Flow

I woke up again with a cry and my heart palpitating and blood rushing through my veins…

 

”Honey…it’s okay. You’re fine. It was only a dream.” My husband reassured me.

 

It’s the same dream…but different circumstances each time. I’m reaching for something very important to me, but somehow it’s out of reach. It eludes me and it’s gone…whatever it is that seems so important in the dream, and often I can’t even remember it…it’s gone…into the abyss of nightmares and unanswered prayers.

 

I awake unsettled after these dreams. It’s as if I’ve experienced a great loss. I struggle to return to sleep then, but try anyway saying a brief prayer…

 

“Lord, I know you’ve got me covered. You’re with me. The sun will come up tomorrow and I will face a new day with joy.”

 

I’m not sure what the dream means for me. I suppose the subconscious speaks to us in dreams. But I’m not sure.

 

I realize when I’m fully awake that I’ve had and am still going through a series of enormous life changes. When our first grandchild was born, I’d set my heart and mind on finding a way to be closer to him and his family. I wanted so much to be an involved grandma and I missed so much in his first few years because we lived about 3 hours away in another city. I was determined to find a home nearer to my daughter and her family so that we could enjoy the grandkids and be a part of their lives on a daily basis.

 

I retired 3 years ago from a very fulfilling and engaging career as a teacher. I loved my job and the children that made each day worth getting up for. I suppose that’s a loss, in a way. In some ways, it’s a good loss. I used to dream about the time I would have to sew, write, exercise and volunteer…I couldn’t wait to be able to travel and enjoy the golden years with my husband.

 

I wasn’t prepared for the sense of loss that I would feel.

 

We found a beautiful home on a wooded lot, with lake views in a small town near my daughter. We put in an offer on the house and after several months of negotiations and ups and downs due to a short sale, the house was ours!

So much of that first summer, I spent alone working tirelessly to prepare the house to move into while my husband stayed in Chicago, working. I felt lonely.

 

We had a dream, but this separation became my new reality.

 

My mother in law, who had been very ill, passed away just two weeks before the birth of my 4th grandchild. We physically moved a couple of months later, leaving our home of 20 years behind. My husband tried, but could not find work he wanted to do here, in our new place. My father in law fell and broke his hip and was placed in a nursing home/rehab facility. Back and forth to visit, take care of him. He passed away only 8 months after his wife died, alone, in a nursing home.

 

Lots of grief, memories, processing and sadness filled our days.

Even though we were trying to get excited about our new place, it still just didn’t feel like home.

 

Our son came to Chicago to work on his master’s degree. We offered to let him live in our old house while he attended grad school. We visit often, but it’s weird to have someone living in your former home…making it their own. No longer ours. There have been many adjustments.

 

So I set out to get involved in our new area. Here is a list of things I’ve tried to get more involved. I’ve enjoyed each one, and continue to do so, but still haven’t felt a real sense of belonging.

 

Volunteering

Writing classes

Sewing for a non-profit organization, making wedding gowns into burial gowns.

Visiting many churches

Babysitting grandchildren

Substitute teaching

 

Still, after a year, an entire year, I have felt:

 

Frustrated

Discouraged

Lonely

 

Through all of these transitions and changes, the biggest challenge has been making new friends and feeling like I belong here…in this home, in this community, in this world as it is…I feel lonely. I do not feel known.

 

I can’t seem to find my rhythm or my space here.

 

I find myself thinking about what I can do to really focus on what’s good about my life right now. I don’t want to focus any longer on what’s making me feel lonely. If I do then I continue to walk down the path of discouragement and resentment.

 

I have daily tried to turn my attention and focus on maintaining a heart of gratitude for…

 

Beautiful lake views

Beautiful home

Visitors (especially those that know me!)

Quiet Days and not so quiet ones, when I am needed to be “grandma” or “mom”

New grandbaby

Sick kids (Grandma is needed!)

Family is coming for dinner…cooking cleaning, enjoyment and frustration all in the same breath…at the same moment

Finding a new faith community

Stepping out of the comfort zone of being “known”

New relationships

Listening, opening my heart

Having time to spend with my husband, getting to know each other in new ways

Opportunities for travel

 

Here’s what I’ve learned and what I’m learning…

 

I have entered into a new FLOW of life.

 

Back and Forth.

Back and Forth.

 

This FLOW is not necessarily BAD, and it doesn’t have to be lonely, either.

 

I dedicate myself to this new flow, and I give myself grace for the resentments, the grief, and the loneliness I’ve felt as I adjust to these new ideas and this new place. I will develop a sense of curiosity about my new life and new people. What is waiting around the corner for me…a new friend? A new interest? What could that interest be? How can I be a blessing to someone here? What am I being invited to do?

