Serendipity Wrapped in Gratitude

serendipityThe universe is always sending us little messages causing serendipities,
reminding us to stop, to believe in something more and to be grateful. – Anonymous

Early this morning when it was still dark, I woke up feeling anxious about the problems of the day and the troubles of the world. It’s easy to feel discouraged, even overwhelmed, as we face the dilemmas, disappointments, and hurts of life. It may be difficult, even impossible, to say, “I’m grateful for this new day.”

About three years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and paraneoplastic syndrome – a very rare syndrome that is difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. In my case, the syndrome revealed itself through antibodies attacking my central nervous system causing an almost instant inability to walk or move my legs and feet. Since then I have moved from NYC to Penney Farms, Florida to be near Mayo Clinic – an amazing place where the sign at the entrance states: “Patient Care” rather than “Hospital.” Mayo has not only saved my life but my vision too (that story is in my blog “The Gift of Sight” written in September 2015). And years before that, I had three close encounters with death including a lethal streptococcus infection, a serious accident as a pedestrian hit by a car, and a brain tumor. So it would be very easy to say “Not again!! God, why me? Do I deserve this?”

Next week I will lead a retreat and preach a sermon about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As a teenager, Mary was given the shocking news that she, a virgin betrothed to a carpenter, would give birth to a baby boy who was to be named Jesus. She must have been scared out of her mind knowing there was the possibility of being stoned to death or being rejected by her betrothed. Like Mary, when an unexpected and alarming announcement or “bad news” faces us, we too may be scared out of our minds. “How can this be happening to me? How can I possibly deal with this?”

What is striking in Mary’s story is that the angel who greeted her with such astounding and scandalous news also comforted her with the message, “Do not be afraid.” Maybe that’s the real point of her story and of all our stories. I strongly believe God wants the same consolation for each one of us in our times of distress or devastation. The message may be saying to each one of us: “God loves you profoundly even in difficult times. Fear not!”

 So like Mary, we need to ponder the questions, consider possible options, and turn to wise people and to God for support and guidance. Maybe we will discover joys in the unexpected and even experience the possibility of serendipitous spiritual growth. Serendipity is described as a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. It was created by Horace Walpole in 1754, when he made an unexpected discovery in a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.”

So maybe our response to waking up to another day should be “Thank you, God, for many gifts – our life, our breath, joy, the beauty and wonders in the world, serendipitous events.” But we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We need to be grateful and create a better life for ourselves and for the world.

* Have you had bad times that turned out to be gifts of serendipity?

* What are the unexpected gifts in your life that you may want to give thanks for?

God, Giver of life, thank you for giving us another day. Help us to let go of our fears and to learn to be grateful that you love us and have shared your beautiful creation with us. We are overwhelmed by your love for us. Thank you, thank you.

Joy Carol
www.joycarol.com

Posted in Musings on Life | 4 Comments

Overwhelmed by Angels

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people
have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.   – Hebrews 13:2

joy-methodist-churchIt had been a glorious week in Nebraska filled with cherished memories. I had returned to preach at the little Methodist Church in Clatonia where I had been baptized and confirmed and where my grandparents and parents had also been members. It was wonderful to see cousins and old friends from high school and university days. And it was particularly special to visit the farmland where I had grown up with horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and my faithful three-legged dog Brownie. I even visited our old farmhouse (built by my grandparents in the early 1920s) which had been taken off its foundation, put on wheels, and moved from our farm near Clatonia to Wilber; a distance of nearly 11 miles. I can vividly remember every nook and cranny of that beautiful house. The “new” owners have surrounded the house with a stunning vineyard, which they planted in honor of their son. What a sight for me to see.

