Archive for the 'Joy' Category



18
Jun
11

bridging boundaries

The weeks following my last entry, The Color of Hope, have left me wondering what on earth I had left to say. This blog began in the fall of 2009, as a forum for sharing my experiences since returning to the church after a serious bout of lymphoma, the joys and sorrows that return yielded, and the learning curve that has been the composite result.

I gave this blog the title, Called by Name, because that was the passage given to me toward the end of my cancer regimen. Since I changed my first name to Naomi at my Mennonite baptism in 1975, the notion of having been called by name—through cancer and to life beyond—has often been an affirming and sustaining force. Nevertheless, my partner, Judy and I, were unprepared for the painful ordeal the ultimate denial of church membership would be. We had answered the congregation’s and the pastor’s invitation to come follow Jesus with them. That decision proved to be a considerable leap of faith on our part which was not met by the congregation. During the time we were there, I lost my sister to cancer; was receiving periodic maintenance treatment for my own cancer; and my adopted daughter, Bettina, entered her third round of chemo therapy. It was an excruciatingly  difficult and painful period, wherein I became more familiar with the Job story than I’d ever thought possible. We had returned as prodigals, but it was Job and the scapegoat (Leviticus 16) we experienced in that congregation. In a wildly out of control, congregational meeting on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2009, we were categorically denied membership and walked out of the meeting with hearts torn to shreds and legs turned to stilts. One family left with us, easing the humiliation that filled us like flames dancing in a campfire.

Two weeks later, we arrived at the Little Church at the Edge of the City, bruised and battered. We were welcomed into the new congregation, but the situation was challenging to them as well as to us…particularly with the death of Bettina just 9 months later. Many personal difficulties ensued, but we all pressed on as best we could. Fits and starts would be one way of describing those two years—June, 2009 to June, 2011—a roller-coaster of deep despair, longing, grief, and loneliness would be another. Despite having been easily accepted into membership, and the efforts of the Little Church to help us, the experience of exclusion and loss had become embedded like a seed planted in my heart. Little by little, anguish nourished the seed into action, and I became an advocate for the peace and justice inclusion of all persons into the Mennonite Church—one of the world’s oldest peace churches! I spoke out declaratively…but without Bettina’s support and enthusiasm, the road often felt lonely and sometimes a bit scary. Except for a few friends, I just did not feel woven into the warp and woof of congregational life.

Then, just a month short of the two-year anniversary of that miasmic denial of membership, this congregation surprised us by voting unanimously to celebrate and officiate at lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) weddings and civil unions! My personal world took a decidedly positive turn and healing seemed miraculously instantaneous. Suddenly I was not a single voice speaking for inclusion and civil justice. There was a chorus behind me and with me. That was the color of hope…a rainbow of hope.

Marbling throughout the agonizing times, have also been blessings. I do not deny this at all, but the way has been hard…faith-building some will say, and in hind-sight I can agree, but the process itself left me feeling alone and lonely in a crowd much of the time.

In a few weeks Judy and I will apply for a civil union license and on August 21, we, and this brave little church on the edge of the city will come together in a civil union ceremony. Hard to believe, but true! After nearly 34 years together, Judy and I will be entitled many of the legal rights and privileges heretofore denied us. What I will enjoy the most is Judy’s relationship to me changing on the medical documents I sign each time I visit oncology: from neighbor/friend to Civil Union Partner.

Yeah, for the Little Church and yeah for the lovely pastor who feareth not what might befall.

17
May
11

the color of hope

Yesterday, I began thinking about hope—what it looks like—what makes it happen—what prevents it from being.  I am very familiar with anxiety, despair and hopelessness, as well as many additional states of human consciousness residing on the left side of the ‘miserable to ecstatically joyful’ spectrum. I know what these three feel and look like (to me).

Anxiety, that memory file of unrest and dis-ease, comes in neon variations of brilliant orange, disorienting magenta, brazen fuchsia, magnetic blue, electric purple—all colors except for green—the color of gardens and the earthily serene. Despair, a cousin by marriage to Anxiety, comes invited in by Emotional Pain, with its outer coat of sadness and discord. These haunting dragoons appear in coats of mossy earth tones, capable of generating into steely gray without much warning. Hopelessness, and its deeper shadow, Depression, are big wingless, flocking birds. They are hard to separate and harder to overlook. They come in hot and cold grunge fashion with overlapping shadows of midnight blue and lamp black…often with vivifying streams of hot pink or red flashing throughout.

