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The Devil’s Tool

Affirmation: I Choose Joy.

Joy to the world! The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

The 2016 Christmas season is here as I write this. Christmas day has come and gone but the season itself lasts until January 6th, Three Kings’ Day. I had spent the beginning of the season preparing for Christmas. I was ready. The question, however, that I kept asking myself was for what had I, we, all of us been preparing?

st._michael__event_image-1At the beginning of Advent Father Ryan at Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic Church offered a suggestion to help the faithful prepare. He simply suggested that we focus on joy. It’s such a simple suggestion, so simple but like so many things in life, so very difficult. Maybe not for everyone but I have a feeling it’s true for many people especially at this time of year when we are being reminded, have been reminded for many weeks about how the season “should” look and feel.

I’ve been facilitating a group at A Place for Women to Gather here in Raleigh, North Carolina for the last few months of 2015. We call it “A Sacred Circle.” There are half a dozen women who participate, sometimes more. We take some time to center and talk some about our journaling process. We each create a positive affirmation to focus on for the month, or perhaps the year or maybe for our entire lives. The question I usually ask is, “Do you find that focusing on your affirmation has made any difference in your life?” Let’s face it, if you’re working on living intentionally and you aren’t seeing or feeling any difference, you should find another approach; although I believe with all my being that if you’re truly working on this process of journaling and writing out your affirmations, it cannot not work. The answer is usually “definitely.” I share this with you because my affirmation for December ( or perhaps forever) is, “I focus on the joy in all things.” How, you may ask, has that worked for me?

My gifted acupuncturist, Jennifer Spain, of Ancient Elements Accupuncture always seems to have a lesson for me along with the healing she encourages. Maybe the two can’t be separated. One of our sessions focused on how we manifest reality. I’ve always believed in that principle. It’s another of my affirmations, “I am always manifesting. I manifest my highest and best.” She took this to another level when she proposed that everything that becomes “real” begins energetically. I must admit I forget that we are energy. We are pure energy, just like the moon and the stars, the flowers and the trees, the hills and the dales. It’s hard to imagine that our solid forms are a zillion little atoms and other forms of energy that appear to be solid but that’s the reality. Not only are we first formed by “intention” but everything that comes about begins with a thought, either consciously or unconsciously. Recognizing this concept brings a whole new importance to choosing our thoughts. Do I want to manifest joy or do I manifest fear and anxiety and all the other negative emotions that bring sadness and gloom?

Have you ever been rolling along feeling great and having fun when all of a sudden some unsettling thought pops into your head? I was sitting at a delightful concert with my husband when out of the blue I began to become anxious about some event that I was imagining might take place at sometime in the future. I couldn’t believe what I was doing to myself. All of a sudden my heart was beating too fast, my hands became sweaty and my muscles were feeling achy. Where, how, why was this going on? The joy I had been feeling just moments before was sucked out and I was in “fight or flight” mode. I felt terrible. How did this benefit me? Who did it benefit? Was this how my loving God wanted me to feel? I don’t think so.

images-1There’s a lot of stories about the devil. Of course, it all begins for most Christians with Genesis and the creation story of the Garden of Eden. The story is that he took the form of a snake and transformed the garden into the world we have now. He, Satan, did not want those two people, Adam and Eve, or for that matter any of us to be content and happy. Whether or not you take the tale literally the message is the same. There is a force beyond our understanding that relishes our state of suffering; not only does it relish it, it does whatever is necessary to promote it. As I sat at that concert and felt that feeling of panic come over me, I decided the devil was moving in using his or her tools to sap my joy and my peace. Once I discovered who or what was at work here, I could then chase it away with a command to “go to hell” or “get behind me Satan” and reclaim my equilibrium. The devil may have tools but I have tools too. I have prayer and faith and a brain that I can use to foster those skills that sooth me and lift me up and one that has changed my life is deciding how and what I want to claim. I claim joy!

Tom Hanks portrayed James Donovan in the film Bridge of Spies. It’s the story of the Cold War and an attorney who is asked by his government to facilitate the swap of a prisoner of war between Russia and the US. The spy is played by the veteran actor Mark Rylance. Tom Hanks keeps asking him if he’s worried, frightened, anxious? And the spy, Rudolph Abel keeps answering with the phase, “Would that make a difference?” Since its release several people have mentioned this movie to me and each one has focused on that phase. “Would that make a difference?” Everyone seemed to understand that it would not. The challenge is to move that understanding from our heads to our hearts. Once we’ve accomplished that, we will be in a very good place.

