Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sheep C: You, Alone

The Sheep have been having a conversation lately. This is news, because we’ve all scattered or, at least I have scattered. Sheep M bleated a call to return, and began an e mail conversation which eventually led me to observe that we’re just—each of us—on our own.

Careful, now. I have a tendency toward the bitter because of my recent marital woes. One of the things I have realized—and railed against—is that I am on my own. And, I repeat, that is true of us each and all.

Alone except, of course, for God…but I’m still mulling that one over, and that’s another post.

The sign in the picture (if you can’t read it) says “Life’s Highway.” That’s what the sheep is on—alone. Others can watch, but they can’t travel it.


Sheep M struggled with my saying this. She has been through similar trials a little ahead of me and assured me that the initial period of separation is, indeed, fraught with loneliness, but that it passes. She added that now she is happier than ever, surrounded by loved ones. No longer lonely.

She misunderstood. Do not confuse what I am saying with “loneliness.” In fact, I am not lonely. I, too, have supportive family and friends and am thankful for them all. What I mean is this: That, in the end, only I can make the decisions for my own life and only I will live with them. Only I can feel my own pain, only I know what reaction helps or exacerbates it. No one, not even those closest to me, can step inside my skin—or even my shoes—and know my problems, their solutions.

I don’t think this is deniable. Just think about the basics: stump your toe and your friend says, “Oooooo, that hurt!” Well, she may know that it hurt her when she last did it, or she may imagine that it hurts, never having experienced a toe-stumping, but she does not know, really, how badly this time hurt you or, indeed, if it did. President Bill Clinton’s famous, “I feel your pain,” was just so much rhetoric.


I did not always feel so. I once felt like a part of a “marital team,” feeling for all the world like whatever came to us, we would face it together. Ooops!

Husband grew to feel differently, and he never shared that he did until he walked out the door. No one else in the family had a clue of the betrayal scheme; he was alone in it—well, except maybe for his girlfriend. But the point is, that you never know what’s in another person’s heart; we are stand-alone units.


I confess that I worry about myself sometimes; am I hard-hearted? I thought about the pain in Haiti and in Chile from the earthquakes, to be sure. I watched in horror, like you probably did, and I gave money to help. But, I’m gonna go out on a limb here, and confess to you that none of that horrific tragedy kept me awake at night. Did it you? Am I just a heartless wretch?

I’ve though it over and realized that I really can’t feel their pain. And I don’t think I’m meant to do so to much more degree than I do. I think of the character, “May” in Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, The Secret Life of Bees. May had the torment of being able to feel the pain of others-including strangers-to a much greater degree than do most. And, in the end, it was her undoing. We just can’t do it. The load is too great for our spindly legs.

sheepburdens And so, how does the flock fit into this stand-alone world? Good question, for it surely does, and we are surely meant to be flock creatures, not alone. Too many wolves outside the flock. If you look you can see the eyes of the wolves of depression and despair in the darkness outside the cote.

I’ll get back to you more on that flock thing…in the meantime, what do you think? You, alone, know—until you share. C

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall Reflections

The turning of the seasons is upon us! There has been so much rain in the last week! Even when it isn't raining, the sky is gray and the colors of fall fade in the lower light quality. I'm in need of a dry day-cool crisp air and the vibrant colors of autumn.

This is also the beginning of my season of reflection. There is something about the fall that encourages me to slow down. If not in deeds-there is always so much to do once the leaves start falling-but in the way I savor events.

Summer grilling gives way to tail-gate parties and homemade soup. Meals are more apt to be lingered over- comfort foods and comfortable company.

Fall events tend to be group oriented. For instance football games-both American and what we call soccer. Friday nights are spent at the local high school surrounded by neighbors, all of us cheering on our young men. It's hard not to be drawn into the crowd. We, the supporters, are all there for the same reason, we share a goal of encouragement. We bond over each loss of yard and each touchdown! Likewise, Sat mornings are spent at the soccer fields. Often with the same friends and neighbors as the night before. Bonds are formed with the parents of a child's teammates. These bonds hold throughout the months of the sport, dissolving naturally at the end of the season, waiting for the year to turn and the teams to reassemble.

Another gift of the season, is the earlier nights. When darkness descends, my family comes together. There is not the rush to go here or there. We draw the drapes and close the front door. We choose books to read- exploring new finds and returning to family favorites. We linger in the down time-work is done, homework finished for the night and set aside- kitchen cleaned and hours stretch long before bedtime. Our first book this year is a family favorite- The Hobbit. There is something about cool fall nights that call out to dragons and adventures!

Sheep M 10/16/09

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I've been taking time to nurture myself lately. After raising children for 19 years, it's finally dawning on me that the airlines have it right-take care of yourself first and once you're safe, you have what it takes to help others.