 

I will try to lean into the unknown with an attitude of “gracious” expectancy. I believe God has invited me to something special. I must accept this invitation and expect the positive. I hope I can become aware of how my whole being is involved with new things…how does it fit me? If it feels good, go with it. If not, leave it for someone else who fits it better. But don’t be afraid to try it out and notice.

 

Notice

 

If I tune in my peripheral vision to what’s happening in my life and read that too, not just what is in plain sight, I may be able to experience a deeper level of living. Sometimes the next good or right thing is just a bit off to the left…or to the right…and I won’t see it if I’m laser focused on only what’s in front of me. I need a broader perspective.

 

I know as well that I must allow myself the space and time to grieve. It takes time to work through the grief of losing a parent and the loss of leaving a life we worked hard to build. It takes time to make adjustments to the new rhythms of my life and accept them as the new “normal”.

 

My plans to sew and write, craft and decorate could be FOR me or maybe NOT. I must accept the current FLOW. But I can’t be afraid to shift course if need be. I can’t be afraid to say “NO” to the things that don’t fit. I can’t force myself to FIT into something that is not me.

 

After a long vacation, and an exciting one. It was good to be back HOME again.

I am learning to accept the new reality of what my life is and could become here.

I am anxious to get on with it.

 

Am I OPEN to the NEW flow of my life? I am working on it by…

 

Relishing the OLD. Keeping my memories, ideas, hopes, dreams…

 

Trusting God to continue to speak to me through my past experiences and my new situation.

 

Letting go of the “things” of the PAST. There are “things” that burden us with their physical presence. Cleaning out the stuff that isn’t serving you any more is important. Take the time to do that.

 

My son told me a story of a seed laden dandelion, soft and feathery, ready to go out into the world. He said when we blow on it, it scatters and then the seeds are just out there…to grow or not. Once we’ve blown them away, we cannot get them back, we don’t have that control. Our ideas and dreams are kind of like that too. Once we let go of them, we can’t grab them back…even if they are our hopes and dreams. What grows is what takes root in soil that is ready for it. Reality is. When something takes root, we can look to that and that alone as our current present reality. Just like in my dream, sometimes you can’t hold onto things forever. If it doesn’t fit anymore, let it go…

 

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Gail Mehlan

October 31, 2016fullsizeoutput_62e7

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Serenity

I’m in the car driving, taking a brief respite from the barrage of TV news and commercials. But the topic isimg_4139 still there on the radio. This presidential election… Ugh. I try to get away from it, yet I am drawn into it. I feel compelled to listen. I think I have made a choice, but still I wait for some information that directs me differently.

 

The announcer on the radio is talking about a particular candidate. He states,

 

“This candidate will do this and that…blah, blah, blah…and if that doesn’t give you goose bumps, then there is something wrong with you!”

 

I immediately feel a slow small tingly sensation creep up my spine and into the back of my head. The goose bumps travel down my arms and I shiver. There is nothing wrong with me. I am afraid.

 

The stress of this fear is making me into someone I don’t like. I can’t seem to let it go. I listen and react to each tiny sound bite from multiple sources. I follow both candidates on my twitter feed, there are constant Facebook memes making claims about both. It is almost as if I’m into an addiction that taunts me and drives my thinking.

I remember back to the first time I voted for president. I was just 18 years old. The only person I listened to about politics was my dad. I always followed his lead because I trusted his ideas. (I was so young and naïve!) When I walked in the poling place for the first time, I was overwhelmed with pride.  I felt so grown-up and important.  I was doing a great thing.  What an honor and privilege to be given the opportunity to vote.

But now…I must think for myself and there seems to be so much to know! As I enter to vote this season, I will be making a decision. And it is not an easy one this time.  My father is no longer with us, yet I still wonder what he would say about this particular election.  I miss his sound advice and informed opinion. I continue to experience the constant swirling thoughts that haunt me. I thought I had matured enough to let them go…

 

Suddenly something enters into my thoughts in the form of a very familiar prayer. I’ve called upon this prayer to release me from anxiety so many times in my life and for so many different circumstances…

 

“God, grant me the serenity….”

 

I hear the words in my heart and my body knows that’s what I need. Serenity.

 

“God, grant me the serenity…to accept the things I cannot change.”

 

My (Al-Anon) “program” teaches me that I cannot change anyone or anything. Certainly in this situation I can vote. But then I must let it go from there…into the universe trusting in a God that is the only one who knows the plans He has for us. I must accept what I alone cannot change. Even if the outcome sends goose bumps up my spine, I cannot change this. So I let go…and let God come in and give me a small slice of His peace. Serenity.

 

“The courage to change the things I can…”

 

Then I ask for courage. This is the word I’ve chosen to focus on this year as my New Year’s resolution: Courage. The courage to change the things I can change. I vow to work on my negative thoughts, my stubbornness to view things a certain way, the courage to stop the thoughts when they overwhelm me. I vow to work on myself knowing that I am the only one I can change. Sometimes the only thing I can work on is my own perspective. It takes courage, I think, to be myself…to do what I think is best and then move on. My heart begins to feel a bit of relief. I can change only me.

