Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Archive for the ‘Personal story’ Category

The Snare of Riches

‘And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”‘ (Luke 19:23)

We are sorely mistaken if we think that riches will bring us happiness. Material goods, to a point, are certainly a blessing. It is good to have nutritious food, clothes to keep you comfortable in any weather, and shelter from that same weather. Beyond that, I’m proposing here that unearned and/or unshared wealth can be a real hindrance to happiness, if it takes the place of our relationship to God.

Certainly a high position in society does not guarantee healthy or moral behavior, not to mention that all your foibles and flaws will be mercilessly criticized by the public. There are some crazy stories, going back some generations, from my own family background, that cause one to ponder.

Here are a few, half heard, half remembered (and thus probably half accurate), from my background: One relative with a high position in the (non-U.S.) government, contracted syphilis and went mad. He was in the military and presumably, while married, contracted the illness from someone other than his wife. Another VERY wealthy relative gambled away 26 houses. Still another, to impress a woman he was wooing, bought out an entire theater performance so that the two could be the only people in the theater. They did get married, but later divorced, partly due to his infidelity. The same man ran for government and promised the voters that he would provide a copious feast if he won. He won.

We have all seen unhappy rich people in the news, with broken marriages and families, and disordered lives.

If you happen to be blessed with wealth, however you obtained it, remember that all your riches, and anything you possess, ultimately comes from God. (Of course, dishonest wealth is not in God’s plan.)

There were several rich men in the Bible who were righteous. Being rich doesn’t have to be evil in itself. For example, Abraham was quite wealthy and a person of great faith. Again, recall the story of Job, who lost all his riches and most of his relatives, but did not curse God. Ultimately, God restored everything to him, and more. There were rich Christians in the New Testament who shared their wealth. The point being, that their wealth was not where they derived their value, but they derived it from Christ.

A Year Since We Moved On!

About one year ago (June 27, 2021), my husband and I set out on our journey to move to Ohio from California. We chose to take nine days to do the drive, with our cat.

The trip here, and life afterwards have been an adventure, to say the least. For me, it’s been a bigger deal than for my husband. He grew up in Ohio, whereas I had lived in California my entire life, not even going away to college, not even a college within California (except as a commuter student, three or four times). Possibly, making a big change like this when you’re 67 might be slightly difficult!

We ended up in what I might call a semi-suburb. We are outside the limits, and on the east side of a large city. Our zip code is the same as a nearby small town, but we don’t live inside that town’s city limits. Although we have a sewer system rather than septic tanks, and other suburban amenities, it’s a very quiet neighborhood (development), which happens to have a small woodsy section in the center permanently preserved for wildlife. We often see deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and many, many birds. On the other hand, my son and his family, who live within the west side of the same big city mentioned above, also see deer, plus have woodchucks nesting in their big yard, and other wildlife makes its presence known to them.

The people in Ohio have been wonderful. The biggest adjustments for me are climate (humidity and cold), bugs (chiggers are the most difficult so far), and poison ivy (rooting it out can take a lot of work, and you practically have to where a hazmat suit to work on it). Getting a new driver’s license (because of my unconventional birth certificate) and setting up new doctors were also challenging.

And the many good things: Abundance of natural life, plenty of water, dramatic clouds and thunderstorms, friendly neighbors who almost always wave, family helping each other, fireflies, a beautiful river just a few miles away and the riverside trail along it, etc.!

Thanks be to God and to all who prayed for us and made this journey possible.

Heaven in a Dream

Last night I dreamed about a church young adult group I was in, twenty-five to thirty years ago. In the dream I was in the current time and now lived in a huge house, with my kids and grandkids. Someone (I don’t know if it was my daughter or someone else) arranged a surprise party for me, inviting all the people from the young adult group. It was a wonderful time. — End of dream.

When we were both awake, I told my husband about the dream. He asked, “That’s your idea of heaven, isn’t? Lots of people together and getting along.” I answered, “Yes.”

A New Arrival!

Our second grandchild, Lucy Marie, has arrived!