Like a bolt of lightening that visual (anyone who's flown anywhere in the last 50 years knows the pre-take off routine. In case of emergency the oxygen masks will fall. Parents are told to put their own mask on and then help their children) hit me full in the face. OK, more like in the heart. My head's been telling me for years to take care of others first. Is that a mom/woman thing?

One of the things I do for me is read. I like all types of books. Usually I have at least 4 going at any one time. Currently I am reading an adventure book with my son and a mystery/coming of age with my youngest daughter. I am also going through my own personal library to reread books that impacted my life. Having survived (and triumphed) a divorce, navigated the choppy waters of my son's cancer and stroke, and held it together when my eldest asserted herself, I know that I am not the same person who first read those books. I've been tried and stretched. The 'fluff' of me has been burned away and what is left is more of the essence of who I was created to be.

So this past weekend I started rereading Curtis and Eldredge's The Sacred Romance . Progress is slow. I'm still on page 3. I've stopped to ponder the phrase, '-a life without heart is not worth living'

Heart- the well spring of emotions. That organ that pumps the blood necessary for life. The invisible aspect of me that is capable of being broken and mended, stretched, enlarged. The thing we tend to hide from others, yet long to have seen and accepted.

As the swirl of thoughts settle, I will share what I am learning from this.

Sheep M 9/30/09

Can you tell where I do most of my personal reading?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'm not using a drawing or a picture with this post. I can't bring myself to draw right now and all the pictures (on line photos) I looked at just don't have the right 'feel'.
On Sept 11, my last remaining grandparent passed away. It was sudden, or as sudden as it can be once you reach the age of 88. My grandmother had been ill for a week, but once she was checked into a local hospital, she seemed to be doing better. Scans revealed a mass in her intestines and a surgery was scheduled. She gave the surgeon what for just prior to going under. Seems he'd mentioned starting surgery at 4p and he didn't show up til after 5. Grandma told him that she didn't appreciate being kept waiting.
The surgery uncovered, along with the mass, a perforation in the small intestine and the doctor told us that he'd removed that section and clean the cavity, but that the nurses would watch for any signs of infection. Grandma was fine that night when my mother and I left the hospital. She'd even made me promise to make my mother go on the trip we'd planned to take the following day.
Fast forward to the following morning-we got a call at 7a, my grandmother had taken a turn for the worse and was not responsive. God in his loving mercy, gave us the time to go to the hospital and say our farewells. Grandma wasn't really there, but her body held on just long enough. As hard as it was on all of us, I am deeply thankful for the chance to say my good bye and to share one last prayer with her as my family gathered.
All that was difficult, but not nearly as wrenching as watching my mother's grief. She is now an orphan. Odd to think of that term applied to a woman in her 60's, but that is how she feels. Her ties to her childhood are gone. There is no mother she can turn to and pour out her thoughts and feelings. No one that loves her in the way only your mother can.
As I struggled to help my mother process all the information being thrown her way, fielding questions, and doing whatever I could to ease her burdens, I was struck with the idea that I'm one step closer to being in that same position.
I've moved into an inner circle. (My father tells me I've become my mother.) It's one we must all enter and it's one we all dread. I am becoming the caregiver to my own parents. Thankfully both are in good health. They are actively enjoying their retirement. Yet now there is this hovering weight. They will decline, either slowly or quickly. They will need me to be involved in their lives, not as a daughter who looks up to her parents and seeks their help and advice, but as one who can help them navigate the new waters they will face as the aging process impacts their daily lives. What this will entail is still just a speculation, but it will happen, and it is closer than I want it to be.

Death comes to each of us. We can put if off as long as possible, do what we can to prevent it, but it will come. What remains then is how we live each day. My grandmother had a full life. She and Grandpa fell in love while she was in high school. Her parents that he was too old for her, but allowed them to correspond. When he enlisted they became pen-pals while he was in Europe during WWII. They even had their own code so she would know where he was. It apparently was good enough to pass through the government censors. They were married 63 years before Grandpa passed and she spent her 69th with him in heaven. They raised 4 children together and when she was crippled with arthritis, Grandpa packed up the family and moved them to Arizona. Grandma visited my family as she could at the various military bases where we lived. She and Grandpa even came to England when we were over there. Oh the stories we still tell about that visit! Six years ago, following the death of Grandpa, she moved here to be with her daughter, my mother. My sister and I loved having her so close. Our children, her great-grandchildren, got to know her and hear she stories. She passed on her love of God to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As a child, I was blessed to have her teach me how to make real lemonade with the lemons she grew and how to make a good pie crust just by feel. Oh I'm sure at one time there was a recipe, but by the time Grandma taught me to make a pie, she'd perfected the technique so that all she had to do was run her hand through the floor to know how much fat and water to add. She was full of life and spunk! I miss her and feel the loss of her in my life.

