Monday, August 29, 2016

Peace

As we pull into the driveway, we come across our next-door neighbor beginning construction.  “Look honey, Elizabeth is making some improvements to her home.”  I am excited for her, and selfishly hoping it will raise the value of our property.  Upon closer examination I say, “doesn’t it appear the placement of her new room is very close to our property line?”  Then I scream, “Look at that picture window being placed in the exact location of our large kitchen window!  She cannot possibly be serious…?  Every moment of every day would have us clearly looking into her new family room!  What little privacy we have will be completely lost with the placement of that Anderson Window!” 

I am confused, furious and downright offended by her plans.  Turning to Ken I ask, “well… what should we do?”  I believe his answer was, “well… what can we do?”

I knew something had to be said and I knew I had to be the one to say it.  Just what was going to come out of my mouth remained the question.   I remember knocking on the door, being greeted by a cheerful Elizabeth, then my hands moving in a robotic fashion, high-pitched voice pleading my case in a somewhat manic manner. Our encounter didn’t last long and I retuned home to an anxious Ken.  “So… tell me, what happened?”

“I simply told her that if she chose to have the window installed in that exact spot – she would have robbed me of my peace and serenity.  The rest of her life would be lived knowing she had taken My Peace!“  The details of that conversation are blurry but I do remember vividly Ken’s face and then the laughing howl coming from his lips. “Is that the best you had?  Where those your fighting words?”   For me the beginning, middle and end is My Peace and it is not for the taking!
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I was recently reminded about this story from 2001, which I had long forgotten.  The telling of the tale brought into focus my need for Peace both then and now.  Of all the virtues obtainable – I am drawn to Peace.   Any gray area, open-ended discussion or unresolved conflict literally drains me of My Peace.   Ken constantly reminds me that patience is a virtue and how I should let time be the remedy.  But I am too focused on making everything better & smoothing out the kinks (so that I can get to my place of Peace).  Looking back now, I must have sounded a bit crazy.  But that was truly the root of my distress and as I stated before – I do not allow anyone or anything the taking of My Peace.

It is clear to see my need for this virtue and those years of practice holding onto My Peace; all there to give me strength today.   I am often asked, “How do you do it?”  “How do you stay so positive and optimistic in the face of your struggles?”  My only answer is the Peace that I receive in His presence.   The more I rely not on human understanding and the closer I walk with God – the more at Peace I am.   It is a process which begins with joy and leads to trust, trust to confidence, confidence to acceptance and acceptance ultimately to Peace.    
“My Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give you” John 14:27 

By the way – I should tell you that Elizabeth completed construction, changing the placement of her window to look out onto her backyard.   I am guessing this may have had something to do with that loony neighbor yelling about her Peace.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Appointment

She sat there in the small examination room, across the table from me.  Pen in hand, writing notes and scribbling my answer to a series of endless questions.  Although she seemed interested and concerned - the clinical nature of her personality and the scientist dedicated to the study of my illness - was most apparent.

NO, suicide has never been a thought... This first question is always the same. (A marvelous ice breaker)

I am here today with little expectation, which is not normal for me.  I usually thoroughly prepare for my appointments; treating them like I have been granted an interview with the Pope.  All the pomp and circumstance to get to that burning question all MS patients have - "What can I expect next?"

This time I am less inclined to look for her to give me any concrete, definitive answers.  She simply does not know and clearly cannot offer anything other than a guess.  I actually saw her - the leading MS specialist at Stony Brook Hospital - shrug her shoulders.  Nice, if I was wondering about the weather.

Today, in that little room, I felt a stab of sorrow for this woman.  She may have medical funding for research, the backing of pharmaceutical companies and the admiration and respect of her colleagues BUT today she had nothing to offer me.  Nothing but future hopes and future studies.  Nothing in her Black Bag of tricks to give me.  

All I got today was that pitiful shrug.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Yellow Highlighter


Wouldn’t it be marvelous if we all had a yellow highlighter snuggled in our back pocket that could be used to emphasize what is important in our lives?  Everyone would have the ability to take out his or her highlighter and mark significant moments in time.  A highlighter in hand might help us along our journey to capture the moments we tend to overlook.    

Our family vacation began long before the car was packed and we arrived at our “little beach house” on the Jersey Shore.  It took weeks of planning and attending to the many details that involve a Reilly Summer Adventure.   Everyone’s favorite foods & snacks were purchased.  The trip to the liquor store had us buying fancy bottles of wine, rum, vodka and my favorite whiskey (Jack Daniels) by the cases!  No vacation to the beach would be complete without some games.  I honestly think the older my kid’s get – the more alcoholic beverages and ironically toys are needed for the weeklong getaway.  My suitcase was filled with bathing suits awaiting that perfect accessory - sand between my toes.  The final item to be packed was a newly purchased yellow highlighter. 

Days before our departure I borrowed a book from my youngest daughter, Aileen. Her college coach had recommended each player on her softball team read this book before returning to school.  “Oh Mom, I know you will love it! It’s right up your alley”.  I knew by the very title, The Carpenter, that it was something that would interest me.  It was a story about the greatest success principles of all.   I dove in and began reading this wonderful motivational book!  After only a few pages I began to notice the sentences Aileen had chosen to boldly highlight in yellow. I became aware of how perfectly Aileen had captured the quintessential ideas of each chapter. She had an uncanny skill when using her yellow highlighter to take note of what was at the heart of the matter. 