Born to Jacob and Teresa
May 10, 2022, 8:04 a.m., 7 pounds 11 ounces, 20 inches, 
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

We are overwhelmed with gratitude, especially for the following reasons:

The obstetrician had decided a month or two ago to do a C-section, because the baby had turned and was presenting breech.  So 5/10 was five days before the projected natural due date.

It turns out that the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around Lucy’s neck.  Given that problem and the breech presentation, it’s probable that the C-section saved both the baby’s and perhaps even the mother’s life.  In another time or place, it could have been an incredibly sad day.

My two brothers were breech birth, and thank God they survived, and our mom survived the births!  I don’t think she had C-sections.

So we give thanks and praise to God for His overwhelming mercy.  We also say that when things turn out more tragically — we thank God because He helps us get through those times.

Mood Disorder?

First, a disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and have no psychological training except a few college classes and one five-day workshop. However, I have been in and out of counseling/therapy since age 12 or 13 (I’m now 66), sometimes with a break of many years. So, any psychological terms I use will be my understanding of what they mean, as a layperson.

My main diagnosis through all these years has been mild to moderate depression, or dysthymia. If I understand correctly, dysthymia comes under a broader category called “mood disorders”.

There are many opinions about depression, including “Just pull yourself together,” “It’s because of your sins,” “It’s a lack of faith,” “It’s from ‘stinkin’ thinking’ (irrational, untrue, or unrealistic thinking),” and “It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain.” Of course, all of these can be true, or overlapping.

I am often (not always) in a state of low-grade melancholy, for whatever reasons, as noted above. I could even add the excuse of my cultural background, which is Hungarian. My parents grew up there and then emigrated to the United States. From what I have read, melancholy is a common characteristic among Hungarians. Again, this could be for many reasons. One of my theories is that Hungary, for hundreds of years, has been overrun by foreign powers and has been constantly at their mercy (if there was any mercy). At any rate, melancholy does seem to be common among Hungarians, indeed, many eastern Europeans.

But, today I would like to share a surprising recent occurrence for me, perhaps a small miracle. The other day, I was in the typical, mildly low, mood. Sometime around 5:30 p.m., it was like someone turned on a switch. I was happy! I felt loved, and worthwhile, like God, and some people, loved me! It was inexplicable! I repeat, it was literally like a switch was turned on in my mood. No longer the negative thoughts like “Nobody likes me,” “I’m evil (or at best, worthless),” “Things are going to turn out badly,” etc. Lest this sounds frightening to anyone, let me be clear; I sometimes have these thoughts, but I don’t give in to them. They are like attacks that happen periodically. I have found ways to combat them. I am not miserable anymore, as I was in younger days. I have the hope of Jesus Christ, which is what keeps me alive and functioning and purposeful. Speculating on where they come from could be another blog post.

Like any mood change, I cannot explain what happened. I’ve even had the opposite happen. I will be in a mildly low mood and plunge into a more severe depression. Happily, this happens less and less in my life.

What can I learn from this? I believe God is trying to tell me, “Don’t rely on how you FEEL. I am with you despite any moods, feelings, or thoughts. I never leave you. Do not base your worth on how you feel, or how others treat you.” Whether I feel happy, sad, or in between, I mustn’t take that as my major reality. My major reality is that God is present and will not abandon me. THIS IS THE REALITY, not what I FEEL!

Confession

Whether you confess to a priest, a minister, a trusted friend, and/or privately to God, repentance and confession are powerful things. The Bible references confession, including “When you realize your guilt in any of these, you shall confess the sin that you have committed.” (Leviticus 5:5), “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a), and ‘”[Jesus] … breathed on [his disciples] and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”’ (John 20:22-23). Stating our sins explicitly brings them out in the open, into the light. I believe Jesus knew that unconfessed sin was like an untreated wound; if not exposed and cleansed, it would fester.

Once, when I confessed resentment at being hurt or misunderstood, the priest advised, “Think of the hurt like a knife in your heart. You pull out the knife. Now you have a choice. You can keep dwelling on the hurt and/or stab the other person, or you can say to Jesus, “Jesus, I give you this knife and my hurt. You take it. I ask You to handle this because I cannot.”