 

“And the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

God, that is what I do need! I listen and listen and find no peace in the listening. Wisdom is what I pray for. The wisdom to know what I must accept and what I must change. Wisdom. I don’t always know what it will be or how it will happen. Somehow trusting God to provide that wisdom gives me a sense of peace.

 

Time and time again, when I am caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, when things seem out of my control and beyond my scope of understanding,

this prayer centers me and offers a sense of calm. God is with me. He will provide the courage and the wisdom and all I need to do it. Breathe. Breathe and carry on…one day at a time, one minute at a time if need be.

 

My friend sends me a Facebook message and in it he speaks of an idea that gives me hope and faith in our country.

 

“Each bird has two wings, a right and a left. It’s body needs both wings to take flight, to soar.”- M.Arlen

 

So, too, our country needs people of all types, races, languages, and beliefs. Our country needs two wings to fly…if both wings can agree to work together! We are strong; we must start in the here and now to learn to fly together.

 

“God, grant me the serenity…”

 

Just saying those few words brings me peace for the moment.

 

Then I say it again…and again…like a mantra. I carry on.

 

 

 

Original Serenity Prayer

 

God, give us grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

 

by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Mother May I? Living with Unaswered Questions

“Mother May I?”   sunflower

On a warm June afternoon, I pick up an old journal and read a post that touches my heart.

March 18, 2009

I recall a children’s game where we lined up and one leader was “it”. When it was your turn the leader would say,

“You may move ahead 3 steps.”

Then you would have to ask, “Mother, may I?”

The leader would say either, “Yes, you may.”

Or “No, you may________.”

And they would fill in a different direction for you to follow.

 Sometimes I feel like I am still playing a game asking for permission to step forward in life….”Mother, may I?”

 Is it okay?

Am I doing the right thing?

God are you really a parent/teacher type? Do you watch each of our steps so closely?

Do you really care?

 Sometimes I ask you,

“God, may I?”

 And you don’t respond.

 Sometimes I face a roadblock and I know the answer is clearly, “NO.”

 “Go a different way!”

 I pray for wisdom today…wisdom about what I should do.

I wish for it to always be a clear, “Yes, you may take one GIANT step!”

Or “No, you may not! Do this instead.” (And I fear it will be to take two GIANT steps backwards!)

What is it about this post touches my heart? I begin to reflect again on the many questions that I have had in my life, questions that seemed to have no clear answers. I was struggling then with fear. I was facing some rather serious health issues related to my heart. I was experiencing a lack of energy to keep doing the job that I was doing and had just discovered that I would need to work several more years before I could retire. I wanted to retire while I still had some energy left to LIVE! I was worried and I had questions. Would I ever get to retire?

And how is it that I AM learning to live with the questions?

 Is it okay to just accept and love the questions themselves? Can I make my life move forward in the middle of a hundred unanswered prayers…when I don’t see what’s ahead? Living with uncertainty is difficult.

I wrote a special prayer for myself that day.

A prayer of questions,

 Lord,

What is it that You would have me do with my life? I have found my roles as a wife and mother challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Give me strength…infuse me with a spirit of love and positive attitude.

 Lord,

I have questions about my professional future. I am searching for guidance and a sign, what shall I do? Loving this question just confuses me. Trust.

 I have questions about raising my children. I want to get it right, but so much seems to go wrong. My children don’t seem to follow you or even believe. I have tried, Lord. I am tired of trying.

 I have been blessed with a beautiful home, but still feel the waves of discontent here. What does that mean? What are these whispers of discontent?

 Movement is difficult for me here, Lord…Move me in a direction that pleases you and serves you.

I keep waiting for answers from YOU, Lord

Guide me…a visible recognizable sign would be welcome. I am open…my hands are yours…take them and direct me to do work where I can best serve you. Give me peace and purpose in this time of questions.

Amen

 As it turns out, I can now see how many of my prayers were answered. Sometimes, with a “yes” sometimes with a “no” and sometimes with a “maybe”… or even a ”WAIT, sit with the questions for a while!” And I did. And I still do now…I have lived with the questions and they seem to continue.

It sometimes seems that life is just one big question mark.

Even though I am finally retired, the questions keep coming. My children are grown and have families of their own and the questions keep coming. I have 4 grandchildren and 1 on the way and I have even more questions than answers. How is that possible? I thought that as I got older and wiser, this would be different. But I do find that even though I still have questions, I am learning to live with them, love them. Nothing is certain. Ever. Can I wait with “breathless expectation” for what is to be revealed? What is God inviting me to do with these questions?

Uncertainty…Oswald Chamber writes in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest,

“Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation.”

 “Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in—but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.” [1]

Gail Mehlan

June 2, 2016

(Some italicized portion taken from journals dated 2009)

[1] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest