New Every Morning

Yesterday was a stinker. Pain wracked my body and kept me from being able to enjoy the day, much less be very productive. Last night wasn’t much better and I found myself getting up in the night to take my strongest pain pill to help me try and get some sleep since the pain was doing such a great job at creating insomnia. I don’t like writing about the times when things aren’t going well because I don’t know how it could possibly be encouraging–not to mention I don’t have the mental energy for blogging when I’m in a lot of pain.

Still, I got up at my regular time this morning and ended up poking my head out the front door to see if the FedEx delivery I was expecting yesterday had arrived last night and the guys just missed it during the football game. Instead of a dreary cold morning I was met with a glorious blaze of colors and crispness in the air that boosted my spirits enormously. My day may have not started off the greatest but here was a very clear and present reminder that God was in it and His mercies are new every morning. So this morning I’m grateful not only for my new, more powerful medication to help me cope with the pain but also for the simple reminders that each day is unique, and God’s grace is uniquely suited to each day’s needs. I may not feel great and have low expectations of what can be accomplished today but as my friend James says, “God is always good, and we are in His hands”–and for right now that is enough.  As Elisabeth Elliot would instruct me, I’ll just work on “doing the next thing” and do my best to observe “the sacrament of the present moment” (Jean-Pierre de Caussade) that gives meaning to all I do–or don’t do–today.

I hope your day is not stinky and that you are having a wonderful first day of December! But if you’re not, remember, you’re not alone. Many of us are suffering in one way or another and we will get through this day, one thing at a time, and ultimately “all shall be well” (St. Julian of Norwich).

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Thoughtful Thursday: Rest in God

This is a rerun and perhaps as I still haven’t learned how to do this routinely yet there is someone reading this that will also benefit from the repeated message…

I don’t know about you but true rest is sometimes elusive for me, even on days of rest such as Sundays. In that vein, I’m sharing words I found comforting from St. Edith Stein (Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). I plan to put her counsel into effect today in hopes that tomorrow I will be experiencing Sunday as “a new life.” Maybe you will want to do the same…

“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with him. Then you will be able to rest in him–really rest–and start the next day as a new life.”

Too Much Tuesday: Simplicity in Spirituality

While rereading Dom Hubert Van Zeller’s outstanding Holiness for Housewives (and other working women), my primary Advent spiritual reading this year, I ran across the following words of wisdom I thought worth sharing. So often we make growing in our faith a complicated matter and are discouraged when we don’t seem to make much progress. Or, alternatively, we can become complacent and coast along in our spiritual practices and not really bear much fruit along the way.

I believe this holy Benedictine priest nailed it when he wrote this book as his way to holiness is, in Benedictine tradition, one of stability, obedience, and ongoing conversion–all the while balanced by moderation. I hope his words–summed up in his phrase “religion is yielding to Christ” are helpful to you as well during this time of waiting and preparing for our Lord and Savior’s birth.

“Training in spiritual things…can be done only by the combined activity of God and yourself. Concentrate on the service of the will…Obedience to God’s will is…is all that religion amounts to. Religion is God. Religion is recognizing God in His own setting. The setting is provided by Him, not by us…Religion is yielding to Christ.

The only thing that really matters in life is doing the will of God. Once you really appreciate this truth, and act accordingly to its implications, you save yourself a lot of unnecessary heart-searching [overthinking] and resentment.”

Rest in God

I don’t know about you but true rest is sometimes elusive for me, even on days of rest such as Sundays. In that vein, I’m sharing words I found comforting from St. Edith Stein (Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). I plan to put her counsel into effect today in hopes that tomorrow I will be experiencing Sunday as “a new life.” Maybe you will want to do the same…

“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with him. Then you will be able to rest in him–really rest–and start the next day as a new life.”

Doing the Impossible and More

For those readers who struggle with getting things done, here is my favorite quote from St. Francis of Assisi–whose feast day is today.

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Speaking of impossible, here’s a timely reminder for what we can do to improve this crazy world we live in.

“Sanctify yourself, and you will sanctify society.”

May your day be one of sanctified, intentional living so that God, through you, is doing the impossible.

 

Less is More

Recently my husband and I had a conversation about personal electronics which ended on the note, “first world problems.” Sometimes we forget that earthly treasures–although in and of themselves a neutral thing that are meant to be used for the glory of God–are not as essential as we might think.

For example, collecting–or just plain keeping–too much stuff in our homes can lead to chronic disorganization at best and hoarding at worst. Not to say that anyone can determine for others how much stuff is too much for their personal tastes, which varies wildly from the minimalist to the curator of multiple collections. But the general idea is that, if we’re not careful, as we’ve heard before, our stuff can end up owning us instead of us owning our stuff.

