AVFM- A Special Goodbye…for when life is lived vicariously

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

It has been awhile since I sat here staring at a blank screen and tried to still my busy mind long enough to put coherent thoughts to print.  As I mentioned last time, I really fear change.  I dream about it, I envision what my life would be like if it were different, but truthfully, I far prefer comfort and security to adventure.

Camino de Santiago

Walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Photograph: Memo Vasquez/Getty/Flickr Open

Tomorrow, I say farewell to a young man who has truly made an imprint on my soul as well as everyone else I have seen him contact.  He is a splendid example of serenity and joie de vivre.  He has few ties to material things and therefore is not bound by all the entrapments that tie the rest of us.  I have only known two people like that in my lifetime and I deeply loved and admired them both, mainly for being and doing what I could not be and do.

I love it that he is indulging his sense of adventure and wanderlust.  I hate it that we won’t have him here.  This is just another bit of change we all must endure.  What we really need to do with that is embrace this opportunity to make new acquaintances and create new relationships in this moment.  We will do so and it will be good.  For every door that closes, one will open and reveal a new room in our lives.  Let us throw open the windows, let in the sunlight, and bask ourselves in the morning sun!

Solomon, this is my wish for your coming days:

Safe Travels

There are dear and special souls within this wondrous world

Whose joy of life and love of land reveal new dreams unfurled.

Each day brings fresh experience, each night brings stars to chart,

New friends bring conversations—mind to mind and heart to heart.

The world is out there just for you—Savor every luscious bite!

And when you rest your weary head upon a bed at night,

Remember all the friends you made and all the good things done,

And know how much you’re treasured here!

Travel safe, my son!

© 2013  Carlene Welch

via robinpatino.com

via robinpatino.com

Blessings,

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

AVFM- Climbing Out of the Comfort Zone

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

I worry.  It’s what I do.  I possess the complete skill set to worry well and I regularly encounter a myriad of reasons to do so.

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The past few weeks have brought a number of changes to my world—most of them related to the people with whom I work.  Just when I felt secure in the family environment we had created together, my coworkers start dropping off, one by one, embarking on their new individual life journeys.  New government regulations create the need for drastic changes in policy and procedure.  New medical requirements for my husband and me demand lifestyle changes once more.  New family members create a new dynamic and a development of new relationships.

If there is one thing that stirs me into worry mode, it’s change.  I know that all the self-help books speak repeatedly of climbing out of the comfort zone.  I know that growth is not possible if you are comfortable with your status quo.  I understand that with the emphasis on competition that permeates our world, there is no chance to sit back in the rocking chair and behold the fruits of your labor.  It is forever onward and upward, with the desired outcome of constant competition and permanent growing pains.   Part of this drive is human nature and part of it is societal.  Whatever the case, I want to wake up and smell the roses.

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I just returned from a long awaited vacation, rested and refreshed and tanned from long rides in the sunlight.  I had not had a headache in a whole week and felt totally equipped to handle whatever might come my way.  Within hours, my headache was back and my worry program had been reset.  After giving this some thought this evening, I feel at peace.  Lao Tzu said it like this: “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.  Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow.  Let reality be reality.  Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

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I am going to travel on that road.  As others branch off into a new path, I shall strive to remember that I, too, still share the joy of their new adventure.  As we introduce new members to our little family, we create a new adventure for those folks, also.  What better thing can there be in this world than to be an active part of such a Grand Design?

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for creating a world with paths for all of us.

Blessings,

 

As I prepared this AVFM post for mom, a dear friend of mine- Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr – posted the following quote on her Facebook page…I thought it was fitting to share in light of Mom’s words today.

“We add to our suffering when life changes and we still behave as if it hasn’t. Whether facing limitations of aging or shifts in relationship or the wilting of a dream, we are often given hints of the changes before they arrive. It’s how the angels of time try to care for us, drawing us to the new resources that wait out of view.” – Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Just Across the Bridge…for when you move toward life

Mid-BayBridgeIt had been a long day of driving. With the goal of dipping our toes in the ocean before sunset, we had set out with our friends before dawn and pushed hard through the day, only stopping to use the restroom and refuel.  The last fours hours were filled with the cacophony of children cries- “How much longer?”  and “I wish we were there already.”

We finally began to see palm trees and sand and signs for our destination and our hearts began to wake up.  As we paid the toll at the Mid Bay Bridge, the weariness of a day of driving fell away and the “Are we there yet’s” turned to “Woohoo’s” and we opened portals in our car to the salty air and in our heart to beat of the beach vacation drum.  We lifted arms out the sunroof and waved like madmen to the cars passing by.  The freedom was as tangible as the humidity in the air.