I know that who I am is a measure of who she was. Her parenting molded my mother who in turn shaped me. Her influence has been quiet and will be long lasting. The lessons I learned at her side are lessons I've passed on to my own children. I watched her through a child's eyes and loved her. In my adulthood, I learned to see my mother as a woman through her stories. As I age, her example will guide me as I too become a grandmother. (To my children-I won't be ready for at least another 10 years!)

Sheep M 9/29/09

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tea Time

Faithful are the words of a friend

Yesterday I spent the day with my best friend. She and I have known each other forever, it seems. In fact it's only been about 16 years, but we just 'click' in the way true friends do.

It doesn't happen as often as we'd like, but when our schedules mesh and we have time, we plan a marathon tea party. We've been known to start in the morning and talk our way through to supper time or beyond. We've learned over the years to clear our day and just relax in the warmth of our friendship. We just slow down and unwind in each other's presence.

There is no topic that is off limits. We don't judge each other or try to fix the other's problems. We listen and share and when the cups are empty and the pot's run dry (if we don't rush to make more) we both leave feeling refreshed and ready to take on the mantel of our lives again.

Yesterday, my friend asked me what I'm doing for me. Such a simple question. Or so it seemed. I think I answered with a simplistic answer and the tide of conversation flowed on. Writing in my journal that night, I revisited the question and realized how deep that question went.

As women, we rarely DO for ourselves. We DO for children, family, parents, spouse, friends, organizations, churches, but for ourselves? I don't know about you, but my day is full of children, work, housework, and then bed. To get up the next day and start again. My tea party with my friend is one of the few times I put away all the 'shoulds' and 'havetos' and just relax, knowing that this time is special.

I began this year with a resolution to do more for myself. To count myself as worthy as every other project and person in my life that I do for. Yet here it is Sept and I've let that resolution slip by. Well, thankfully, I have a friend who cares enough to remind me that I'm important. Not just in our tea time together, but every day.

So I begin again- to work into each day, some activity that is just for me. Whether it's blogging or drawing or writing or reading or sewing-I have a lot of interests so it shouldn't be that difficult. Making the time to do it, well that's another issues all together.
Sheep M 9/6/09

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sheep M's hoof biting

I'm sure my last post had you all thinking that I live the sentiment of the poem-whatever is, is best. Don't I wish it were that easy! After living and walking through the wilderness the past three years, ( previous posts will explain somewhat) you would think that when I get such an encouraging poem, I'd stop and check myself to see if it might be more than just an encouraging poem.

Blind sheep that I am, I simply thought the poem was worth sharing. After all, it meant a lot to me and wonderful things ought to be shared.

WHAM! Right out of left field-a test! Not just some little something that even in the midst of it you know that it will be OK. Nope! This was a gut wrenching episode in which fear, anger, angst, 'what if's', and all the rest of the peace stealers played their part.

There is no way to save myself from this- so the silver lining is that this situation is what it is. I can't change any part of it, except how I receive it.

Hence the lesson of the poem. Whatever is-is best. I can't see that right now. I'm biting my hooves reminding myself that I can't fix this and that God allowed this in my life for a reason. (I can't come up with anything that remotely makes sense to me, but that's why I'm the blind sheep and not the Shepherd)

The God graciously led me to this passage as I prayed about my situation.

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." Matt 6:31-34

I wept when I read this familiar passage. God loves me! How simple that sounds, but how deep an impact! This trouble being visited on me isn't a surprise to Him. He prepared my heart before my ears ever heard about it. Reminding me that He is my today and He is enough! Tomorrow is His too, and He will be there waiting on me to bless me then with what I need.

I can't promise to never fear or fret, bite my hooves, or borrow trouble with 'what if'- but I am at peace knowing who holds tomorrow and that He is fully able to care for me!
Sheep M 8/31/09

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Better Eyesight

Whatever is-is Best

I know, as my life grows older,
and mine eyes have clearer sight,
that under each rank wrong somewhere
there lies the root of Right;
that each sorrow has its purpose,
by the sorrowing oft unguessed;
but as sure as the sun brings morning,
whatever is-is best.

I know that each sinful action,
as sure as the night brings shade,
is somewhere, sometime punished,
tho' the hour be long delayed.
I know that the soul is aided
sometimes by the heart's unrest,
and to grow means often to suffer-
but whatever is-is best.

I know there are no errors,
in the great Eternal plan,
and all things work together
for the final good of man.
And I know when my soul speeds onward,
in its grand Eternal quest,
I shall say as I look back earthward,
whatever is-is best.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I came across this poem at just the right time. I've been reading through the book of Habakkuk-a book that never fails to refocus me on what is truly important. I may not understand the circumstances or situations I face in this life, but all is well. Whatever is-is best!
Sheep M- 8/22/09