MV5BNDkzODEyOTU0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQyNDI5NjE40._V1_UY100_CR252C02C1002C100_AL_My preparation for Christmas revolved around my affirmation created during our December Sacred Circle, “I choose joy in all things” and I found that it did definitely make a difference in how I approached not only the season but each activity in which I participated, each person with whom I interacted, and most importantly each moment I was able to let the intention of claiming joy reside in my heart.

May you too have a Blessed, Joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Legions of Angels

Affirmation: I believe I am surrounded and supported by Christ and His legions of Angels and spiritual guides. I am empowered and feel nurtured when I stop and recognize their presence.

 

belleruth-1When I first listened to Belleruth Naparstek’s CD, Guided Mediation to Help with Chemotherapy I was greatly comforted by her description of spiritual beings who came to assist me with my
healing, “some of which look familiar.” As I listened I clearly envisioned the presence of several ethereal beings and yes, one looked very familiar. He was my father, Francis Grolimund, long
deceased but whose memory and presence always seems to be lingering about me. I’ve listened to and played that recording dozens of times. I love to end a yoga session with it. It’s full of
hope and tools to encourage healing.

I’ve been dealing with a chronic ache the last year and a half and found myself feeling weak and discouraged. I’d done all within my power to help my body heal, much of which revolved around alternative healing. I did go the western medicine route also but that too did not present an answer.

journal-1When I journal I’m usually writing a stream of consciousness. I do always try to focus on three joys from the day before and list one for the day to come but otherwise it’s just my form of rambling and dumping. It’s a gift I give myself. I love the practice. One day, however, I remembered my friend’s approach to her morning ritual. Joan Junginger often talks about her “coffee with Jesus.” Periodically I’ve tried writing to God or the Angels. It never seemed to resolve anything but I was becoming quite desperate and decided this one morning to give it another try and to write that letter to Jesus and see if anything new appeared.

When Joan, cofounder of The Heart’s Journey, leads retreats which she recently did for a large group of women at St. Michael the Archangel and which I had attended, she normally encourages the participants to write such a letter and then she instructs them to write a letter to themselves from Jesus. I heard some remarkable stories from a few of the women who had been doing this exercise for a several years. I’m sure that’s why the journaling on this one morning was taking on a new twist.

ScreenShot2015-10-28at8.32.03PMAs I wrote out my concerns to the Lord I found a name appearing on the page that I hadn’t thought about in a very long time. This woman, Suzanne Egan, is a massage therapist and a health and wellness coach. She’s lived and worked in my area for many years and is very knowledgeable about the different physicians and practices. I had struggled with a hip issue for many
years when I first showed up at her practice and with her guidance I was led to Sangini Rane of Apex PT, who specializes in Postural Restoration Therapy and who guided me to a pain free hip. After my journaling was done I immediately contacted Suzanne. Luckily she was still at the same number. She responded right away and had several suggestions for my latest challenge that I had not fully investigated. Even better was the fact that she had a couple of clients who had dealt successfully with the same issue. She contacted them and got their referrals and then made a few more recommendations of her own. I know you’ve had this experience too. I was being given the gift of hope.

creatingpositiveThen too as I wrote I began to value all the years and hours I had put into my prayer life. I don’t always take credit for the fact that I’ve been practicing my faith for my whole
life and I’ve been especially fervent for the last 40 plus years. Each morning I invite all my Angels and especially my guardian Angel, Saranna, and my guides to join me. It’s the prayer I say when I wake and as I begin my journaling. It’s on the last page of my book, Creating Positive Affirmations,Living an Intentional Life.

Lord, be united with me
this day and always. I invite You and
all those who nurture and guide me,
seen and unseen to aid me in bringing glory and honor and praise to this gift
of life You have so generously given me.

This particular morning I found myself picturing those spiritual beings manifesting themselves around me but it felt different. For the first time I felt the presence of a legion of beings, not just the few I’d always called upon. I felt like a curtain had been raised. I hadn’t been able to see everyone who answered my call until that day. I had been limiting God’s response. I was shocked to realize my small mindedness. I’ve always known we get to choose whether to go to God in prayer with a thimble, a bucket or a pipeline but I hadn’t let the knowledge go from my head into my heart and this day, for the first time, it weaved it’s way right down into the center of my being.

JesusandAngelsI created a new affirmation to cement the concept and have been saying it and writing it every day since then.

I believe I
am surrounded and supported by Christ and His legions of Angels and spiritual
guides. I am empowered and feel nurtured when I stop and recognize their
presence.

I’ve even had visions of those animated armies you see in some of the sci-fi films. The ones where the beings cover the entire landscape and keep coming over the hills and ridges. I know it sounds extreme, maybe a little (?) crazy but just like all my affirmations, it brings me a sense of calm and even power, which I had misplaced while dealing with this issue.

I’ve followed Suzanne’s recommendations and I’m saying my affirmation daily to tap into the Divine army available to my loved ones and me. I can’t tell you at this time if I’m cured but something very deep within me has shifted and I am not carrying around that initial sense of weakness and powerlessness any longer. I’ve been here before with other physical challenges especially with my hip and many years ago with breast cancer and I must say this is a good place. My heart and my head are finally united and I’m in a place of hope and positive expectation.

guides-1I share this with you in case you too have been going to God with just a small container, not attaching the pipeline that is right there in front of you. Perhaps, you too will begin to
envision a legion of spiritual beings surrounding you and protecting you and giving you the support with whatever you’re dealing so that you too will experience hope and peace and feel strong and powerful.

“May the power of angels come to greet you may they lead you to paradise,” both here and in the hereafter.

Have Courage and Be Kind

Affirmation: I live a Christ centered life of love, hope, peace, gratitude and compassion.

LouisePenny26BookLouise Penny, the author of the crime novels about Three Pines, Canada and Inspector Gamache came to Meredith College in September of this year, 2015 to promote her newest book, The Nature of the Beast. It’s her twelfth book in this series. The auditorium was full. I guessed there to be about 300 people there. I became a fan a few years back when one of the women in my book group, Anne Brill, recommended Mrs. Penny’s work. My husband, Sandy and I like to listen to a good book if we have an extended drive and I purchased The Beautiful Mystery for us several years ago. We were immediately hooked. We can’t wait for our next long trip to delve into the newest novel and to be reunited with the inspector and the rest of our new “friends.”

ScreenShot2015-09-16at11.59.32AMLouise didn’t really speak about her books because she said she might give away some of the story line which she felt would interfere with her reader’s enjoyment. Instead she spoke about her
journey to becoming a successful writer. It wasn’t an unusual story. It took her a long time and required quite a bit of stamina and also a few serendipitous events. One event revolved around a fundraiser in a foreign country where she met her publisher, the only person with whom she had an encounter during the whole night. Her whole story was interesting but the message with which I came away was about “kindness.”

She said she modeled the inspector after her husband. If you’ve read any of her work you will know the inspector is a wonderful man. He is a family man, he cares deeply about his coworkers and he rises above the call of duty to a place of kindness and compassion. What a gift to have someone in your life like that, and especially the person with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life. I know it’s a gift because I too have a husband like that. When she spoke about the qualities these men exemplify she focused on kindness. It was a short sentence but it emphasized to
me the power of words. “It is easier to be mean than it is to be kind.” Well, I thought, isn’t that the truth!

Don’t you love it when the same message repeats itself in your life? Why, I wonder am I hearing this concept on a regular basis. What is God or simply the Universe trying to tell me? What more am I to learn? Over the last two weeks the phrase, “have courage and be kind” has appeared two more times. I bet you didn’t know that those were Cinderella’s mother’s last words to Ella. Disney’s latest adaptation of the famous fairytale added that phrase. In this edition, Cinderella wasn’t simply saved by the handsome prince, they chose to empower her with qualities that enabled her to change her life and still be compassionate. Thank heavens!

It seems to me it’s so much easier for people to be spiteful, to be right, to be “all about me and not about you.” We all recognize when we are being treating kindly. Are we called to be kind to everyone? It seems we are. We are even called to be kind to our enemies. What does that look like? Does it take more energy to be kind than mean or indifferent? Maybe it just takes a
different kind of energy. I believe it certainly takes a more conscientious effort to rise to the higher good than to sink to the lowest common denominator.

Kindness is a close relative of compassion. Many of the messages I’ve received lately in several of my readings have revolved around my responsibility to show compassion for the marginalized and suffering of the world. Compassion is kindness put into action. I believe as I age that responsibility becomes even greater. This is a time in my life when I have the luxury of having more time and how I use that time is very important. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. I must confess there are many days when I look around and can’t even imagine what steps I can take
to help the world. It helps for me to recognize that I support several projects that reach out beyond my normal sphere of influence to the benefit of those who need exceptional help. I really can’t help the whole world but I can do some things that makes a difference or can I?

Starfish-1Do you know the story about the boy who is throwing starfish into the ocean? A man comes along and asks him what he’s doing and he explains he’s saving lives. The man laughs and tells him he’s wasting his time; he can’t possible save all the starfish. It’s not making a difference. The boy picks up another starfish and throws it into the ocean and says, “Well, I made a difference to that one.” My sister, Gloria Hafner, was a specialized reading teacher in NY. She took one or two students at a time and helped them learn to read at or above age level. She always told anyone who would listen about her work and that she had, “made a difference to that one.”

Pope-and-Ecuadorian-woman-2015-1At the time of this entry Pope Francis is about to come to the United States. There has been a lot of publicity revolving around his visit. His approach to the world is causing quite a stir. He seems to me to be filled with love and compassion. He wants us all to fill ourselves with these intentions and then to put them into action. He doesn’t want to hear excuses and he doesn’t want or be our judge or jury. He is encouraging everyone to hear the message of Jesus and to go forward to make the world a better place. I personally find his message and his example to be refreshing, inspirational and challenging.

One of my efforts revolves around my belief in the power of prayer. I pray the Rosary daily for those “who most need God’s mercy.” I am trusting that my prayers seep out into the universe and relieve someone’s pain and suffering. It seems to me there is so much anguish. Perhaps the world is always like it is now and we simply see it more clearly because of the media but what is taking place especially at this time with the refugees from Syria and Africa is beyond tragic.

Miracles-1One of the conversations I’ve had recently revolved around energy and our ability to influence it. The scientist I spoke with didn’t believe there was such a thing and that the only reason there was any sort of change was due to a placebo effect. I didn’t feel qualified to argue with him but I left feeling very sad. He didn’t believe in mystery. He only believed in “mastery.” He only seemed to believe in what he could see and touch and prove. I am sure he is not alone but I need “mystery.” I need to believe that there is more to this life than what I perceive.

I don’t believe there will ever be any definite proof that our thoughts and prayers change the world but I truly believe they do. I actually embrace the mystery and imagine one day when I am no longer physically part of this world, being shown how the time and effort I made to send help to others through prayer manifested itself. It’ll be my judgment day. I’ll see where I failed to rise to the level of a higher plane and where I truly made a difference because I cared and was willing to take the time and make an effort to pray.

Maybe that’s why lately the words, “courage” and “kind” are appearing together. It may be harder to be kind than mean and kindness is a very important quality to practice but it takes courage to be compassionate. It takes the ability to “suffer with” another and that is very hard. It’s so much easier to turn off the TV or to turn away from the homeless and hungry. Pope Francis and now even
Disney are calling all of us to step outside of our comfort zone and find a way to help those in need. Perhaps it will be with prayer. Perhaps it will be only to reach out to one person, someone for whom we can claim, “it made a difference to that one.”

ScreenShot2015-09-16at12.25.49PM

Tools for Better Aging

Affirmation: The Best is Yet to Come.

 

Unknown-3-2On a delightful day in the North Carolina Mountains, my friend, Travis and I headed to the Watauga County Farmer’s Market. What would we find? We found fresh from the farm fruits and veggies, hand crafted pottery and jewelry, home made jams and soaps, wild flowers and giant sunflowers and a street musician or two. There were gifts for all of the senses and there were all types of people from the farmers and craft people to the tourists and the “snow birds.” So, while we found loads of goodies, the neatest part of our outing was meeting a couple of the vendors who were not selling produce but were selling services.

logo-2One young woman was there representing the Women’s Sustainable Agriculture Association. The following Saturday was to be the local garden and farm tour. You would receive a map and for $15 you could spend the day driving from farm to farm. She was with AmeriCorps. She explained it was like the Peace-core. Her two year assignment was almost up and when I asked her about her experience she exclaimed that it was, “wonderful!” Wonderful! Wow, I immediately wanted to be in my early twenties and a volunteer or perhaps I could at least share the concept with my grandchildren and encourage them towards “wonderful.”

fairydaysquaresmall-2Then we headed to the Daniel Boone Gardens. They were sponsoring “Fairy Day.” There were dozens of little girls skipping around in tutus, flowery headbands and gossamer wings. Once again I wished I were younger and had a pair of those shiny sparkle wings. Part of the event included a group from Appalachian State University. They were there representing the AgeLabs of the Psychology Department. The young woman, Lisa Emery, we stopped to chat with was a professor in that department and they were looking for older adults to volunteer for some of their research projects. Would we be interested? Well, I wasn’t young enough to join AmeriCorps and I felt too old to wear fairy wings and tutus but I didn’t feel old enough to qualify for an “older adult” research study.