We arrived at our God-gift of a last minute condo as the sun was beginning to set.  We didn’t even go inside, instead, we slipped off shoes and started across the beach walk to the ocean.  Realization broke over me like a wave as we crested the dune. I grabbed my husband’s hand and jumped into his arms, “We’re at the beach! I can’t believe we’re at the beach!” He smiled and kissed me sweet and gave me that “I know, right?” look and we took off running to the surf.

We hadn’t planned this vacation with our dear friends. Come to think of it, neither had they really.  They had decided to get away just three days prior and it had all fallen into place in a beautiful way.  They were sharing their plan with us as we prepared our church for Sunday morning services.  “We are leaving for the beach tomorrow!” They told us.

Jealousy mixed with genuine happiness for our friends flooded into us as we celebrated with them.  Then the inevitable conversation.

“I wish we could go with you.”

“You should, there’s another condo available. All you would have to pay is food and gas.”

My husband’s eyes met mine.  He was already burning vacation for the week.  I began running the lists of “We couldn’ts” in my head….I mean could we? That’s crazy….just take off for the week…to Florida? The kids are in school and only have 2 weeks left, the dog- we’d need someone to take care of her, Charlie’s off- but I would have to tell my Mom/boss that I am taking an extra week of vacation and we’re right in the middle of a big project, we’re not packed, I don’t have any laundry done and I had planned to lose twenty pounds before anyone saw me in a swimsuit- we couldn’t, just couldn’t go….right? But, oh dear Jesus, how my family (and I) could use a break…

And then God started knocking down the dominoes….one. by. one. As He did,my husband and I started smiling, more than we have in a long time, even as we packed at two in the morning for a 4 am leave time.

cari and alisa on the beach

And I still don’t believe it.  Each time we cross that beach walk to the white sand of the Destin beach…I am in awe of how God brought us here and is ministering to our hearts.  It’s beautiful and restful and I am blown away by His love and generosity. We were floundering in the midst of our everyday existence and were beginning to be suffocated by the tyranny of our schedules back home.  God has been guiding us to rest more, but we keep pushing Him back- “after this event, Lord, I’ll rest.” “When school’s out, we’ll take a little break.”

But then He extends this beautiful invitation to LIFE and REST, and the siren song of it was more than we could resist.

xan and jacob on beach

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”- John 10:10

From the beautiful beaches of Destin,

AVFM: Mama’s Music…for when life is full of her song

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

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May 11 was my mother’s birthday.  She passed way too young over 25 years ago, when my youngest was just an infant. She was a magnificent woman who grew a huge garden, harvesting and canning everything she could to feed her family.  She raised free range chickens, picked blackberries and made all sorts of breads and pastries from scratch.  She also played hopscotch, made mud pies and wrote poetry.  My mother was a pioneer woman in a modern age.  She didn’t drive, we rarely had a telephone, and often didn’t even have indoor plumbing.  She made or remade all of our clothing. Recycling wasn’t an option—it was a necessity.  She would have embraced the new “organic” way of life that has gained such recent popularity.  But my favorite thing about Mama was her “joie de vivre”.  She was always singing in this crystal clear voice and I loved hearing her.  When she passed, I wrote the following piece in her honor.

Mama’s Music

As a babe held in her arms,
Snuggled close against her warmth,
She’d rock her chair and sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

When I would wake in bed at night
And cry out for her in my fright
She’d come sit and sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Through all the hurts, she was there
To show me how to love and care.
She would work and sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Then I grew up, as children do,
And I found when I was blue,
I’d sing those songs she sang to me—
Those peaceful, simple melodies

And they would soothe my aching soul.
It was then I came to know
The healing power she gave to me:
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Now, my children have their pains
When tempers roar and teardrops rain.
I think of Mom and sing to them
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

The wind chimes on my porch were hers,
And when my hold on hope has blurred,
I listen as she sings to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Mama’s music does live on
In every red-gold bursting dawn.
So, go on Mama, sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies!

Blessings,

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Sound of Silence: Under the Broom Tree

This is a reflection from my recent visit to Little Portion Retreat Center on More Mountain in Eureka Springs for a directed silent retreat hosted by Christview Ministries and Dovehouse Ministries.  This was my second retreat with this group, and very different from last year.  I am still, a month later, processing all that I learned about myself and about God.  The writing has been slower developing this time and so I hope that you have grace for the slow way that I will share these reflections. If you would like to read more about my trips to More Mountain, just search for Sound of Silence in the search box.

broom tree

“It sounds like God is preparing you for something really big,” the Pastor said.