joy-farmhouseAll in all, it was a remarkable experience and I was basking in the memories as I boarded a plane in Omaha for my trip back to Jacksonville, Florida. Unfortunately our takeoff was delayed and when we landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, we waited on the runway for 15 minutes before arriving at our gate. It wasn’t looking good for me to make it to my connecting flight. When we finally disembarked, I was surprised to find we were out on the tarmac without a jetway, which meant I must navigate some very steep stairs – a challenge for me. Since it was almost time for my next flight to board I hoped there would be someone in Charlotte to meet me. That was not the case. Not an agent or a wheelchair in sight – just an expanse of tarmac to cross to get to the terminal. I knew my connecting flight was on the far side of the airport, about a 15 minute ride on a cart. Fortunately I had been sitting on the plane next to Tonya, a beautiful, highly successful business woman based in Charlotte. As we deplaned she grabbed my bag and helped me stagger into the terminal. She kept saying to me, “I will not leave you, Joy. I will help you get to that next flight.”

And true to her word, she never left me. Once inside the terminal, there was neither agent nor anyone else to help me get to the next gate for my flight. When Tonya spotted an empty wheelchair she grabbed it, told me to sit and started pushing me – along with her roller bag and my bag toward the next set of terminals. Suddenly out of nowhere a Piedmont Airlines man appeared beside us and said, “Let me help you.” I had not flown on Piedmont so I was surprised. “Where are you going and what time is your flight?” he asked. After I told him, we raced through the airport – my new friend Tonya, the Piedmont man Jerry, and me in a wheelchair flying as fast as we could. By this time the flight to Jacksonville was likely boarding or possibly finished. And of course, the airport was packed with people. I can still hear Jerry and Tonya politely yelling: “Excuse us! Coming through!”

I felt I was in the hands of angels. Tonya and Jerry never left my side until they got me to the gate for my flight to Jacksonville – which was just about to close its door. When I turned to thank them and to try to pay Jerry for pushing my wheelchair, they were gone. Like two angels that had done their job and taken flight– not needing anything so worldly as a tip or even a thank you.

As I boarded the plane with the flight attendant carrying my little bag ahead of me, I tottered a bit with my cane. A man in the first-class section said, “Honey, where are you going?” I replied, “Somewhere back there. I’m just so happy to be on this plane.” He got up and said, “No, darling, you are sitting in my seat. It’s my turn to go to the back. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in the cattle car and you need to sit right here.” Although I tried to convince him not to give up his seat, he insisted I sit there like a first-class customer.

I was so overwhelmed with the compassion of three strangers that I burst into tears of gratitude. Not only was I on the last plane to Jacksonville, I had been treated with such love and kindness by three complete strangers – astonishing angels. I wasn’t expecting it. I was filled with gratitude. I believe it’s a wonderful lesson for all of us: Be an angel to a stranger!

* Have you ever had an angel reach out to you when you really needed one?

* Have you reached out to someone and become an angel for them?

Beloved Creator, thanks for sending angels to help us when we most need them. May we learn to recognize and be grateful for angels who show up and care for us. Teach us how to be angels to others when we see someone in need. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

 

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The Gift of Sight

Vision… is not the simple thing it is imagined to be… In particular, vision helps us to know what we are like. Because we cannot see what we do not understand or use or identify with, we see very little of the world.     – J. Elkins

Rick Bendel, M.D. Mayo Clinic

Rick Bendel, M.D.
Mayo Clinic

Vision loss. A frightening, traumatizing thought, and one that we don’t want to linger on for very long.

After recent surgery on both of my eyes to correct my narrow angle glaucoma, I had a somewhat unusual bleed in my right eye. A murky veil of orange-ish yellow settled on my field of vision. Initially, it was a terrifying feeling. I could not even see someone waving their hand in front of my eyes – only that veil. I was afraid I might never regain sight in that eye. Fortunately my vision did return. A relief, a joy beyond words.

