28 February 2013

A Loving Divorce

I was talking to a friend the other day.  She is going through a failing marriage.  We sat and talked over coffee, sharing our pasts and thoughts and emotions, and then, and then what came out of my mouth kind of took me aback.  Not that it was surprising, because it's what I knew in my heart to be true.  But the way it flowed out came out so naturally.  What I told her was this:  Open your heart to love.  Do all things out of love, always.  Because when your heart is open to love, you will attract goodness.  And don't be afraid to fail.  Because in failure there is growth.  Learn from your mistakes, forgive and move on.

Going through a divorce is not easy.  I know because I have been there.  There are a lot of emotions, hurt, anger and pain.  And so how is it possible to have a loving divorce?  Weird question, right?  First of all, I'll tell you, it's not easy.  But it can be done.  The key is prayer and forgiveness.  Prayer has always been important to me.  It took prayer to guide me to make my decisions.  It took prayer to help me heal.  And it took a lot of prayer to forgive.

As I talked to my friend, the analogy of a wound came to mind.   In the beginning, the wound is fresh and painful.  If you keep it clean, nurture it, and take care of it, it will slowly heal.  Eventually, it will heal over and all that will be left is a small scar...to help you remember the good parts and learn from the past.  If you treat the wound with bitterness, anger and hatred, it will keep opening and festering.  A constant reminder of the bad hand you were dealt and the pain that you're going through - over and over again.

Forgiving one's self is the hardest of all.  Growing up in a family where divorce was not in the vocabulary made it especially difficult. So forgiving myself for a failing marriage was the hardest, especially when I thought about my children, division of the family, and all that bad stuff.   I am fortunate in that my ex-husband understood that we would forever be in each other's lives because of the children we have together.  We tried hard to never speak badly about one another in front of the children or otherwise.  We never allowed our kids to feel that they had to choose sides.  We worked hard to be there together for their birthdays and family events.  It was a lot of work, quite often very awkward, but in all things we thought first of our children.  And as they grew older, we had less parenting to do together, and so our differences became less and less prevalent.  Eventually, time healed the wounds and both of us  moved on and remarried.

Our children have now grown into adults.  My son was telling me the other day that he has so many friends who have divorced parents that can't stand to be in the same room with one another.  I am blessed that things worked out as they did, but it's not random chance.  Like I said, it takes a lot of work, an open heart and an ability to forgive. And it takes faith and prayer.  None of us are perfect.  Once I came to terms with this key fact, it became easier to forgive and move on.  When we pray the Lord's prayer, we ask, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."  In other words, forgive us the way that we forgive others.  I try very hard in all things not to judge someone.  I leave that up to God.  When it's time, He will be the one to judge.  My job at this time, is to spread His love and light to others.  This is my daily prayer.

This past October, we had the honor of sharing a very blessed moment together.  My ex-husband and I walked our daughter down the aisle together as she approached the altar to marry her best friend and the love of her life.  When we kissed her and gave her over to her handsome groom, we took our place in the pew as her loving parents - next to our respective spouses.  Love is forever.  Sometimes it changes shape and reinvents itself.  Old wounds heal, and all that remains is a small scar to remember the good times, to learn from the difficult times, and to revel in the beauty of a life well-loved.

21 February 2013

Controlling My Inner Martha

Painting by Dr. He Qi       www.heqigallery.com
On our drive home from church on Sunday afternoons, my mom and I usually like to discuss the day's sermon.  This Sunday, being the Sunday of Expulsion  we were talking about obedience to God, the shortcomings of humanity, and then, out of the blue, my mom says, "You know...there's one Bible story that I just don't like!  It's the story of the two sisters, Mary and Martha."  So I asked her what it was that didn't sit right with her.  So she told  me the story:  Jesus was good friends with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  The story goes that Jesus was invited to dinner, and Martha tended to all the house prep, cooking and cleaning and serving her guest, while Mary sat at Christ's feet and listened to His teachings.  When Martha had had just about enough of being the only one working, she asks Jesus if it's right that Mary is just kicking back while she's slaving away over a hot stove, and Jesus gives Martha a kind little reprimand saying that her sister has the right idea.  Okay, this is the simplified "mom" version...but it's on the money.  And mom continued, "I don't like it because Martha is working so hard.  I'm like Martha.  If Jesus were coming to my home, of course I would want the BEST that I have to offer for Him.  I would want to put out the best food, and make sure my house was clean.  I'd want to make sure that he was offered food and drink.  And I'd want him to feel at home.  So poor Martha is doing all of this and her sister is just sitting there!  Of course Martha would be upset.  I would be upset too.  That's why I don't get this story.  Didn't Jesus see that Martha was doing all of that for Him?  Why did Jesus take sides with Mary?"