Likewise, earthly wealth can be a useful tool in the kingdom when wisely stewarded. But in some cases it may be that the best thing for one to do is to dispose of it. Today is the feast of the apostle St. Matthew and I like what St. Bede has to say about Matthew’s relationship to stuff in the form of earthly riches. It reminds me that although the outcome of my husband and mine’s conversation resulted in my receiving a Chromebook to replace a Macbook Air that had died, the new laptop is not going to change my life the way Christ has and is and will continue to (as long as I cooperate!).

“There is no reason for surprise that Matthew the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose Leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. For Matthew understood that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had the everlasting treasures of heaven to give.”

St. Bede the Venerable, from September 21 entry in My Daily Catholic Bible

Something to think about as we manage our own earthly possessions.

Gettting Things Done with Chronic Illness: Chronic Pain edition

Today I thought I’d provide a personal update on how my Rule of Life formation is going in light of a flare-up of back pain. Thankfully, I’ve been free of chronic back pain for eight months since going on a new medication–which has provided the first remission since I was pregnant 18 years ago. However, 12 days ago it flared up and so I’ve been challenged to remember my coping skills. Thankfully it has not been 24/7 pain and so I’ve been able to follow the basics of my simple Rule much of the time but sometimes I’ve forgotten things due to the pain. Since the pain is not constant–which is different from my decades long struggle with chronic back pain–I’m not sure if I’m handling my pain meds the best way so I have finally promised myself to call the doctor’s office when they open today and schedule an appointment for some help with my medication strategy, etc. If things don’t improve, I’ll be needing a massage or two to get my pain levels down and although I enjoy them immensely they aren’t covered by insurance so in my present circumstances they are third line treatment, meds and lifestyle accommodations being the first and second.

Aside from not enjoying this return of something I had hoped might be gone forever, my son graduates from high school in one month and we’ll have grandparents here for five days and, as always, I need to step up my game regarding the level of my housekeeping. Aside from the normal challenges of ongoing decluttering, back pain doesn’t exactly make cleaning the most appealing task in the world. So, I’m having to dip into my old toolbox of tips for living with back pain and come up with some helpful reminders of things other than medication that will allow me to get housework done when my back is being cranky or even outright uncooperative.

My first and best tool is music therapy. I can either put my phone in my pocket and use earbuds or AirPlay the music off our TV (which has the added benefit of giving me access to my husband’s iTunes library; woo hoo!) as well as listen to favorite songs I don’t own via YouTube. This helps put some pep in my step and whether or not I’m capable of singing along while performing my household tasks it definitely makes them go by faster!

Another tool–one particularly helpful when the pain levels are higher and/or I’m just worn out from coping with the pain–is watching something on Netflix in spurts. Currently I’m gearing up for the final season of Person of Interest by going back through all the previous episodes. The way I use this tool is to watch for a set amount of time–e.g., 10 minutes–and then get up and work for a set amount of time–say another 10 minutes. This is really helpful to me as it gets my mind off the pain and I get more done than I usually would with just taking plain reading or music video breaks (although these are also good alternatives to TV). I’ve also found that if I’m rewatching something, as in my current POI situation, I can often just listen to the episode while working at mindless tasks–dishes, laundry, dusting, putting things back where they belong–and this strategy keeps me on my feet longer than I usually would be willing to try. I just have to be careful not to overdo how long I’m working when engaged in a particularly interesting storyline!

The last tool I’ll share today is aromatherapy. Using a wax melt burner continuously with whatever scent seems appropriate for my needs on any given day–or even during a certain segment of the day–has become a daily tool I use even when I don’t have back pain as it assists with improving my mood and energy, something I can always benefit from every day.

Additionally, from my work-in-progress Rule I use the Liturgy of the Hours Divine Office app’s audio option to pray when I’m feeling frazzled and need a boost and want to do something that will help me as well as fit in with my desire to live a more prayerful life. The daytime hours’ offices are often around 10 minutes and so this makes them very doable while I’m experiencing pain or brain fog or even just plain old fatigue.

I hope these ideas have helped. Perhaps you have some of your own that you’d like to share in the comments; I’d love to hear them and I’m sure they’d be welcome by this blog’s readers with chronic illness. Despite whatever physical and/or mental illness you’re struggling with today, I wish you a meaningful and productive day–whatever that may look like with your current limits. Enjoy!

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