I nodded and shivered.  That declaration felt both thrilling and ominous.  “Really big” so often means “Really different” to me…and you know what? Change is hard.

My palms began to sweat and I felt the flush of heat rise that is the harbinger of spirit truth.  It resonated in me, this wise man’s statement, and I wondered where I would next hear the voice of God.

I had been telling the pastor of my experience last month on More Mountain.  Speaking of how I had gone seeking to bask in the glory of God- to be undone by His presence.  Speaking of how I did not know what to expect on that return trip to the mountain, but had traveled there with such high expectations. Speaking of how difficult it was to get over the disappointment that God just wanted me to rest.  Of how my spirit wrestled and peace eluded me.

I told him about arriving, late and frustrated, and of feeling like a woman in a desert crawling toward water.  I told him of collapsing after dinner and sleeping for 13 hours straight with the thought that I would rest and begin my journey with God the next morning.  I told him of the first scripture passage we were given and how I cried myself to sleep when I read it because I knew that this experience would not bear up under the heavy weight of the expectations I carried.

“..the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” – Jeremiah 31:3

A song of love from our God, right?…But all I could see was:

“the Lord appeared to me from far away.”

I’m staying far away this weekend, God whispered.  Rest here.  

I didn’t want rest. I wanted God. Up close and personal and right there- in. my. face-not far away.

So I slept that night and awoke the next morning, still exhausted, for breakfast.  I ate quickly and headed out to hike the beautiful trails around us, looking for my ‘Absalom.’  I barely made it back to the room before I was too exhausted to walk further.  I lay down to nap until my allotted time with my spiritual director, Judy.

She could see I was exhausted.  She could sense God’s plan for me already, even though I was still fighting it.  Together we prayed for a word from the Lord.  I, expecting the requisite three scripture references for our practice of Lectio Divina throughout the day, savored the idea of the spiritual work that was to come.  Judy, my wise Yoda-esque mentor, listened intently for guidance from the Lord.

She asked me what I had heard from the Lord.  I thought I might fib and say, “nothing,” but I knew she knew better.

I sighed.  “Rest.”

“I keep seeing this picture of you crawling to water. God wants you to float in the water.”

“I know.”

“Is there a scripture that comes to mind?”

“Yes, 1 Kings 19”

Judy smiled quietly. “Do you know the story? Of Elijah and the broom tree?”

We opened the Bible and began to read what God was up to:

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree.And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.- 1 Kings 19:4-8

Judy looked at me with tender eyes….I knew that look…the “this might hurt a little” look.

“I don’t have any scripture references for you this weekend.  No lectio divina, no work.  Just rest. God wants you to rest deeply.”

My eyes filled up and I dropped my head and looked away to hide the trembling chin of deep disappointment from this woman who had become my guide.

“Do you know that after his rest under the broom tree, Elijah went to Mt Horeb where he heard from God in the still small voice?  Did you know that God told him there were others to work alongside him? There is a great journey God is preparing you for, but you don’t have the strength yet. Trust that God does not need your active participation to be at work in your life. Now go, and rest.” Judy dismissed me with a sweet prayer for peace and an even sweeter hug…one that said, ‘I know this is hard, but you and God can do it.”

I knew the truth of her words.  I felt the same flush of spirit truth that I would feel just three weeks later while I related the story the pastor.  But still, I was sad. Sad that I would miss out on the beautiful weekend and the hiking trails and the caterpillars and the long, long talks with God.  My heart understood, but spirit still struggled against the truth of it.  My body, however, overtook all that and screamed out its exhaustion at me.

I did not even make it to my room for a nap. Instead, I lay down on the porch in a chaise lounge.  The sun was shining, but the breeze was chilly and I thought that the chill in the air would jar me awake.  As I snuggled down into the comfortable lounge, I sucked my arms up into my fleece jacket and closed my eyes.

Two hours later, I awoke.  Someone had laid a heavy fleece blanket over me and started a fire in the fire pit next to me.  The love and gentleness in that gesture flooded me with peace and I felt a piece of the resistance within me break away.  I was safe…and cherished…and watched over in this place.

I gathered my Bible and my journal and headed back towards my room– for more rest.

