Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude

When aspens sing

When aspens sing
Hearts dance
And skip a beat
Rejoicing

A young deer
Peers through trunks
Upright
Gleaming

Quaking leaves
Tremble in harmony
Golden tones
Rustling

Feeling my way along
I peer down a fork in the road
Considering my options
Renewed

Changing of the year? Maybe.

The young deer reminds me of Aslan quietly appearing in the forest. How willing am I to follow the lead of a young deer, or an older lion? The magnitude of choices offered each day is overwhelming.

I want to make it through the forest this year. If not unscathed, then stronger than I was at the beginning. Grateful for eyes in the forest watching over me, traveling with me no matter which fork I take.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 January 2020
Photo of mule deer found at pinterest.com

What’s happening in my life

Dear Friends,

The last two weeks have been a roller-coaster ride, mostly downhill and out of control. My youngest sister has been and still is in the hospital after a Christmas Eve health emergency. Her future situation is unsettled, and her adult son is looking into multiple scenarios and choices. It all feels topsy-turvy. Like being shaken, not knowing where Sister #4 will land, or how it will change the landscape of our relationships with her.

The photo at the top shows our mother on the left, and the four of us. From left to right: Sister #2, #3 (Diane), #1 (me), and #4, now in the hospital. The photo of the four of us was taken in the late 1990s. This was Diane’s last trip to Savannah before ALS made travel like this impossible. Mom died in 1999, Diane in 2006.

I’m exceedingly grateful today for each of my sisters and for the relationships we developed with each other as adults. I grew up starving for sisterly conversation. Not because I chose starvation, but because it was the only way to survive the strictly enforced Good Girl Rules of our family.

In the midst of all this I received a congratulations message from WordPress. I passed my 6th Year anniversary! When I started out, I was terrified. What would I say and how would I say it? I still ask myself that question almost every day. Yet it doesn’t feel as terrifying as it did back then.

If anyone asked me today what I’ve learned so far as a blogger, it’s this. I’ve learned to trust myself and my readers. Putting pieces of my life out there was, and sometimes still is difficult. Yet I don’t know any other way to keep healing and finding my way from here to there, wherever these places might be.

I’m still getting back to regular posting, and some semblance of resolution about the current family emergency. Thanks for your faithful visits and prayers.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 January 2020
Photo of Sisters taken in Savannah, Georgia, in the late 1990s.

The Work of Christmas | Howard Thurman

This post from 23 December 2017 has had over 1000 visits, most of them this month. It’s as true today as it was back then–perhaps even more so, given the state of our current disunion. I hope you find Howard Thurman’s poem encouraging and challenging. 

This week I received a lovely Christmas note with a poem by Howard Thurman on the front. Howard Thurman (1899 – 1981), was a key figure in the life of the USA during the 20th century. Thurman was an author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was also an early leader and mentor in the nonviolence movement that shaped and included Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here is Thurman’s poem, followed by a few comments.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among all,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman, from The Mood of Christmas, p. 23
Published and copyrighted by Friends United Press, 1985

The work of Christmas isn’t about enjoying or returning gifts we received, feeling good about giving money to charities, getting on with the thankless work of putting away the decorations until next year, or writing thank you notes. In fact, it isn’t even about telling everyone the story of Christmas.

Rather, it’s about embodying it. Being and becoming the good news announced with the birth of Jesus Christ.

  • We, the lost now found, are to find other lost women, men and children. We the broken, the hungry, the prisoners, the residents of war-torn nations, the restless, the aggrieved, the disappeared—we are to pass along what we have received. A reason to hope, and a measure of peace in the midst of strife.

This isn’t about hoarding things for ourselves. It’s about making haste to share peace and hope that passes all understanding. Not with stingy hearts, but extravagantly. Making music in our hearts that spills over into our relationships and communities. Not always happy music, but music that tells the truth, especially when the truth isn’t pretty.

I’m praying I’ll find renewed peace and hope for myself, along with you, and new ways to do the work of Christmas in this coming year.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 December 2017, reposted 24 December 2019
Image found at examiner.com.au

When is enough enough?

This isn’t my favorite topic these days. Particularly after my latest visit to my heart doctor, just two days before my 76th birthday.

I’m several years older than I was when I first found out about my heart condition. In addition, I now have chronic kidney disease—though not advanced CKD.

I also have other health issues that could go south. Though I might be able to manage some of them, I can’t predict how or when they’ll collide with one another to send me downhill fast. Some are already colliding.

This isn’t news. It’s happened for years to others. Nonetheless, though I don’t feel singled out, I do feel alone. Especially when it comes to important medical decisions.

Back to my heart (which also impacts my kidneys). As I see it, I have two choices:

  1. Do what my doctor has been talking about for more than the last three years. Start taking a blood thinner, or try a work-around that would have a similar benefit. Would this guarantee a stroke-free life? No. Would it lower my risk of stroke? Perhaps. It would not guarantee that I would not have a brain bleed.
  2. Alternatively, as the woman who will live with this choice, I can say No. Enough is enough. I’m willing to live with the consequences even though they may not be pretty.

This isn’t because I like to gamble, but because nothing anyone does is going to extend my life forever.

Growing older is no picnic in the park. In fact, I can’t remember when I last was able to picnic in the park! My waking hours are consumed by taking care of my body, soul and spirit. Doing what I can to enjoy the time I have left.

Breaking my jaw several years ago changed everything. So did finding out decades earlier that I had IBS. Whatever eating is about, I often find myself on the margins looking in.

Nonetheless, I’m grateful my current Vitamix diet is good for my heart, my kidneys, and IBS. It also helps me eat food I can’t easily chew. In addition, I’m grateful for an outstanding integrative doctor who sees the big picture, and helps me maintain key markers for health.

As I see it, the only guarantee is that one day I will die. Given my age, it will be sooner, not later. I don’t want to muddle my life with exploratory options.

That’s how I’m seeing it today. I’m also grateful to be here today, able to enjoy family, friends, neighbors and strangers. Life is still very good indeed.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2019
Quotation found at twitter.com

Waiting patiently . . .

Waiting patiently
On my back
Clothed in the same
Blue gown they gave me
On my last visit
I pass the time of day
Searching for the
Least medicinal
Prop in this
Antiseptic space
Adorned with trifles
Like boxes of throw-away
Vinyl/non-vinyl gloves plus
Hazardous Trash receptacles
For dangerous substances

Suddenly I see it
Off to my right side
Hanging on the wall
A hazy pastel depiction
Of a perfect summer day

Somewhere in paradise
Blue air floats above
A small tree-covered
Island in the distance
A stream flows
Past a sweetly perfect
Cottage for one or two
Flowers in light pink and yellow
Blossom in a small garden
Lush green grass invites me to
Rest on my back
Taking in the imagined
Sounds and fragrance
Of a perfect summer day

I wrote this after returning from a long day at my heart doctor’s office. A good day, in the end. And long.

I’m always interested in art work hanging in doctor’s offices. Most often it’s a beautiful nature scene chosen to engender a peaceful, relaxed state of mind and body. No, the image above is not what I saw in my doctor’s office. Definitely a cut or two above it. Nonetheless….

I got home rather late, took a lovely walk in cold drizzly air, and then wrote the above. Not to be sentimental, but this time I took the medicinal art work as an invitation to practice deep breathing and relaxation. A handy skill, especially when I’m lying on my back, unable to jump up and leave, no matter who walks through the door!

Now it’s Tuesday, so I bid you Happy Tuesday, and hope it’s even better than your Monday turned out to be!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2019
Pastel Painting of Cottage Garden by Kathleen Kalanowski found at pinterest.com

Night belongs to You

Night belongs to You
And creatures of deep shadows
Encircling my heart
Kindly taking their places
Guardians sent from above

Sometimes during the night I hear Smudge making a commotion downstairs. He’s making sure stray crickets or mice are stopped dead in their tracks. Otherwise, you see, they might come up the stairs and invade our bedroom.

I’d even argue that Lucy Pacemaker (I Love Lucy!) is one of these night creatures. Most lively at night, kicking and kicking my slow heartbeat up to something resembling a live human being.

And then there are times during the night when words from a hymn I love come flooding in. Not exactly creatures, but definitely guardians sent from above.

Today was strange. No internet until now (late afternoon). Instead of writing, I got some chores done, read from a challenging book about white rage in the USA (White Rage, by Carol Anderson, PhD), and took a chilly, enjoyable walk around the neighborhood.

Hoping your night is visited by kindly guardians of all kinds, even though you may not feel at peace.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2019
Image found at cottagelife.com

What I remember

A young girl searching for perfect autumn leaves
A young boy not old enough for soccer, running laps
Leaves rustling on trees and beneath my feet

Shouts and shrieks from grade-school soccer players
The sight of proud, anxious parents looking on
A few parents sitting it all out in their warm cars

Friendly dogs of all sizes out for pause-and-pee walks
Parked cars lining the Episcopal church parking lot
Churchyard grave stones shining white in bright sun

Smiles on faces of passersby known and unknown
A left-over plastic Halloween spider pretending to be road kill
Squirrels racing around, frantically stashing nuts for winter

The feel of cold wind on my face, bright sun in my eyes
Halloween remnants lurking on front yards and porches
Smashed acorns and acorn meal at every turn

I took a long, glorious walk after church this morning. No huge surprises. Just the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and a chorus of happy shrieks and parental encouragement filling the air.

Sometimes I want to bottle what I feel, see and smell—for rainy days. I’m slowly learning to enjoy each day, and let it go. Clearing the deck for whatever comes tomorrow.

So far today I’m grateful for everything I remember from my walk. I’m also grateful I was able to attend church this morning with D, hear a thoughtful sermon from one of my former students, listen to stunning music during the offering and during communion, collect smiles from several friends, and go for that brisk autumn walk before lunch.

Looking forward to the coming week!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 November 2019
Photo from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, almanac.com

hushed joy

blessings of this day
sing in silence of the night
closing in with grace
enticing me deeper still
into Your world of hushed joy

These lines came to me last night when I was writing in my journal. Tuesday was busy. For several days I spent time on the phone trying to track down a pharmacy that had the Shingrix vaccination (shingles) shot available. On my last call, I hit the jackpot! They had one dose left for this week. First come, first served.

D and I shot out of here and got there in time for me to claim the last dose! So I was pretty psyched, after days of getting nowhere.

Maybe it sounds crazy (to some of you) to get all happy about getting a vaccination shot. Well…when you’re my age, and you know you’re a candidate for shingles, it’s a blessing to receive a poke in the arm!

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 October 2019
Photo of sunset in Africa found at PxHere

Old survival habits die hard

Dear Friends,

Over two years ago I began working on issues I still had with my father who died in 2010. These weren’t just childhood issues, but things that affected me as an adult.

During the last few months I’ve been distressed about something I thought I shouldn’t or couldn’t do. Why not? That was the issue.

My reluctance began, but didn’t end with my father’s voice reigning me in. Even though he’s not around, I still hear a voice trying to hold me back. Many voices have tried to reign me in all my life. Sometimes they succeeded.

Yet the sad truth is this: They could not have succeeded had I not already internalized by father’s voice as my voice.

So why is this so difficult for me today as the woman I am right now?

Simply put, I have cared too much about what other people think of me, beginning but not ending with D. This is almost unbelievable to me, even though I know it’s true. I’ve lived my life (as a preacher’s daughter, seminarian, professor and dean) under a microscope of male and female scrutiny, not all of it pleasant. Plenty of people have wished me gone. Not necessarily dead; just gone. Far away.

So here I am today with a wish for myself. I can’t shake it off, and I can’t accomplish it in secret.

I miss seeing and worshipping with friends from my former church. The church is less than a mile from our house. I want to worship with them from time to time.

I also have wonderful friends at the church I attend with D. So what to do?

I’ll attend both churches, though not on the same Sunday. From time to time you’ll see me here or you’ll see me there. Or, if you live far away, especially across the great pond or down under, you probably won’t see me anywhere–for which I’m very sad indeed.

With thanks to all the strong women, men and children who’ve encouraged me to be the grownup I am.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 October 2019
Photo of Sisters #1 and 2 in Easter dresses, with Parents, taken in Seattle, WA, 1946/7

Please save a seat for me

Please save a seat for me
Out there
Within the Great Beyond
Where water flows
And falls
And drips
Its mist upon my hair
And canopies
Of bamboo leaves
Sway gently to and fro

Simple chairs
Would be enough
No thrones
Or special seats
Just friends and strangers
Gathered there
As part of
Your parade
Within this low-hung vault
Of heavenly earth’s delights

A Carolina wren broke into song just outside my window as I was writing this. So beautiful! My favorite year-round songbird, no matter how cold it gets.

The last couple of months have been full of pseudo-icy weather. Slippery. Unsettled. Not sure how things would turn out. All set in motion by our great waterbed leak at the end of July.

Things are now back together. Sort of. And the clock still ticks down. All day, every day.

I think we’re invited–even urged–to see heaven on this earth. Today! Looking back through our Longwood photos from last week, I had a little reminder that it’s as simple as showing up and paying attention.

Hoping you have a few heavenly moments today!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 October 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 7 October 2019, Longwood Gardens Conservatory

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