Some people are hard-wired in ways that make them vulnerable to all of this. Others less so. I am one of the former. My glass tends to be half, to three-quarters empty (as the saying goes). And when it is full, I am overwhelmed by the fullness and feel joy—a state about as common as a four-leaf clover. Happy is a far more common state, but I do not know what it means. I hear this word everywhere. What is it and why is it so sought after? I have not found Happy to have much consequence. It seems ephemeral, like smiling and laughing. It is not fulfillment and it is not joy. I blow my birthday candles out, open my cards and feel happy. I hold my adorable kitties in my arms, hear them purr and feel happy. Far from being lifted or resolved, the concerns I carry are only set aside for a moment or a while.

My goal is joy in exploding colors of the rainbow—the same experience as being in love—an experience of complete, indescribably harmonious fulfillment. I get that when I dance at my InterPlay sessions and am transported beyond my self…into my Self…together with God. My cup is not half full or all full, it runneth over. How this happens is pretty simple: I drive to the place where the InterPlayers gather, participate fully and receive not only happiness, but Joy. It is a type of prayer and worship. Each time I go, I make a down payment on more of it. I haven’t lost my concerns or troubles, I’ve turned my mourning into dancing for a while and the color of anxiety/despair/hopelessness lightens. It does not disappear.

I make this happen because I take steps to be where it can happen. But sometimes joy seems to materialize out of thin air. One minute you are heavy laden with perhaps weeks, months, even years of travail that never seems to lessen or resolve, and then in a flash you are filled with joy and feeling ten pounds lighter…light enough to think you may fly if you so allow…light enough to welcome hope. That is an altogether different sort of happening, one seemingly begotten, not made.

Since 2000 when the film, The Perfect Storm entered our theaters and homes, we have adopted the film’s title to refer to tragic situations composed of parts and pieces of unpredictable events in relation to the fallibility of human decision-making. We often find a modicum of comfort in saying: “It was a perfect storm just waiting to happen.”

Last Sunday, at the little church at the edge of the city, where I worship, I had occasion to experience what I can only describe as the opposite of the perfect storm. I call it The Perfect Rainbow. Days and weeks beforehand, parts and pieces of unpredictability were coming together on many fronts, along with loving, careful,  human decision-making and the result for my partner and me was a deeply fulfilling experience that turned the water in our glasses into bubbling  champagne. More than three years of struggle and emotional pain were met by joy so deep, words could not be found. Had I the room to dance it and witnesses to join in, I would have surely outdone myself. Even now as I write this, my body wants to dance. It was a perfect rainbow after the thundering, crashing storms we’d experienced since returning to the church after an absence of thirty years. The events that led to this perfect rainbow were beyond counting and beyond orchestrating by any one person. Surely the Grace of God’s Holy Spirit was creatively present all the while.

I can still see the rainbow. It’s full from one end of the sky to the other and it brings me hope. The color of hope (for me) is the rainbow, full and audaciously beautiful in even a leaden sky. Storms will surely continue to come and go, but I saw a rainbow on Sunday and I’ve tucked it inside where all my memories reside…the good, bad and the ugly. I’ve given this one a special place. If I should forget its whereabouts, I trust a reminder will come one way or another, even in a perfect storm.

25
Nov
10

thank you

Thank you!

17
Nov
10

today is my birthday

Today is my birthday. For the curious: I am 72 going on 59. Have been through many deep valleys in my time and weathered many storms, even perfect ones like the one at the church that didn’t really want us. Nicks and scratches, bruises and bumps—these are the marks of having risked comfort many times over in order to live an authentic life. I did not acquire this character on my own and it doesn’t come without some anxiety and fear, but it appears to be part of my DNA. I hope I am learning how to carry it more faithfully…more trustfully.

I am a late bloomer in many ways. The first 40 years were preparatory, the following 20 years were rehearsal for the next 10, and those were the refinement for the current now, when the God in me and the me in God enjoy sharing tea together from time to time. I am grateful for this and all the blessings God gives to me. This year I lost an important person—one who called me Mamacita and sometimes, Kimosabe, and made us a family. It was a hard loss. Then God brought a new family to me, complete with two beautiful grandchildren. I did not think I would ever be a grandmother, even a step-grandmother. I didn’t know how much sunshine little kids can bring to a life full of years. Last Sunday my new family came to church with me and then to lunch. The girls made birthday cards for me and we had a lovely time together.

This one is Miss Green’s card. Miss Green has recently turned 9.  Both cards fold in the middle and have little cut-out hinges so they can “stand” on a table (more or less).  Clever Miss Green has included a greeting in Japanese and says that she does not know the greeting in Korean but wishes me a happy birthday…and she likes my drawing. 🙂 Good girl!

