Thursday, November 27, 2008

Walking in Grace

The sweetest thing about holidays, to me, is that they give us chances to reflect. I love that the Jewish High Holy days, usually in September, are about spending time thinking about the past year and how we conducted our lives. We are commanded to right wrongs, to ask for forgiveness from those we've hurt, and to consider how we can live the next year more faithfully.

What kind of faith we decide to follow, and how we carry that out can continue in our celebration of Thanksgiving. Being grateful at High Holy Days for another year (being written in the book of Life) carries over into the feast we enjoy with friends and family, and we look for the Blessings.

To me this is how we walk in Grace. Stumbling through life, or skating on the surfaces is easy, but it misses so much. When we actively look for the good things, what has gone right with our day, or our lives, we have a chance to be grateful for the small and big stuff.

Everyday life has so many irritating and frustrating events, stuff of what could be a downward spiral. We pay bills and notice how we have less money in the bank, instead of being glad we can work, have the funds to pay for our debts, and give back to the world.

Next month comes another favorite holiday - the winter season of Light. Channuka, Christmas, Winter Solstice. All these give us a chance to actively help heal the world. We can concentrate on what we get, or we can focus on giving. I'm pretty sure the rituals began with giving because there, in the midst of the darkest days of the year, in the cold and unforgiving world, we need to remember that Spring will come, and that redemption is with us always.

Many faiths believe that redemption comes thru the work we do to heal the world. In Judasim there are two twin notions, tzedakah and tikkun olam. I see tzedakah as the concrete expression of gratitude, giving to the poor, working in the soup kitchen, sponsoring a family for Christmas (yes, Jews routinely do this every year :)

Tikkun olam, on the other hand, is the notion of healing the world, a mandate by G-d who chose us all as partners in creation. We decide if we will help in those intangible ways when we consider tikkun olam. Listening to a troubled child, visiting a sick friend, emailing someone who may be lonely or frightened is tikkun olam. So is comforting the bereaved, and praying for the hurts that come from the disasters of life.

Somehow I find that faith is how I hold onto the joy. The broken-ness of the world is not less, but my ability to embrace it, if I hold strong to my faith in the lovingkindess of a power greater than me, greater than all the pain and suffering - this gets me by. And more, it lets me celebrate all the transcendent beauty, a patch of sunshine, a smile from a stranger because he is walking a puppy on the sidewalk, the memory of a child held in complete love.

Walking in Grace is also about surrender. I can't make it all better, but I can extend myself to the heart of the matter, to soothe my own pain and understand some of what others are going thru. Sometimes just not feeling so alone is a healing gesture, to let someone know you are there, or have been there and came thru the dark times, in spite of how bad it was. There is grace when we surrender to how hard life can be.

Ultimately I see the past of my life, littered with mistakes and triumphs, and likewise the lives of others, as valuable for the journey we take. If I find joy, it's because I've fought for it.

Look at all the good that comes when we tenaciously grip our right to happiness, and to hope, pushing forward to let go of what doesn't work in our lives, staying committed to finding our truths, to growing in the right direction.

One huge benefit of all this work is our children are graced. They see our struggles and, as always, are watching, learning. If we let them in on our joys and sorrows, our mistakes and lessons, then they truly get what we've always wanted for them - more.

More what? Certainly not more things. In fact I hope my kids learn to be content (and joyful) with LESS. Letting go of the material will free them for lives of true freedom, like lovely monks who journey with only their bowls. No wonder we breathe deeply in the presence of those holy people who have set aside worldly ideas of success. Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama, Jesus, Gandhi, Abraham and Sarah. They all surrendered, let go, worked to heal the world, found joy and, deeply grateful, walked in faith and grace.

I hope to see my kids, and all the children I love, gain more understanding of how to create a life well lived. How to walk in compassion and deep gratitude. How to balance taking care of themselves with helping to heal the world. I hope they fight for happiness and joy. I hope they grow until the last breath they draw, touching the Infinite, and know there is always more for all of us.