That experience could have been very frightening to be sure, but it actually turned into a spiritual one for me because of the exceptional skill, encouragement, and empathy of my doctor, Rick Bendel, M.D. at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. The privilege of working with this amazing doctor and undergoing eye surgery under his care is difficult to put into words. Dr. Bendel graduated from medical school with highest distinction, did an internship in India, and was a Fellow and did his residency at the Kresge Eye Institute. He was invited as professor for the 20th anniversary of finishing his residency at Kresge and was awarded their Distinguished Alumni Award in June 2015. I believe all of this has made him an extraordinary and sensitive doctor – one that other doctors could learn from.

When Dr. Bendel first discovered that my narrow angle glaucoma was extremely problematic and perhaps even close to a dangerous closure with the possible loss of sight, he gently and patiently brilliant-colorsexplained the danger my eyes were in. I shall never forget how tranquil and confident he made me feel – without making me panicked or unnerved. Days later in the operating room, I was calm and comfortable as I listened to the sounds of soft, soothing music playing in the background, and there was no chattering among the staff. Dr. Bendel explained that he wanted me to be able to relax and focus on the music while he focused on his task – a teamwork approach. I could feel his reassuring hands on my face as he instructed me to “Look at the light, Joy.” It truly became a spiritual occasion for me as “the light” turned into outlandishly beautiful colors as he worked on my eye.

Somehow that entire experience changed my perspective on seeing. Yes, I now think that I have a new way of “seeing”. I learned something about sight and vision from Dr. Bendel’s concern and kindness and from my period of “not seeing” with my right eye. Not being able to catch sight of the details of my surroundings, I discovered that there is another way of learning from blurry vision. It started when I could feel the heat more intensely on my body. I began to “hear” the light shining through the live oak trees around my cottage as their leaves rustled and moved in the wind. I also heard my own breath and I felt more in tune with life. It’s as though I stopped “looking” for things and instead focused on feeling my way through interactions. I’m beginning to understand that I can see beyond the surface, past the “judging” that at times our eyes do. I feel more open to the beauty in others allowing their reality to come forward.

Strange how my encounter with the very compassionate Dr. Bendel and my brief, temporary bout with not being able to see has helped me to experience a deeper kind of seeing. I no longer need to “see” things to know what they are. I can listen to them, breathe them, or feel them. But what is even more amazing is that I have exceptional vision in both eyes now. And I have had the pleasure of being shown what is called the anterior imaging of my eyes showing that they are now deep in a normal fashion from what was previously exceptionally flat. Now that is sheer joy!! A true gift!!

* Have you had the experience of working with someone who gives you complete confidence even in what could be very frightening times? What did you learn from that?

* Have you ever experienced not being able to “see”? How did you feel or learn from that experience

* Are there times in your life when not “seeing” is related to something beyond your eyes?

 Beloved Giver of Sight, thank you for the amazing world that you have created for us and for the gift of sight. Thank you also for highly skilled and compassionate doctors like Dr. Bendel who believe in us and help us when we are in dark times. We are so slow to realize how special these gifts are. Open our hearts and our eyes to the beauty in others and in nature. May we experience a deeper kind of seeing. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

Posted in Musings on Life | 10 Comments

Changing Our View

I’ve learned that things change, people change, and it doesn’t mean you forget the past
or try to cover it up. It simply means you move on and treasure the memories. –
Unknown author

Joy Carol's Changing View

My new, and ever-changing view.

For better or worse, change is a part of life. It touches every aspect of our lives; relationships, home, work, financial, physical and spiritual. However, when change comes too rapidly, it may be frightening and feel out of our control. We likely do not realize that even when life speeds by, we can choose how we will respond to it, and that it is possible to experience gifts of peace, calm, and even joy during difficult times.

In the midst of a turbulent transition, we may realize just how extremely brief life can be. We might perceive our lives as rather sloppy; we haven’t been very careful about what we have chosen to do with our priceless days on earth and have lost track of what we hold as sacred. Indeed, it’s sobering to think that there might not be much time left for us to live. It can make us want to use our time in a more meaningful way. Perhaps if we lived our life as if we only had one day left to live, that sense of impermanence could heighten our feeling of preciousness.