I don’t always get such helpful advice when I confess, nor do I always have a dramatic experience as some do (for example, a radical experience of cleansing), but I trust that Jesus IS cleansing me and granting me the grace to grow in love for Him and for others.

[Perhaps I should add that wounds from others, or from our own sins, should not be ignored, but neither should we wallow in self-pity. Sometimes the wounds are so deep that we might need counseling from others, or serious therapy. But learning to let Jesus heal our wounds is a big step.]

Don’t be afraid to confess! Unlike with people at times, God will take you back, and all you confess and repent of will be forgotten in the ocean of His mercy.

The Campground from Hell

Early in our marriage, my husband Tom and I decided to go on a camping trip in northern California.  I was pregnant with our first child.

On arrival at the campground, the person registering us asked, “Do you want to be in the adult or family section?”  Tom and I looked at each other, as if to say, “Huh? This is a campground!”  We finally blurted out, “Family section.”

Once we had gotten our tent up, I was puttering around, and I think Tom was getting ready to make dinner.  I had brought along a small “candle lantern.”  While checking it out, I unthinkingly touched a forearm to the heated metal, and burned my arm so that there was a 2-inch by 3-inch brown spot on it.  It was bad enough to need ice, so we made a quick trip to a local grocery and bought a bag of ice.

After dinner and clean up, we probably stayed out at the picnic table at least until dark, and may have been watching for stars.  Then we crawled into our sleeping bags, perhaps around nine or ten o’clock.  There had been some thumping noises in the camp, but we couldn’t see who was making them or what caused the noises.

As I attempted to sleep on my back, because of my pregnant tummy, while holding a bag of ice against my burn, we increasingly noticed the loud thumping noises.  From the voices and sounds, we surmised that a group of college men were throwing rocks or heavy pieces of wood at some big logs; at least, that was our theory.  This went on for two or three hours.  We finally heard a car come into the camp (later we learned it was a police car), and the noise abated.

“Now we’ll be able to sleep,” I thought.  But a noise we hadn’t noticed before made itself known.  It was a radio from another camp, loud enough to keep us awake.  By this time it was somewhere between one and three a.m.  Finally, I said to Tom, “Look, you don’t have to do this, but if you feel particularly brave, could you go over and ask that person to turn off their radio?”  Tom decided he was brave, left the tent, and I heard him walking towards the noise of the radio.

I may have prayed, not knowing what would happen, “Please, Lord, don’t let some angry person attack my husband!”  After a few minutes, the sound from the radio ceased.  Soon I heard the approach of footsteps, and Tom came back into the tent.

“Well, what happened?” I asked.

“I found the camp where the radio was playing.  A man was sprawled, sleeping, in his Volkswagen van, with the door open and the radio playing.  His campfire was still going.  I tried to speak to him softly, but there was no response.  So I gently reached into the van, turned the radio off, and then came back here.”

I really thought that was a brave act, and told Tom as much.  We did fall asleep shortly, even though we felt it was … the campground from hell.

 

Thank God for the Fleas

When my parents were World War II refugees, they lived in various Displaced Persons camps run by the U.S. and other Allies. Sometimes it would be so cold that there was frost on the INSIDE walls of their “accommodations”.   (I don’t know exactly what their living quarters were like,)  At some point in there, my older brother (a baby!), one paternal uncle, and my paternal grandmother also lived in the same camp(s). At least they had shelter!  Traumatic as it all was, thank you Allies (and, ultimately, God), for keeping my family alive!  Others, as you know, suffered considerably more: in concentration camps, in battles on land, sea, and sky, and elsewhere.

LIFE IS A GIFT! And, I’m so grateful to live in a home with heat and hot water.

Corrie ten Boom was in a concentration camp during World War II, because her family had hidden Jews in their home.  She decided to take seriously the Scripture, “… give thanks in all circumstances …” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), so she gave thanks for the fleas in her barracks.  Sooner or later, she learned that the guards would avoid her barracks as much as possible, because of the fleas.  In that way they did not get as much abuse as they might have.  Perhaps most of us are not as faith-filled as Corrie ten Boom, but there is certainly a lesson to learn from her.