I needed to take this trick with me as I began our week vacation.  Somehow I would remove and put aside the difficulties surrounding my every step with MS, which are often highlighted.  Next, move past the feelings of being a burden that often cloud my vision. And finally, let go of the fear and uncertainty which can leave me behind and unable to participate.

Armed with this highlighter I see God’s love blessing me in countless ways! Beauty is bolded in my eyes, as I am on the lookout for the goodness He places along my path.  The joy of a good laugh, the indescribable colors at sunset, the ocean breeze against my bronzed skin, and the magic of starry nights all experienced in the arms of those I love.  I am not discouraged by the hard realities associated with my illness, for these are a part of life. Instead, I move head on into the week wielding a mighty weapon. The goodness found in each moment brought into focus - all with the power of a yellow highlighter.


“When you see the good, look for the good, and expect the good.
You find the good and the good finds you.”
The Carpenter by Jon Gordon


Friday, August 5, 2016

Unspoken Joke

Sometimes I catch myself and immediately stop.  It is easier that way.   For now, I have avoided any ridicule and teasing, which would come as the result of being caught in the act.  I am seated around the kitchen table with my family.  A simple meal has been prepared, seasoned only with the joy of being together.    Nobody has shared a joke, nothing particularly funny has been said, but I cannot keep from laughing.      These moments are rare and fleeting.  The lives of my young adult children have them spending more days away from home.  Adventures await them and this table is often void of one, if not all three of them. 

Sometimes I am caught and have no defense.  I am laughing in a somewhat peculiar manner and my husband and children show no mercy.  As I throw back my head in a hilarious fit of laughter, the table grows quiet.  If only someone actually said something funny to warrant my uncensored giddiness.   All eyes are on me as they begin to uncover the source of my laughter.  The girls notice that my eyes are fixed on my son.  In most instances, he has done something completely inappropriate or downright stupid.  Years ago, I would have given him a swift smack upside his head.  But that was in the past and my daughters are the first to take note. 

“Mom is laughing at KC again!”  “She does realize that he burped the entire alphabet “.   “Did Mom just find it funny when KC threw food at us?”   “He farted right at the table – pretending to lift his butt check, and she thinks it’s cute!”


OK guilty as charged.  I delight at my sons’ antics and his carefree nature.   He tickles my funny bone with no more than a glance my way.  Call it a mother and son bond.  But it is truly his gift to me (which he inherited from his father).   

Suddenly I realize I am no longer laughing alone.  We are all together at that table sharing a good laugh (mostly at my expense).  The unspoken joke we share is felt as rich and deeply as our unspoken love.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Purpose

Asking questions is the best way to really know and understand someone.  A good question can lead directly to the heart of any matter.  A better question will stop a person in their tracks, redirecting the very path they are on.  I stumbled upon a question that was being asked rhetorically to a group of friends with whom I was enjoying lunch.  The question was asked to merely make a statement rather than elicit a response.  But I would take this question with me – neatly tuck it away in my mind – where it remained long after the meal.

The question was “What is your Life’s Purpose?”  Simple – yes, but I was empty and had nothing to offer as a response.  I think about my life and clearly see its purpose at different times.  Memories allow me to recall the many seasons of my life. My spiritual purpose has always been to know, acknowledge and love Jesus. But today when I consider the question of “My Purpose” - I have a difficult time finding the right answer.  In my usual fashion, I begin the process of overthinking and overanalyzing. Feeling frustrated I tuck the question away again, and hope for some inspiration.


A few days later I am enjoying another lunch, this time with my friend, Corinne.  She is my MS buddy, heaven sent and a blessing in my life.  We quickly talk about that which is our bond – new symptoms, how we are handling the heat, doctor visits, and challenges both physical and mental.    We are both anxious to get past these formalities and move onto other important topics (which are more nurturing to our spirit).   With little delay I ask her the question, which has been at the very forefront of my thoughts.   “Corinne, I’ve been pondering this question and can’t seem to find a meaningful response - What is your life purpose?”

Without missing a beat and in no more than a split second - Corinne replies, “To be God's Witness”.  She knew her answer to this question before I even asked!  I unashamedly admit that I do not know my own purpose but will gladly steal hers and make it my own!!   Corinne’s response inspired & reminded me that our purpose must be greater than our challenges.  

All this reflection had me remember something important from my past.   When I was searching for our wedding invitation I found traditional formats to be boring. Instead, I chose a card with a painting of a bride surrounded by women preparing for the “celebration” – it captured the essence of the season and purpose of my life at that very moment.  The caption under the picture was a familiar verse from the bible.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens"
Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been trying so hard to “get the right” answer.  Gazing into the unknown to see my usefulness, trying to predict my next course of action. But maybe I’ve been asking the wrong question. A glance backward illuminates how my life’s purpose is always growing and changing with the passing of time.  And that age grants us further possibilities and seasons – all awaiting a new purpose.   

Perhaps the question I should be asking is… “What are you doing to fully enter into this season of your life?”