Although scary, change can also provide us countless opportunities for growth. If we affirm every day that we are changing, growing, learning and we are filled with potential, we can gather wisdom from our life transitions and embrace a transformed life.

Yes, change happens and we can’t possibly know what the future will hold. As I’ve been experiencing an enormous period of change in my life, I’ve discovered first hand how vulnerable we are and how precious life is. Two years ago, I was hiking in the hills of Greece when my legs felt heavy. Within a couple of weeks, I could not move my feet or legs one step. I started falling down. After months in a hospital, I was finally diagnosed with something very rare and difficult to treat: paraneoplastic syndrome. There are only a few of us in the USA who are diagnosed with this syndrome and even fewer who survive.

The first year and a half after my diagnosis, I spent months in hospitals and rehab centers while the doctors tried to find a treatment that would help me. During that time, I was forced to cancel my upcoming workshops/retreats and speaking engagements, to give up driving my car, to stop gardening, to sell my beach house in Hampton Bays, and eventually to sell my apartment in Manhattan. I needed to live near Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida where there was a doctor who was trained and experienced in working with people who had my diagnosis. So six months ago, I made the radical change of leaving my lovely apartment in my beloved New York City and moved to a continuing care community in Penney Farms, Florida.

Joy Carol's new home

My new home

It would be easy to focus on all the losses I’ve experienced over the last two years: my NYC friends, my homes, my gardens, my city, my work, my ability to walk. But I made a conscious decision to concentrate on appreciating the many gifts I am presently receiving in my life – especially in the last six months in Florida. I now live independently (without caregivers) in a lovely cottage (with a guest room waiting for your visit) in the shade of two ancient and regal live oak trees with Spanish moss, I have made dozens of new friends in this very supportive and loving community called Penney Farms with scores of activities to do, I am out every single day in some way using a cane or rollator or even driving my new Subaru car! And I am now leading workshops and retreats, preaching, teaching, speaking, and singing. Perhaps most importantly I have the wonderful services of the doctors of Mayo Clinic, who are experts in dealing with my syndrome – who are helping to extend my life.

So I am grateful and in the process of changing my view on life. I now know that it is possible to make good choices about how we respond to the changes we have to make in order to live our lives. Even when we feel confused or sad or full of loss, it’s important that we stop, listen, and reflect, so that we can become aware of God’s loving presence near us – in people, nature, music, live oak trees, even Spanish moss.

  • What are your greatest fears or concerns about change?
  • Can you affirm to yourself that you are changing, you are growing, you are a learner, you are filled with potential?
  • Can you integrate wisdom from your life experiences and turn it into a transformed life for yourself and others?

Beloved Creator, thank you for creating a world full of surprises and changes. When we are in transition on our journey or we face major challenges, help us to learn from our experiences. May we realize that you are always there for us, even during major changes in our lives. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

 

Posted in Musings on Life | 10 Comments

2015 – A Time to Ponder Life

New-Year-2015Another new year! An opportunity for a fresh start! A time to review the past year including our dreams and hopes, the times that were disappointing, the experiences that were satisfying or meaningful. It’s definitely a chance to ponder our lives and to look at our personal growth, the person we think we are, the person we really are, and the person we would like to become.

Looking back over the past year, I know it has been one of the most difficult years of my life. I spent much of the year in hospitals, treatment and rehab centers, and with 24/7 caregivers battling the rare paraneoplastic syndrome. But that’s not the whole story. As I consider this past year in an honest and truthful way, I know that it was a year of deep meaning, of incredible friendships and support, of second or even third chances. So I want to consider some important questions for myself. Perhaps you might want to think about them too.

* Have I been truly present and living in the moment?
* Have I been paying attention to what is going on in life?
* Have I held on to hope when the hours were the darkest for me?
* Who or what helped me to grow especially when I felt discouraged or afraid?
* Have I been there for the people who needed me – even when I was not at my best?