“The early Christians referred to death as falling asleep. It was the point of complete surrender into the loving arms of a loving God. In this experience of his weakness Elijah encounters the Lord in a different way. I propose that this encounter reveals the heart of Christian prayer, a call to surrendered love. There, under the broom tree, he is fed a hearth cake and water, a Eucharistic symbol. “He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food; he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.” (1 Kings 19:8) There he is prepared to hear the voice of God as He passed by, not in a mighty wind, an earthquake, or a fire — but in a gentle whisper — the kind that can only be heard by one who has a surrendered ear to hear. Humble — not haughty.” – Keith Fournier, Learning to Live Under the Broom Tree

AVFM- The Art of Enablement…for when you feel forgotten

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

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For most of my life, I have been immersed in the concepts of teamwork and providing encouragement and assistance for all of God’s children.  Enabling others to attain their goals and realize their worth is so much a part of me, I wouldn’t know how not to do it.  Helping others to appreciate their value and potential is an enormous joy and I relish it.  To be able to help someone rebuild their self esteem and enjoy life in a new way is a wondrous feeling.

But what happens when that “enablement” settles in just a little too well?  What happens when the person you tried to empower suddenly feels superior to you, when you are not good enough to be seen with them, when you helped them up and over your head, when your mentor status is reduced to forgotten status?

A truly strong person would look at those results and say, “I have succeeded.”  But those of use who have our own myriad of insecurities just wonder why we are underappreciated.  I suppose the truth of the matter is I just want to be valued, too.  And there is no amount of gratitude that seems to make that desire dissipate.

I must remind myself that my perception is tainted by my belief system which includes a little tiny piece that says I am not worthy to be loved and appreciated.  If I have played a small part in lifting another up, it is as it should be.  Much like a mama bird lovingly builds a nest, feeds her chicks with diligence, trains them to fly, and watches them fly away,. . . such as it is with those we touch in life.  There is bittersweet joy in the doing.  To expect anything less is to go against the grand design of our Heavenly Father.

Blessings,

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Yellow Jeeps- A Touchstone of Love…for when you just need to know

The drive home from Little Rock was quiet after his heart broke and shame spilled out into the space between the his perch in the back seat and mine in the driver’s.

“I must of done something wrong, Mom, I’ll try to be better….to be better. Why did they take all my food away?” He cried and said he was sorry…that he would try harder. I did what moms do- I comforted, I quieted…I told him it would all be all right.

But when he finally slept- exhaustion and the after-effects of anesthesia taking over- I wept fear.

We were traveling home from Arkansas Children’s Hospital with news that crushed my little boy’s heart.  He had been so good….he had followed all their rules…eaten only chicken and rice for six weeks, but the little section the surgeon had snuck in and stolen from his insides and the pictures they’d taken while they were there told of story of an overactive immune system that was attacking any food.  They wanted to take it all away…stick a pipeline of goopy elemental formula straight into his stomach and fingers crossed pray that would reboot his system.

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Xander at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Oct 2008

I was outraged at the words the doctor used in front of my seven year old child.  Words like “it’s clear he just can’t control himself” and “I am positive he hasn’t been sticking to the diet we prescribed” and “you are killing him with his food.” Words full of fear and shame.  It split me open and awakened the hibernating bear-ess that was inside and I fired that man on the spot.  I walked away from the appointment not knowing the ramifications of what I had done…the black stain of the doctor’s fear weighing heavily on my heart.

As Xander slept heavily in the back seat, I prayed.  Dear God, heal my son…show me what to do now.  This doctor was our hope.  And then my prayer got really real…God, why is this happening to him? Don’t you love him? Don’t you love us?

I was deep in a wrestling match with God.  Tuned out to any words of comfort He might actually have for me…the angry woman beating the chest of an embrace with her fists. Quietly, from the back seat comes my answer –

“Yellow jeep, God loves me.”

The “yellow jeep game” began as a leadership devleopment exercise my partner, Tim (bulletproofteams.com) and I were using to help demonstrate the power of “noticing.” We would go into a group and ask how many yellow jeeps they had seen that morning.  Generally, the number was low for a the group- two or three.  We would release the group for the day with the charge to count yellow jeeps. The next day the numbers would often be in the teens.  We began to notice yellow jeeps everywhere.

At the time, I was at a place in my life where I needed to be consistently reminded of God’s love for me.  So I prayed for God to send me a tangible sign of His love at the times when I most needed it…the Yellow Jeep.  When I see one, I say out loud, “Yellow Jeep, God loves me!”

There are few other times in my life when I have needed to know God’s love for me than that moment.  I looked out the driver’s side window, expecting to see a single jeep passing by on the highway….instead there, at the roadside jeep dealership, was a long row of them.

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With each one we passed, Xander said “Yellow Jeep, God loves me!” Twelve times he said it….and then he said, quietly and full of grace-

“And guess what, Mom? He loves you, too.”

What’s your yellow jeep?  Do you have a sign that reminds you that you are loved?