War is probably horrific for everyone touched by it, but perhaps it’s appropriate to also remember the positives.

Why do some (or perhaps all of us) encounter great trials and tribulations?  I propose a few reasons here, several or all of which could occur together:

  1. We are being tested by God.  It can be an opportunity for growth, to trust in Him more.
  2. We are being chastised by God.  ” … for the Lord disciplines those whom He loves, and chastises every child whom He accepts.” (Hebrews 12:6).  This is a good thing, because it shows that God loves us enough to correct us.
  3. We are suffering for our own or other people’s poor choices.  We make bad decisions, or others take out their frustrations on us.
  4. It’s just part of the fallen human condition.  Because of original sin, we all suffer consequences such as illness, accidents, death, etc.

No matter the reason, we must trust that God is with us through these difficulties.  I don’t see any other reason to hope.

 

 

 

Blueberries and Junk Piles

“… most marital arguments cannot be resolved.”
How about that for a startling statement?  Read on …

Now that my husband is retired, we have more “opportunities” to learn about each other’s perspectives.

Many years ago, I did learn that certain of my husband’s behaviors were not deliberate attempts to hurt me, though they often felt like it.  Now I am learning that we truly do see things differently, which is why we often have (usually settled amicably) conflicts.

Take the case of the blueberries.

One day we were beginning our breakfast routine, and Tom said he was going to put some frozen blueberries in his bowl.  I said, rather harshly, “Please eat the fresh blueberries first.”  A little while later, he asked me, “Why was it so important that I eat the fresh blueberries?  I like the frozen ones, because then the milk (or half and half) I pour on them freezes a little and it reminds me of ice cream.”

So I had to explain that I hate for food to be wasted, and I wanted the fresh berries used up before they became rotten.  Why didn’t I explain that, instead of being harsh with him?  Maybe I assumed he would have the same perspective I have, namely, the need to not be wasteful.  But he was seeing blueberries in a whole different way.

Then there’s the case of the junk pile, or piles.

I came home and noticed that my husband had kindly put out the trash bins on the street in anticipation of the following day’s trash collection.  When we went for a walk the next morning, he mentioned that he had started breaking up some items in the side yard, to “clear up more junk,” and had put them in the trash collection.  I said, “What exactly did you you put in?”  He named some items, and I said, “Wait a minute, I was going to give those to Goodwill or freecycle.org.”  “But I’m trying to clear up junk like we agreed to, and it was in the junk pile.”  “But,” I said, “the junk pile is in [area A], not the area you were clearing.”  He replied, “I thought the junk area was the whole side yard, and those items have been there for months.”

Well, besides us never having explicitly defined the actual junk pile area, and me leaving items out for a long time (because I needed to clean them before giving them away and I had procrastinated on that task), I realized that we needed to have a lot more communication.  “Why,” I asked, if he wasn’t sure about throwing something out, “did you not ask me?” “Because you weren’t home and I wanted to get the task done.”  Anyway, I thanked him for his effort and rushed home, but the trash collector had already come.  [By the way, afterwards I did clean up some remaining items and most have been given away successfully.]

So my point is that many disagreements have to do with misunderstandings and assumptions.  They aren’t necessarily examples of people being mean to each other.  Perhaps my husband and I have not talked enough about our perspectives, priorities, and what values are important to us (in this case, my value of frugality or not being wasteful).

In the book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver (Harmony Books – 2015), on page 28 the authors state, “… most marital arguments cannot be resolved.  Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind — but it can’t be done.  This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values.  By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.”

The Selfish Cells (2)

The lumpectomy surgery was successful!

The one lymph node they removed was cancer-free, halleluia!  But, they did find some cancer on one of the margins, so I’ll have another shorter surgery, scheduled for 11/30/2018, to remove those cells.

Radiation will perhaps start in early January.

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