Miss Pink’s birthday card (note the coins taped on and the kitty face inside) Miss Pink will turn 6 the day after Thanksgiving. Miss Pink is an ardent admirer of both my art and my cats. Ah, right to my heart. I like your art too…but prefer my cats as they also prefer me. 🙂

These are happy little projects made especially for me. I’m thrilled to have them. Thank you girls. I love you both!!

Thank you readers—for your interest in my writing, experiences, thoughts, opinions….and the art I sometimes add in. Thank you for being there in the forest to hear the tree falling. It does make a sound after all. For many years I didn’t know this.

I have not made many postings lately because I’ve been busy with visual/worship art projects for my little church at the edge of the city. But soon this will be complete and I will have writing time again. I have so much catching up to do both on this blog and on my Drawing Sacred Circles blog. Stay tuned.

But in the meantime, this is me greeting you today.   

14
Aug
10

driving to the dairy queen

Three friends were driving to the Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat, oh so sorely deserved after a hard week at work without play, when suddenly at the crest of the hill they saw a marvelous site in the sky. “Did you ever see anything like that?” one said to the others. No—none had except in calendars and certain religious publications.

“Wow,’ they shouted, ‘wow, let’s get a picture!”

“Stop!’ one of the friends shouted to the driver, ‘Stop here!” The driver could not stop, but pulled in at the closest spot about 200 yards down the road (definitely not on the hill where the sky had been its most spectacular).

“Okay, here then. Take it! Take it before we lose any more of it!”

The shouting one was still shouting excitedly and most impatiently. The one with the camera snapped the shutter and away they all went like the down of a thistle. As they pulled in to the DQ and juggled their purses, “Aha!” they all thought as they confidently posted their orders for this and for that, at 1000 calories each.

“And aren’t we so clever

to have seen such a sight

and captured it now and forever?”

There you are dear friends: Heaven and Earth are full of such glory:  we three friends and, now you with us, too.

(Photo courtesy of Jane B. Halteman)

07
Jul
10

a very good day

Five days ago Darling Daughter and #1 son—the Captain—tossed aside their butterflies and wed. The ceremony began as Darling, preceded by Miss Green and Miss Pink, floated down the beautiful 19th century staircase to the sonorous tones of the Pachelbel Canon, and into the waiting arms of—the Captain. It was a perfect day for a wedding and a perfect day to be back in the home and company of Virgil and Joan Vogt of Reba Place Fellowship, where Darling and I began our Christian journey decades ago—a single parent and an only child, at the edge of our rope (so to speak). Who would have thought then that one day Darling would walk down those stairs? I learned recently that as a child she imagined herself being a bride and doing just that! It was paper dolls and dress-ups then. On July 3, 2010 it was for real. Time flies, buttered or not and our journeys take us through many nooks and crannies. This was definitely neither nook nor cranny. It was sunlit tips of sparrow wings and wispy breath, blue skies. It was a very good day to say… I do.

The Captain escorted Darling and the Misses Green and Pink into the living room. The immediate family followed and took their places in a circle of chairs. The pastor spoke a greeting and the candles were lit. It was a mesmerizing experience of hope and love and unity. The scripture was read, the words were spoken, the vows were uttered and voices in song filled the air.

After toasting the bride and groom with champagne and greeting each other, we watched as they walked out the door to the porch, where flower petals had been lovingly strewn by two of Darling’s  dear friends. We threw the ecologically correct birdseed and thanked God for blessings yet to come as they walked down the stairs and toward their car.

Then came the wedding luncheon at the Persian restaurant, Noon-O-Kabab, where the chef served us personally as honored guests, and we all ate more than we should have. But who can refuse a beautiful and most delicious piece of wedding cake? None of us did and I wish I had a piece right now! It was quite a banquet and quite a day. I have a lovely new family of four and an extended family of ten. That makes sixteen…a very good number.

28
Jun
10

6 days

In 6 days Darling Daughter and #1 Son, the Captain, will exchange wedding vows. The very next day 40 relatives and friends will descend upon my sister’s home where she is hosting a reception for the happy couple. I am not much thinking about any of this just now. I have too many vicissitudes of life sprouting on my shoulders. What happened to the golden years? I am now in that time period when life is supposed to be easy and pleasant. That is what was promised back when I was growing up. My body says it should be so, but the news and the mail and the world says something very different. Ten years ago I expected to live to be 90+ and not skip a beat. Today I am wondering what happened to the beat. I think the rhythm is completely different. There are days when I do not even understand the beat, let alone want to skip along with it.

Darling and Captain will begin a new song. I pray their lyrics do not lose their sweetness…that the God who dwells within them always has a place at their table.

And to Miss Green and Miss Pink, my new grandchildren…you are the sunshine on a cloudy day.




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