Blessings on you all this day, and every day. May our lives be for a blessing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where's Vicki?

Ok - I'm sorry to say that between traveling, moving and a rotten cold, I've been slack on the electronic front. Even email has been a bit much to keep up with, but it's manageable as long as I remember not to stay on the phone all day.

I'm in St. Louis this week, and back here for Thanksgiving with the kids. In October I spent about 10 days here, and about that much in Charlotte. Then I returned to Atlanta to pack all my things into storage and hit the road jack. I felt I needed to be in "the Lou" to find work here, and still hope to make it to Charlotte to visit before the end of the year. (But no promises.)

Background: I've been looking in several cities for a great position, which determines where we'd move to. Might have found it!

It looks like a move to St. Louis is probable, tho the company is in Atlanta. I hope to get a position ironed out in the next few weeks with a vendor there, doing what I've "groomed" myself for, electronic discovery, sometimes onsite, and lots of remote dial in. It's a great field, but hopefully this time on different terms!

The possibilities of being in Charlotte aren't gone, but I won't be based there. I will likely be traveling there for projects/consulting and also to south Florida, New Jersey, etc. Not moving to Charlotte makes me sad, but I feel really good about being in St. Louis where the big kids and I have such great friends and I have a good support network. No surprise that the kids come first.

I hope I'm finding a sweet spot in my career, where I can work, be independent, take care of Gwyneth and the kids, pay the bills, and also start up something here in St. Louis for homeless teens, an issue very important to me. Please send prayers for all of this to work out if it's the best move for us. It's not a done deal! (yikes)

Homeless Teens

It's really cold here, and while there are homeless services, none that I know of cater to the teens, who are often too young to be allowed into adult shelters. They are so vulnerable on the streets, to crime, to exploitation, to drugs and just sheer exposure. Please think of them this year when you consider holiday donations - Stand Up for Kids is a great organization helping homeless teens all over the country.

If you don't give to Stand Up, please give to another local homeless support organization! While many struggle during these hard times, there are few more vulnerable than the homeless in our country. They are old and young, medically and sometimes mentally challenged. They deserve basic food, shelter and medical care. And yet they are often the most maligned in our society.

Prayer Requests

I have two very close friends who are going thru tremendous health problems right now.

Cindy in Charlotte is having CFIDS challenges, and they suspect it may be a serious mito-chondrial neuromuscular disorder. She's been feeling lousy for many years, then downright sick (like the flu, for about 20 years) but got really sick almost two years ago with seizures. They look like epilepsy and leave her exhausted. Luckily she is able to give herself IV treatments at home every day, and has help. But it's so overwhelming. She has three great kids, two grown, and a wonderful husband, but your prayers will mean a lot. They just got a lab report back yesterday confirming the genetic disorder and now know her daughter could be at risk. Please keep Cindy and her family in your prayers as they go through determining new treatment options, and how to cope with the degenerative disease.

Another great dear friend, Anne, in St. Louis is going thru brain cancer treatment. She is a single mother of a wonderful guy, Greg, 12. It's lovely that she has a great support system here, and yet, at less than 40 it really isn't right that she has to do aggressive chemo and radiation. The next 6 weeks, (she's in week 2) will be tough. Thank goodness she has been working hard at staying in shape, since a heart attack about 10 years ago. Earlier this year she had to have a defibrillator put in for her heart. Now this cancer. Please keep her in your prayers. She's a fighter, but more than anything believes that prayers sustain her.

You who have know me long know I don't make friends lightly. These are two of the finest women I know. But while you are at it, say prayers for all those who are uncertain about their jobs, are struggling with health issues, or have other challenges. Be kind, we all are fighting battles unseen.

That's all I can muster today - more on Halloween, the election and aftermath later. Fascinating times we live in! :)
love wildly,