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

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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.

69e238365db9d193f4f3df1b1d102820I 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


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The Gift of Advent

One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God’s arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming,
we are already at home.  – Michelle Blake

adventThe Season of Advent is truly a remarkable time of the year (the word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus and means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’). It is a time to ponder, to wait, and to prepare for the celebration of the profound truth about God – that God loves us beyond our wildest imagination.

Certainly Advent is much more than buying gifts, trimming a Christmas tree, listening to holiday music, attending parties. Advent can be seen as a sacred, spiritual exercise as we walk with others on the journey of life. During this season, we are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as people of God, that we have a responsibility to love God with all our heart and to love all of our neighbors as ourselves. When we yearn for a better world, we need to remember that we too have likely contributed to the problems of the world and accept our responsibility for what we have done – including our greediness, our negativity, our judgmental thoughts, our anger, our desire for revenge.

In the New Testament of the Bible, there is the amazing story of the pregnant teenage Mary visiting her elderly pregnant cousin Elizabeth. The visit of these two women gives us a good example of a healing and holy human encounter – a meeting that is open, non-judgmental, and supportive. We sense there was a recognition and acceptance of the goodness within each other.

That same holy energy can be found within each of us. Whenever we meet someone, we need to enter the encounter with compassion, with intention, with thoughtfulness. The greetings we exchange, the words we share have power – the power to comfort and heal, and the power to cause pain. There can be no room for recklessness in our interactions with others. When we truly connect with someone, we enter the soul or the “sacred sanctuary” of that person. In moments of genuine intimacy, our truest and deepest self enters into the truest and deepest self of another. These soul-to-soul encounters may be the most profound human interactions.

Perhaps during this Advent Season, let us think about being a dwelling place not only for the Divine but a safe place for all peoples to come. May we provide a home for those who may be in need as well as for God who is always with us on our journey. Yes, let us prepare ourselves for the gift of Advent.

* What does the Gift of Advent mean to you?
* Have you had an opportunity to be a dwelling place for people to come?
* Have you had a soul-to-soul encounter with another person that changed your life?

Beloved Giver of Life, thank you for loving us as You do. At this Advent Season, help us to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts, in our communities, and in the world. You have so generously shared your Presence with us. Now teach us to share that Presence with others in this Holy Season. Help us to learn to have healing experiences with others. May this time of Advent be filled with soul-to-soul encounters. Amen.

Joy Carol

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Music: Language of the Spirit

Music is the language of the spirit.

It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.    – Kahlil Gibran

MusicFor many years, I lived in New York City, where every day there were numerous opportunities to hear fabulous music. I often went to hear jazz, or opera, or took a picnic to Central Park for concerts on the lawn. I sometimes attended open rehearsals at the New York Philharmonic. At a final rehearsal, the music was played as beautifully as if it were the actual performance.

I confess that I felt a bit smug about the music of New York City. There could be no better place for music. But during my last year of living in The City, I was unable to get to any of those wonderful concerts. I was just too sick. So I tried to imagine myself going to them and hearing the beautiful music in my head.

A few days ago, a group of us watched the movie The Shawshank Redemption. There is a special moment in the film when the inmate Andy (Tim Robbins) receives a bunch of books and old records for his fledgling library. He puts on a record of two singers singing an aria from Le Nozze di Figaro. Because he is a trusted inmate who works in the office, he knows how to turn on the loud speaker system that broadcasts to all corners of the prison. So he turns on the music full blast, and the aria fills the entire place. His friend Red (Morgan Freeman) states that although the inmates had not a clue “what those two women were singing” in Italian, it was a moment when every man in the prison was touched deeply in their soul. That everyone felt at that moment like they were truly free people. The music had gone deep, making their spirits soar.

Now I live in a community called Penney Farms, Florida. I confess I was afraid there wouldn’t be good music around – after all it was not New York City. But to be honest, I have never experienced so much music in my life as I do here. I’ve been to jazz bars, the Jacksonville Symphony (a wonderful orchestra), and concerts of all sorts with first-rate musicians performing right here on my own campus. And we also have opportunities to participate in music ranging from a brass band to a barbershop quartet to choirs to a cappella groups. I have joined several of the singing groups and find my soul soaring and deeply touched – much the same as Red did.

Somehow music has a way of helping us let go of the things we’re worried about or are afraid of – if and when we just let it take over. We can become completely captured and mesmerized by breathtaking music. Music almost becomes like a meditation, even a prayer for me, a time of peace, and a lovely gift from God.

Our lives are so full of external and internal noises. Perhaps we can occasionally turn off some of the noises and take the time to listen to music that can be a blessing and a prayer for us.

* Do you ever find your soul lifted by music?

* Do you make time to go to concerts or at least listen to your special music?

* Can you just let go and let the music take over for you?