We did talk about the obvious answer...that Christ wants us to listen to Him, to spend time with Him.  The rest of the hoopla is not important. But we arrived home, and then  there was lunch to fix, so the discussion got cut short.  But I have been thinking about this for two days now and came to the conclusion that there were two issues at hand.

The first is  "Priorities".  It's not so much that Mary was spending time with Christ - that's a given.  But it's more about the fact that Mary put Christ first above everything else.  Mary understood that once Jesus came to their home, she would put aside everything else and make Christ her priority because nothing else could be as important as being "present" in Christ..  I mean, when would she ever have that opportunity again?  And because of that, would she want to sit and absorb everything she could about Him? or would she want to be dishing up pilav in the kitchen?  On the other hand, that part is important too.   It's just not AS important.  So I was thinking of these priorities during my morning prayer.  I like to pray first thing in the morning, at about 5:00 a.m.  I love this special time alone in the morning, and my intention is good - to set aside quality time with God - BUT my life is hectic.  Inevitably during my prayer time, as I'm trying to purge my mind and focus on prayer, the Martha in me makes an appearance and allows my day-to-day to creep in.  Then Mary corrals my thoughts back to prayer. Then Martha reminds me of all I have to do, then Mary takes the reins, well, you get the idea.  I'm going to have to work on that.  Focus and prioritization!

And then the second fault of Martha was that she allowed what started off as her JOY - to offer her hospitality to Christ - to become a negative.  Her goal was to do something wonderful to show her love for Jesus.  But she allowed anger, resentment, and jealousy toward her sister to creep in.  She was probably feeling like she wanted Jesus' praise for all the trouble she was going through for Him.  Instead Mary was the shining star of the day.  I can totally understand how she felt.  And the Bible doesn't mention how Martha's comments probably hurt Mary and caused her embarrassment .  Negativity breeds negativity.   Sometimes, it's the very thing that we're most passionate about that can frustrate us the most.  Only because we have a vision of how we want things to be.  And there's a healthy dose of pride - okay, an unhealthy dose -  attached as well as we embark on the path to making things "just so."  But we are not perfect.  It's better to let things go that we are not in control of.  We can't control what someone else does.  We can't control the Mary.  Mary is just fine the way she is.  All we can do, is control the Martha.  Try our best to do our best, but in all things to act out of extreme love.

During this Lenten season, I'm going to try to control my inner Martha, and set my priorities on living a Christ-centered life more like Mary.  With only four weeks to go, I have my work cut out for me.

14 February 2013

An Amazing Love - or - The Love Gene

I don't know how they do it.  Nurses.  I read a post on Facebook just yesterday and in a nutshell, it said this:  They don't have time to take care of their physical needs because they are taking care of ours.  They get yelled at because our medication is late, they are away from their families because they are there taking care of ours.  I know this all too well because in 2011, I was hospitalized three times over a six month period.  And while I was going through all that, my daughter Ani was a nursing student.  As a nurse's aide, I heard all about her day to day and so I tried, despite my pain, to be kind to my nurses.  When I was going through my bouts of cancer, my daughter was there by my side, not quite a nurse yet, but so loving and caring.  She would follow up with my appointments, question my doctors, sit beside me to offer support.  All good training for what was ahead.  That very year, I proudly watched her graduate nursing school just 6 weeks after my surgery,  and the following year I was there to celebrate the completion of her nursing residency.  And so why am I bringing this up now?  Old news, right?

Well, today is Valentine's day.  A day to appreciate those we love.  And I wanted to share this with you because it touched my heart.  This morning I got on the bus at 6:30 a.m.  In my mad rush to get out of the house on time, I grabbed my phone off the charger, threw it in my pocket and made it to the bus on time.  Looking down at my phone when I finally sat down, I saw a text message from my daughter:  "I just went to see my patient.  He's not looking too good.  Please keep him in your prayers."  My daughter and I are united in a lot of things, but one of the strongest of these is prayer.  So I prayed - on the 409 Commuter bus - for her patient.  That God give his body strength to receive the medications, treatments and care.  But also, that if that was not possible, that He not allow this child to suffer long.  I texted her back.  and looking at my phone I realized that her text had come to me at midnight.  6.5 hours earlier.  I wrote her...apologizing for the delay...asking how her patient was, hoping that he made it through.  But she responded that he had passed away during the night.  This patient had been in her life in and out of the course of a year.  Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, he was in the hospital frequently.  I could "hear" it in her text message, and later in her voice when she drove home in the early morning.  Just as our nurses grow on us; so too do their patients grow on them.  They think of them; pray for them; and have hope for them.  And this loss affected my daughter.

I rode into downtown thinking about all of this.  How do nurses do it? Faced with life and death everyday?  I don't know if I'd be able to be so strong.  And it got me thinking of the difference between them and us.  I think that some people are blessed by God with the "love gene".  It's not a scientific thing...or maybe it is...but it's the love gene that makes a nurse able to comfort someone's sick child in the middle of the night.  It's the love gene in a nurse that restores a hospitalized teen's dignity when they need cleaning up;  It's the love gene that enables a young nurse to dry her tears at the loss of a patient, and in their grieving, turn around, put on a smile and help someone else that's in need.  The love gene is patient, kind and nurturing.  And it is filled with hope and compassion.

So on this Valentine's Day, I wanted to send a special love note out to all those amazing nurses!   Thank you for all you do.  From all of us: parents and patients.  Thank you for being patient and kind with us with us even though  sometimes we aren't patient and kind with you.  Thank you for hurting when we hurt.  And for your amazing love.  You are a blessing in our world.  Oh, and a special note to my daughter...I love you,  Ani.  You are my hero!

07 February 2013

Looking Inward for Lent

It's hard to believe, but January is over and February is well underway.  For those of us that made resolutions, it's time to revisit them and assess our progress. This year, I chose one word to be a mantra, a resolution for myself.  And that word is "Balance."   I chose this word to help me focus on balancing my life, my diet, my time, my sleep.  One month into the new year, I'm still not feeling like I'm hitting the mark, but I am working on it.  The year's not over yet. 

But there's another time to set aside some time for introspection other than new year.  And that's the period of lent.   As young children, we would think for weeks about what we were going to "give up" for lent.  It had to be something we truly loved and never homework or brussels sprouts.  Inevitably, my mom and I would always give up chocolate.  But as I got older and started learning about our Armenian Orthodox faith, I started following the dietary restrictions for this period.  A full vegan diet for 40 days.  The first few years were tough, but now, we're so used to it, that's it's a welcome change for us as we bring our diets down to the basics in the idea of simplifying our lives.  

But it's not only about what we're taking into our bodies that we need to focus on, but also a look inward.  I'll never forget a lesson I learned from one of my friends at church.  This was about 6 or 7 years ago.  We had just come out of church and were standing outside chatting.  I don't remember what the conversation was about, but I turned to my friend and I started, "I shouldn't say this but..." and before I could say another word, he stopped me and said, "Then don't!"  I always remember that.    Yes, I was embarrassed for myself, but my friend was acting out of love...and he was so right.  We had just left church.  We had just taken the body and blood of Christ within us.  So his "Then don't" admonition really struck a cord and I think of that day and his words often.  And it's saved me on many occasions from gossiping.

That year, besides our vegan dietary restrictions, I also gave up gossiping for lent.  Not only not gossiping, but refusing to be part of the listening end as well.  That's the tough one.  But I learned something too.  I learned that if I couldn't speak or listen to the bad comments about someone, that without the fueling by words of the negativity about that person, their shortcomings soon fizzled out and were forgotten.  Isn’t that what we ask for ourselves? To be forgiven…for our misdeeds or wrongs to be forgotten?  Once you remove that factor, you realize that we are all the same inside...with insecurities, and good days and bad. It's the very negativity of gossip that fuels that hatred and ill-will, and makes us unable to forgive or live up to our full potentials as Children of God.  So my gossip restriction is something that I try to do year-round, but during lent, I am able to give it more focus.

But it doesn’t need to be about that either.  But more of an introspection on ourselves.  What can we improve about ourselves?  Maybe it’s having a little more patience with an elderly person in your life.  Maybe it’s changing your attitude at work.  Or a conscious effort to see the good in small things.  How about spending quality time with God and setting aside a daily prayer time?  Or taking a Facebook break and spending that time with your family or helping someone in need.  The possibilities are endless.

As we start our personal Lenten journeys, whatever they may be, let’s ask God for strength to show us how He sees us…and to work on those things that we fall short of.  We are works in progress.  Let’s embrace this Lenten period as a time of much needed renewal – body, mind and spirit.

Oh!  I almost forgot!!  :  If you're working on getting healthy (losing weight, exercising, etc.), follow my new blog:  the Journey of The Pudgy Pomegranate.  Let's do this together! 

Truly!  I looked up "gossip" images on Google, and look what I found!