As we talked we gravitated towards my favorite subject, our self-talk; how we create it and how it influences every aspect of our lives. She shared that one of the studies regarding aging and attitude showed a direct relationship between our later years and our perception of aging. For example, if one believes that one’s memory will definitely deteriorate as one ages, one’s memory will most likely become worse. What that pre-conceived notion also creates is a vacuum for a helpful medial diagnosis like a hormonal issue, a thyroid condition or even perhaps a brain tumor. This belief system may lead one to an earlier deterioration or even an early death.

What are your pre-conceived beliefs about aging? Do you think you must get heavier, weaker, less agile, more crotchety? Perhaps you think you’ll be a worse driver, have no real purpose, or not find any meaning in life anymore. Maybe you’re someone who chooses to see the later years as a time of freedom and adventure. Guess what? The future you imagine is more likely to happen than not. Certainly, if you do not see a future filled with blessings and possibilities, even when they arrive you probably won’t recognize them.

Unknown-1-2Sister Joan Chittister in The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully says one of the challenges of aging is that there’s no defined purpose to life after the age of 70. Before that most people, not in a third world country, are getting an education, then raising a family and developing a career and finally crafting a retirement plan and then “wham” if you’re one of the lucky ones you’re on your own to figure out what life without a societal definition looks like. I find her writing to be uplifting and filled with hope. Her chapter on Immediacy reminded me, once again, of the power I have to choose moment to moment, day to day, on what I want to focus. She writes, “What we too often fail to realize is that living fully depends a great deal more on our frame of mind, our fundamental spirituality, than it does on our physical condition.”

images-2-2The question that I find myself asking is, how do I want to live out the years I have left? What words do I want to choose to craft a joyful, meaningful later life? I have some of the most inspirational older men and women in my life. I want to emulate them. I have one dear friend, Joanne, who at this time is almost retired and has prepared for it by taking up gardening at the NC Museum of Art, helping different chefs demonstrate their cooking techniques at a local kitchen shop, refurbishing furniture for people with limited incomes who are trying to set up a home and she also became a qualified “barbecue” judge. Another of my dear friends, Jean, is a phenomenal artist who founded and supports The Cary Artist’s (coop) Gallery. Two of my heroines are Sisters Mary Margaret and Judy, who are co-directors of A Place for Women to Gather in Raleigh, NC. At the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program there are dozens of retirees who show up once a week and sometimes more often to be patient navigators and supporters. The list is endless. People who created meaningful, fulfilling lives after their years of defined work.

images-4Some of my passions are learning, yoga, the fiddle and writing. I love to travel too. I love a car trip. I actually took up the fiddle because of my deceased Uncle Frank. I never heard him play but I knew he played with the Long Island Senior Symphony until his late 90s. He and my dearly departed Aunt Alice had a very rich older life revolving around their music and their church. I recognized that I might need something I could do while sitting. Little did I realize the physical toll violin playing or fiddling can take on the body. (I’m often asked, “What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle?” The answer came from a seven year old one day. “A violin has strings and a fiddle has strangs.”) It has been a joy learning how to fiddle. As an adult learner I still struggle but I love love love playing. If my arm and shoulder don’t cooperate, I plan to take up the Irish drum. (If you’d like to see my group in action view, The Elderberry Jam Band: https://youtu.be/Bp7hu358LH8.)

I plan to stay strong. I see myself as still agile and alert. I see myself still trying new things and embracing new people and new ideas. I see myself surrounded by love and compassion. I see myself as still contributing anyway possible, especially with prayer, to hopefully make this world a better place. I can’t help but see some of the challenges and loses I will also face but I see myself dealing with those the same way I’ve dealt with the ones in the past, with grace, dignity and even some humor. I think the affirmation that most fits this concept of looking towards the future with excitement and optimism is: The Best is yet to Come. I can own those words. I can believe that with all the tools I’ve collected over my lifetime, especially that of my faith, family and friends, life will be better as I age than it has ever been before.

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