Beloved God, creator of music and giver of the gift of music. Help us to stop from time to time, to block out the noisiness of our lives, and to listen to your music. Help us understand that music is the language of the spirit, that it can open the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife. May we let the music fill our souls so we may soar with you. Amen

Joy Carol

Posted in Musings on Life | 9 Comments

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

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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


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

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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

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A New Adventure

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.Nehru

a new adventureDuring the last days of my amazing dad’s life, he told me that he thought that dying was like a kind of adventure. After all, he said, it was the first time he had gone through this process – he had never died before. Most of us aren’t that courageous about our mortality. In fact, we tend to deny that we are dying. We may even think of ourselves as living forever.

I confess I’m not a person who looks forward to death as an adventure like my dad did, but I learned something from him when he told me that. Death and all kinds of change are a normal part of life. It occurs regularly in our relationships, our home life, our work, our financial situations, our physical health, and our spiritual lives. However, when our lives seem to change too quickly, it can seem frightening and overwhelming. We may feel uneasy or out of control. We may not realize that even as life is shifting, we can choose how we will respond and that it is possible to experience God’s gifts of love, peace, and calm.

At times when we are going through adjustments, we may realize just how vulnerable we are or how precious life really is. We may see that we have become sloppy with our living, that we haven’t been careful about what we’ve chosen to do with our precious days on earth. Sometimes we don’t give much thought to what we hold as sacred. We need to remember that life is very brief. Yes, it’s rather sobering to think that there isn’t endless time left for us to live. Perhaps that thought alone will make us want to use our remaining time in a more meaningful way. If we approach life as if we only had one day left to live, then the sense of impermanence might heighten our feelings of preciousness, passion, and gratitude.

Although change can be frightening, it can also provide new opportunities for growth. Likely we have developed skills from our past that can help us go through major transitions in a healthy way. Perhaps we can affirm that we are constantly changing, we are growing, we are filled with potential. Our job is to gather wisdom from our experiences and then live a transformed life.

All of us face change every day of our lives, and we are always in transition. And we have no idea what life will be like in the future. But we can make good choices about changes we want to make in order to live our lives fully and meaningfully. Even when we feel busy or rushed, it’s important that we stop, listen, reflect, and pray. We might just see that what is happening to us is another adventure.

Beloved Creator, thank you for creating a world filled with surprises. When we are in transition on our journey or we face changes, help us not to be afraid but rather to learn from our experiences and to see them as an adventure. May we realize that you are always there for us even during major adjustments in our lives. Amen.

Joy Carol

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Precious Memories

Precious memories, how they linger, How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight, Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

memories— as sung by Willie Nelson

Recently my friend Alice Deakins gave me the inspirational book The Memory Chalet written by the well-known author Tony Judt as he suffered and eventually died from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). In his book he wrote that during the early part of the disease, he felt a “desperate need for the reassurance of light, company, and the simple comforts of human intercourse.” But later he “learned to forgo this, finding solace and recourse in my own thoughts.” He went on to say, “My solution has been to scroll through my life, my thoughts, my fantasies, my memories. . . . If you must suffer thus, better have a well-stocked head.”

Last week, as my caregiver Marc Dacuycuy and I were listening to Willie Nelson sing “Precious Memories,” it made me think about Judt’s words, how memories can be very meaningful or precious to us and can be part of our “well-stocked head.” I began to ponder what makes them precious for us, why they can become such an important part of who we are, and why we want to share them with people who are significant to us.

So I started asking people those questions. Several people told me that they would go into a burning building to retrieve items such as photos that might be irreplaceable, family heirlooms, their parents’ wedding rings – things that were part of their precious memories. It may seem surprising that people are willing to risk their lives in order to rescue something that likely has little or no monetary worth but is precious to them because of its emotional or spiritual value.

For example, why do we like our favorite song? Does it have great lyrics, an appealing tune, is it sung by our favorite singer? Or is the song a reminder of a special person, a place, or a time in our life that is significant for us? Perhaps it serves as a kind of emotional spark, a memory about someone or something that changed the course of our life. Perhaps it was a time that we shared with a special person that we love and hold dear.

Those memories that speak to our souls bring back remembrances of events and people who helped to mold us into who we are today. They are at the core of our being, our emotional center. We do not want to lose those emotional inspirations. Memories are how we keep alive those people and events that have been significant to us, the ones that help to make us unique in the world. So lost friends and loved ones will remain a part of our existence as long as they endure in our memories.

I believe Willie Nelson has it right when he sings: “Old home scenes of my childhood, In fond memory appear. . . . As I travel on life’s pathway, Know not what the years may hold. As I ponder, hope grows fonder. Precious memories flood my soul.” No one ever truly leaves us until they are lost from our memories. Maybe that is why memories are so precious.

* Do you have memories that are precious to you and help to keep your soul alive?

* Do you allow hope to grow as precious memories flood your soul and linger in you?

Beloved Giver of Precious Memories, thank you for those special people and events that have touched us, molded us into the people we are today. Help us to learn to appreciate them and put them in a corner of our heart and in our “well-stocked head.” May we keep your love for us as one of our most precious memories. Amen.

Joy Carol

Posted in Musings on Life | 3 Comments