffortNotExcuse

What I wasn’t expecting was the sadness that I felt in the subsequent days when a few select people in my life chose to ignore my birthday.  I truly cannot fathom the reason for someone “forgetting” the birthday of another.  We are bombarded with information in so many different forms that it ends up feeling intentional when such a slight happens.  While excuses will most likely be made as time goes on, I don’t know that I’ll be able to simply forget this year.  The quote included in this post says it all, in my opinion.

This post isn’t meant to change the past or alter the future.  It’s simply my way of trying to let go of expectations and move on with my life.  I understand that everyone deals with loss in their own ways… some attack it head on while others try and pretend it doesn’t exist… but that doesn’t mean that I have to accept the subsequent feelings of loss that I experience when someone makes the choice to make an excuse instead of making an effort.

I admit to being one of those people who keeps a mental tally of those who slight and those who don’t. I recognize that this is a character flaw, but it has saved me in the past and I’m reluctant to change at this point in my life.  After all, I’m now FIFTY years old… I believe that I am old enough to choose to forgive & forget or to stand up for myself and not allow myself to be used as a doormat.

I’m going to choose me this time.  I believe that my feelings are important… they matter… and if someone in my life doesn’t feel the same way, then I am going to try to let them go.  It’s not easy to leave a life that you worked hard to build, but we each should understand and support the fact that our lives will take us on our own paths.  Changing the course of your life doesn’t mean you have to shed those with whom you have shared your life… it should mean that you do the work to keep those people close.   NOTE: For the most part, my HS friends and my HoodLums understand this in spades… each one of you is a gift more precious than gold in my book and you each have my eternal love and friendship.

As the saying goes, “when someone truly cares about you, they make an effort, not an excuse”.  It would be so sad if this were the end, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles… right?

 

 
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