Gratitude (Spiritual Journey First Thursday)

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Image: Pixabay

A few weeks ago I attended the Global Leadership Summit (by simulcast). One of the speakers was Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and author of the book Lean In). This gorgeous young woman looked like she had it all, and had it all together. Then she shared the story of her young husband’s sudden death while they were on vacation. He wasn’t even ill.

She was understandably devastated and paralyzed by grief. She told how slowly she worked her way through this tragedy to a new normal. Her therapist, Mark, was a big help, especially when he directed her mournful thoughts away from self-pity to gratitude (e.g. “Yes, your husband is gone, but you still have your children”). He challenged her to recall and write down, at the end of each day, three moments of joy from that day.

This Spiritual Journey Thursday finds me in the unusual spot of seeing my husband through surgery. Every time my mind goes to a negative place concerning this, I am trying to take Mark’s advice to Sheryl, and redirect it toward gratitude… which really isn’t that hard!

1. It’s elective surgery. Now that medical science has figured out how to replace hips, walking with a painful arthritis-degenerated hip is no longer a life sentence. And we’ve been waiting for this appointment for almost a year.

2. It’s publicly funded. We do our share of complaining about our country’s nationalized medical system (inefficiencies, rationing of treatment, long wait times). But when it comes to having to go to the hospital, it’s reassuring that it won’t bankrupt us.

3. General good health. I sat with hubby through his pre-admission interview with the nurse. As he answered question after medical question with “No” (no heart attacks, no strokes, no kidney disease, no diabetes etc.) it struck me how blessed he and I have been with good health.

4. Surgery is local, so no long drives to visit and fetch him home.

5. The hope of pain-free walking again—soon, we hope!

As I think of the days of rehabilitation ahead for him (I know a bit about what’s involved because I broke my hip in 2014 and also had to do the walker / cane / raised toilet seat / bath bench / hard to climb in and out of the car thing) I cling to my life verse for thought hygiene and reassurance:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses al understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6,7 NKJV (emphasis added).

 

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sjt-2017-graphicThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, a once-a-month look at life’s spiritual side by a collection of blogging friends who met (mostly) on Poetry Friday. Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday is hosted today by Karen at Irene’s blog Live Your Poem.

Transformation #BibleJournaling

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Today’s Bible art-journaling project is another Rebekah Jones Challenge (OBAJC Week 13). The focus verse is a favourite of mine. It’s a challenge to illustrate but even more to live:

“And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2.

For her art project Rebekah traced a vintage line-drawing of the brain onto the Bible page, then used the stencil of a splash to superimpose neon colour splashes (with acrylic paint) onto half of that brain drawing. The words “Be Transformed” completed the stunning image.

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To do my Romans 12:2 project, I gave some thought to how I might use the brain image but show transformation in a different way than colour splashes.

A butterfly came to mind. (Cliché? Yes, I know, but butterflies are so much fun to draw and colour.) Instead of drawing a realistic chrysalis from which my butterfly is emerging, I tried to make it resemble a brain. I used pencil crayons to colour my drawing.

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Later I recalled a poem I wrote over ten years ago, on the topic of transformation. Written from the viewpoint of a caterpillar in the process of being changed into a butterfly, it seemed like a good companion to my butterfly sketch.

I drew and coloured (also using pencil crayons) a chrysalis image I found online onto the opposite Bible page, wrote the poem on tracing paper and attached it to the Bible with washi tape as a tip-out.

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TRANSFORMATION

Shut away inside this silken crypt
I long for undulation on the pavements
wriggling up trunks and along branches
munching leaf to leaf.

Those carefree sunny days
have given way to terror
as motionless, deaf and blind
I feel Your acid-enzyme melt my heart
liquefy all that is earth-bound.

So I abandon any hope of preservation
as, redefined and reinvented
in this dark and secret vault
I’m given a new heart, antenna, legs – and wings?

Entombed–for what?
It’s surely death.
Could it also be
a new and unimagined life?

© 2006 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Thinking about our transformation, that renewing of the mind, I wonder, is it ever done? Until we die physically it seems we must keep dying many little mind-deaths to the sinful thoughts and attitudes that so naturally emerge. We need to keep having our minds renewed and transformed, even though it sometimes feels like death.

Mindfulness

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UPDATE:

I am totally blown away! Poetry Friday friend and children’s author extraordinaire Tabatha Yeatts has been doing poem / song matchups. Today she matched “Mindfulness,” below with some absolutely gorgeous music!

Have a listen as you read … and then pop up here again to enjoy the beautiful scenes that accompany this plainsong chant.

She’s also paired more poems and songs… so much poetic goodness HERE!

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Today the Spiritual Journey Thursday word is MINDFULNESS. It is my one little word.

When I was thinking about choosing a word for this year, the picture of our greet-each-other time in church on Sundays came to mind. People have different ways of handling this brief but regular part of our Sunday morning gathering.

I like it when the person I’m greeting or who’s greeting me looks at me and, even for a second or two, gives me their full attention. Too often that’s not the way it happens though. Too often the eyes of the person I’m greeting are looking away to the next person—or wherever.  I’m afraid that I’m sometimes that inattentive greeter too. The word “mindfulness” came to mind as the opposite of the inattention I dislike in others but especially in myself.

Mindfulness, simply defined, is “being present in the moment.” It also has a psychology definition:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience” – Definition from Psychology Today.

Personally I like that second definition except for the bit about not judging. I reserve the right to judge and filter out thoughts that are critical, negative, pessimistic, hateful, etc.

Along with choosing my word for the year, I chose a Bible verse to supplement it. My year’s verse for 2016 is Isaiah 26:3. I’m memorizing it in the Amplified version. (I’ve substituted the pronoun “her” for “him”):

“You will guard her and keep her in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because she commits herself to You, leans on You and hopes confidently in You.” Isaiah 26:3 AMP

The poem below elaborates mindfulness a bit more and how I’m focusing on it this year.

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Image: Unsplash / pixabay.com

MINDFULNESS

I have brightened the walls
and enhanced the lighting
in the rooms of my mind
in order to see clearly
the thoughts that come and go.

I have put up surveillance cameras
in each room and at the door.
At the end of the day
I replay the scenes
to better understand the role
of my thoughts in the day’s happenings.

When doubt, fear, criticism, self-pity
pride and their negative relatives
manage to slip in (and they do)
I freshen the atmosphere
with balms of faith, hope, and love.
They cannot stand the fragrance
and quickly leave.

I am working on using
my single-purpose cubicles
(where no media is allowed)
for reading, listening, praying.

I welcome spies
from the land of dreams
and the outposts of intuition
inspiration and second-thought,
for they bring important insights
to my battle against inattention.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Now I’m so looking forward to reading what other Thursday journeyers will say about “mindfulness”!

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This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted each week by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.