Joy's-new-cottageI know that when I am open to the little gifts of life, I can feel joy and pleasure. The last couple of days I’ve experienced some amazing “little joy gifts” that have touched my heart: meeting my very talented doctors at Mayo Clinic, having old friends and family visit me to help me get settled in my new cottage, meeting many compassionate and loving people in my new home town in Penney Farms Florida, going with my physical therapist into the swimming pool and realizing that with the support of the water I can actually walk without holding on (!!!), feeling enchanted by the live oak trees with Spanish moss that grow around my home, finding new roads that wind along the beautiful St. John’s River, seeing the first set of birds discover my new birdfeeder in my backyard. Yes, ordinary things, but sheer joy for me!

At the end of 2014 and the start of 2015, I also need to think about my relationship with the Divine. In this New Year, I want to experience and share hope with others, feel deeply God’s Presence in my life, and draw closer to God’s heart. As Joyce Rupp says it so well in her prayer “Standing at the Gates of the New Year.”

Guardian of this New Year,
I set aside my fears, worries, concerns,
I open my life to the endless opportunity
of discovering you in my relationships,
and to all the silent wisps of wonder
that will draw me to your heart.
I welcome your unfailing Presence
and walk with hope into this new year.

That says it real well for me. I hope it does for you too.

Divine Creator, as we approach this New Year, we thank you for the opportunity to take stock and to start afresh. May we set aside our fears and concerns and be open to the wonder of the world. Help us to learn to be more open to the gifts and opportunities in life and to walk in hope with you throughout this New Year. Help us to renew our hearts and souls knowing that You are our constant Companion, that you encourage us to grow, and that we have another chance to become the people we are meant to be. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

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My New Home Town

Give life and hope into your family, village, community, country, continent and the world at large.  – Israelmore Avivor

hometownsThe last months as I was able to get out more, I realized I was falling in love again with my beloved New York City, my special “home town.” It’s a place of great diversity, delicious food, special music, art, and plenty of grit. People are welcome to NYC no matter what their color or culture or language. New Yorkers seem to want to help strangers. If someone looks like they don’t know where they are, almost immediately they are surrounded by New Yorkers asking if they can be of assistance. I am reminded of Hebrews 13: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

But when I look back at the many places I’ve called “my home town,” I realize that in some way I fell in love with all of them – whether it was Clatonia, Nebraska or Boulder, Colorado or Richmond, Virginia or Anaheim, California or Karachi, Pakistan, I appreciate all of them and feel like each one is my special “home town.” – places where I can go home again.

For example, I remember how I felt when I went back to visit Richmond – a place that was “my home town” for a number of years. In Richmond I had faced a big challenge when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. There my colleagues at Child Fund and members of my church supported and cared for me when I was uncertain if I would live. Looking back, my visit felt as familiar and comfortable as slipping into an old soft shoe. The days passed with laughter and tears and powerful memories, and I felt a sense of gratification that I had “gone home” again.

Now after more than 20 years living in my beloved New York “home town,” I am making a major move to Florida – mainly because of health concerns related to my paraneoplastic syndrome. I confess this change is a bit frightening. But it is a normal part of life which occurs regularly in our lives, our work, our relationships, our physical and spiritual lives. Maybe change makes us feel uneasy because we do not understand that we can choose to respond to change in a positive way and thus experience growth, new life, even fresh hope.

At this time as I move to a new “home town,” I have no idea what life will be like in the future. But I know I need to make good choices because I realize just how vulnerable I am and how precious life really is. So I don’t want to be sloppy with my living; I want to be careful about what I choose to do with my remaining days on earth. I believe that this change to a new “home town” will provide me with opportunities for learning, growth, and deep meaning.

* What are changes or transitions in your life that you are facing?

* How can you turn them into opportunities to live life more fully and meaningfully?

Welcome Holy One to all of our “home towns.” When we are in transition on our journey, help us not to be afraid but rather to realize that you are always there for us, even during major life changes. Thank you for loving us in our times of fear or inhospitable moments. May we learn to be more open to life, to show hospitality to all, and to entertain angels without knowing it. Amen.

As of December 1, 2014, my new home town will be Penney Farms, Florida

My New Home

My New Home

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

Posted in Musings on Life | 10 Comments

Appreciating Our Freedoms

Independence Day ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance
by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. –
John Adams

july-4-2014Every year after the 4th of July, I’ve made it a tradition to write about the significance of what we call Independence Day and to consider the words written by John Adams, one of the founders of our country.

As Americans the 4th of July should be a day when we remember the Declaration of Independence and our country’s separation from Great Britain in 1776. In reality the 4th of July is a holiday that most of us celebrate with gatherings of family and friends, fireworks, cookouts, even parades and flags waving. But honestly, how many of us really think about the true meaning of this day? And just what do we mean when we say independence and freedom? 

This year I am particularly aware of how many people don’t have freedom and how much pain and suffering are present in our world. I hear the news with horror of children – sometimes unaccompanied without their parents – trying to cross the Texas-Mexico border from their homelands where their parents fear for their children’s lives. I think of thousands and thousands of people in refugee camps who are trying to flee the torture and killings in their countries. And I personally am feeling how un-free and un-independent I have felt over the last year as I stayed in hospitals, rehab centers, and in my own apartment fighting my illness.

Yes, we are all guilty of taking our freedom and independence for granted. Having said that, let’s consider John Adams’ very moving and poignant words that he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. I believe his words can help us put the celebration of Independence Day into perspective. (This is the exact text from his letter with original spellings.) “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-84)

Those words speak volumes to me. Perhaps as John Adams stated, we should always remember Independence Day as a “Day of Deliverance” and celebrate it with solemn acts of devotion to God. We have so much to be grateful for, so many freedoms, so many choices, so many blessings. Life can be truly abundant, if we choose to be open to it. May we celebrate and honor our liberation, our freedom, our blessings through gratitude and prayer.

* How did you celebrate the 4th of July this year? Will it be different in the future?

* What are some of your blessings and freedoms that you are grateful for?

Beloved Creator, we thank you for creating us as your children in this amazing world. Thank you so much for the gifts of freedom, of liberty, of life. May we not take them for granted. May we celebrate our “independence” with solemn acts of devotion to You, our God Almighty. Amen.

Joy Carol
www.joycarol.com

 

Posted in Musings on Life | 3 Comments

The Past

Memory LaneNo matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever.   ― Haruki Murakami

Recently I enjoyed the French film The Past (Le Passé), a 2013 drama film centered on an Iranian man who returns to France after four years away from his wife and her two children to finalize their divorce procedure. The relationships of all the characters in the film are filled with complexity and tension. It made me realize how easily we may become hostages of our own past and lock ourselves into self-made prisons.

The past may have a powerful grip on our lives, giving it free reign to haunt and torture us – especially if we are living with guilt or regret. It can destroy our happiness and transform us into someone we never would have imagined we might be. Until we heal the wounds of our past, we will continue to bleed. Some people try to bandage the bleeding with work, with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with sex, but that sort of bandage only covers the surface of the wound while the infection spreads deeper inside to contaminate their lives. We must have the strength to open old wounds and remove the pain that is holding us in negative past memories. Perhaps then we will find peace.

If our memories of the past are painful, we need to consider the cause, and identify our guilt and pain before we can discover a solution. We can’t alter the past, but there is usually a way to repair the damage or at least acknowledge it and move forward. Perhaps we can focus on what’s happening in the present and try to see it in a positive light. Most importantly, as my dad used to say, “Learn from your mistake so if it happens again you will know how to deal with it.” We may want to talk with a close friend or a counselor who can help us understand things better. That may lift a burden off our shoulders and give us comfort. If possible we can also try to forgive those who have hurt us and surround ourselves with people who love us. Sometimes we may have to move away from people who insist on hurting us. If none of this helps us, we can pray about how we feel. Always we need to remember that we are wonderful, unique children of God.

The past can also be a great source of joy, amusement, and delight. We may have within us an internal scrapbook of memories of days gone by; pages we fondly thumb through full of people, places and experiences of great beauty. Nothing is truly lost that is carried in our heart and mind. Recently I’ve been playing songs from my past that are filled with snapshots of memories that I felt deeply about at some time. They hold for me remembrances of good friends, of pets, of crushes and past loves, of life on the farm, of living in cities, of travels, of births and deaths. Memories from the past are ever present – both good and bad stand side-by-side bringing us comfort and sorrow.

So as we grow up or as we grow older, we don’t completely change and stop loving the things we used to enjoy or fancy. We simply add more items to our memory list. For example, I will always love my dad’s stories, I still love the one-room schoolhouse where I first went to school, I love the music I’ve heard through the years, I love my dear old and new friends, I love all of the gardens I’ve planted in different locations around the country. I’ll never go a day without thinking about the memories of my past. So let’s appreciate our memories from the past and learn from them.

* Do you have painful memories that are in need of being healed?

* Can you make a memory list of things that you love, enjoy and will put a smile in your heart?

Beloved Healer, at times we come to you with heavy hearts that are in need of being healed from painful memories. When we are filled with anger, shame, embarrassment, or grief, we ask for your help in healing us. May we always recall that we are your treasured children, that we can remember our precious memories and give you thanks for them. Amen.    

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

 

 

 

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Green Green Grass of Home

They’ll all come to meet me, arms a reaching, smiling sweetly. It’s good to touch the Green Green Grass of Home… Then I awake and look around me at the grey walls that surround me and I realize that I was only dreaming. It’s good to touch the Green Green Grass of Home. —Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr.

green green grass of homeThe last few days my caregiver Marc Dacuycuy has been singing and humming the song Green Green Grass of Home, which was very popular in the ’60s. There’s something very poignant about the words and they made me think about how we yearn for “home” – whatever that word might mean to us.

Often when something new or different occurs, we think: “Wow! I’m so excited about these new insights, new surroundings, new friends.” But not long after, the novelty of the new wears off, and we may find ourselves gazing out the window and thinking of the faces of old friends and family and places. We might even start to feel homesick. “This is okay, but this is not really my home.”

Spring has a way of stimulating us with a sense of newness, a diversion from the timeworn practices of winter. Old habits and customs are replaced with different activities, fresh excitement, new pressures, and, regrettably, the possibility of missing the familiar – a longing ache for the well-known and perhaps even a tad of homesickness.

Homesickness is nothing new. It is mentioned in the book of Exodus in the Bible, and in Homer’s Odyssey. It can happen to just about anyone who is away from their “home.” Only recently have we learned a better sense of what homesickness really is. In the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, homesickness is defined as “distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” Those who suffer from the condition may feel sadness, nervousness, anxiety, and most often an obsessive preoccupation with thoughts of “home.”

According to Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama, homesickness isn’t necessarily about “home.” Nor is it really an illness. Rather it comes from our natural need for security, love, and protection – feelings usually associated with home. When these qualities aren’t present in a new environment, we begin to long for them. We’re missing what’s normal, what is regular or habitual for us.

If we are longing for the green green grass of home, we can try to surround ourselves with some of our favorite things, so we feel more comfortable. Photos of our family, loved ones, or of places that mean a lot to us can help us feel better. If we want to feel less homesick, we’ll feel restored after hearing some soothing words, even some funny jokes, from the people we love the most. We can also go to a church, a synagogue, a park, or a sacred place to be with the Divine. We might want to establish a routine time for talking with the Divine which will fill our day with hope and give us something to look forward to – especially if we are surrounded by those grey walls. Perhaps then we might discover the green green grass of home.

* What are the grey walls that are surrounding you and making you feel homesick?

* Can you find a way to experience the green green grass of home in your life?

Great Divine One, we thank you for your patient love for us – even when we are like frightened little children who tend to forget how much you love us. Forgive us that we are hungry, homesick, yearning for green grass and home. Help us learn to turn to you as our “home” and that indeed we will find that with you. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

Posted in Musings on Life | 5 Comments

Those Tiny Miracles

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.  
– Albert Einstein

miracles-happen-when-you-expect-themI’ve been thinking a lot about miracles lately. We tend to think of miracles as something large and inexplicable and completely outside the realm of possibility. If someone is brought back to life from a near-death experience or dramatically saved from a catastrophic event at the last possible minute – now those qualify to us as “miracles.”

For many of us, our days are filled with unknowns, insecurity, defeats, fear, even pain. And life seems to be speeding at such a high velocity that we don’t recognize that there may actually be opportunities for us to experience God’s little miracles in our lives. If we could just allow a few moments to pause, listen, and reflect, we might become aware of God’s comforting presence – which may just be one of God’s most precious everyday miracles.

Fear, loss, pain, confusion are not new phenomenon. Since the beginning of time and in every corner of the world, people have felt loss and pain and lived in fear of something or someone. The scriptures are filled with laments concerning peoples’ loss, pain and fear. “My God, why have you forsaken me?” “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”

We tend to forget the reassuring words that Jesus stated clearly: “I have come that you might have life abundantly. Be not afraid.” If we pause and ponder God’s abundant mercies to us, there is the possibility that our insecurities, our fears, our injuries, our defeats can be relieved and we can see tiny miracles around us everywhere.

Unfortunately, we are not very patient people and we are so wrapped up in our daily activities that we don’t recognize little “miracles” such as the gift of a new friend or a beautiful sunset or even spontaneous forgiveness. It’s difficult for us to open our eyes to see God’s miraculous works in our world especially in these troubled times. Perhaps whenever we feel anxiety we can recall the words from Romans 8: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” – not even financial difficulties, job problems, issues in our families, concerns about illness or loneliness – yes, nothing can separate us from the love and miracles of God.

C. S. Lewis wrote that “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” It is possible that in an effort to shield ourselves from the scary and troubling things in our lives, we also block out the positive, and we may just be too shut down to those “small letters.”

I’ve been experiencing some tiny miracles in my life recently. At first they seemed quite small, but now I realize they were written in letters too large for me to see. One is the ongoing miracle of getting connected to Dr. Rebecca Fisher and Dr. Jerome Posner, who not only try everything possible to help me heal but stand up to my insurance company when it refuses to allow me to have an important drug – like rituxin (rituximab). A couple of miracles since I started on the rituxin treatments: no pain when I move my legs in bed, no more huge spasms, being able to button my own shirt, being able to write on a keyboard with my fingers, not falling asleep at the dinner table at 6 pm. Huge miracles for me.

I recently read that Deepak Chopra wrote something about symptoms for the transformation taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. “The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.” Yes, Mr. Chopra, I believe you got that right!

So we need to be more realistic. We need to expect miracles.

* Have you had some little miracles in your life that have surprised you at how big they became?

* Are you in need of a “miracle” – big or small – that will help to transform you?

* Can you open your life to the good news of abundant life?

Beloved God, sometimes we are just so scared, so confused, so hurting that we are closed to the possibility of a miracle happening in our lives. We need your help to calm us – to remind us that you have come to give us life more abundantly. We ask that you show us that you are near. We call out to you to help us live in a world filled with fear and pain. May we always remember that though we walk through valleys with shadows of death, we need not fear for you are always with us – and that may be the biggest miracle of all. Amen.

Joy Carol

www.joycarol.com

Posted in Musings on Life | 6 Comments