Transformation

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“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature’s delight.” — Marcus Aurelius

I see a mountain, and wonder how it got there, and why it is shaped as it is. Why are some mountains slate gray, and others light, or even red? Why are some spiked, others rounded? How could the continents split and form the map we have today — and what will it look like in a million years?

The annual cycle of nature is easier to comprehend. We know the leaves on trees will die in a glorious blaze of color, and that flowers will wilt and die, a sad reminder of their beauty. Snow will fall, the sun will glow. Those changes we can anticipate. Renewal and rebirth.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

In human life, nothing is certain. I often give thanks to God or my forebears that I was born in the United States. I can’t imagine the constant suffering people is the poorest and unruliest parts of the world withstand. I try to live the American dream, and that’s not a big house, and flashy car, but believing and supporting what the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and even the Emancipation Proclamation, intended. We are a special country, a special place to live.

This doesn’t mean we are equally blessed or that we are free from suffering. People we love die, others we care about struggle with disease — cancer, addiction, unpronounceable illnesses. Even people who look normal on the outside live with depression, loneliness, loss of a child or spouse. We are not what we seem; each of us has cried, struggled, tried to bargain with God, sought oblivion in one way or another, lost the will to live knowing that, yes, the “worst” can happen.

I have lived through a couple of these “worst” things (though losing a child is the worst I can imagine and it hasn’t happened to me), and have walked through the mire of recovery and readjustment. I have been transformed. I have been changed by every significant event in my life. Joy overwhelmed me at the birth of each child — especially the first after I had lost two to miscarriages. By the grace of God, I overcame addiction and I am constantly aware of what a blessing it is to have been unshackled by a heavenly hand. I lost my father at age 14 — to suicide from bipolar disorder. I have suffered and I have survived — sometimes with gratitude, sometimes just with the passage of time.

I am one of those people who espouses “everything happens for a reason” adding that we just don’t know that reason, and only in another life beyond death will it be revealed. There is no earthly explanation, except roll of the dice, but then why is God willing, if he is asked, to walk with us through the darkest times and hold our hand, push us back from the edge, reveal that we still have a life to be lived with a purpose? Some days I struggle with that purpose, but never am I ungrateful for the experiences life has brought me for they have made me who I am and deepened my understanding, compassion, and self-knowledge. I’ve even had a glimpse of the God of my understanding.

My transformation is not a slow as that of the earth, but it is ongoing and as certain.

“Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.” Rick Warren

 

 

 

 

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Rounded

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Every now and then one of the picture suggestions catches my eye, and I think — yes, I like that idea. I found myself looking the other day at a very tall building going up along the highway. It is covered in mirrored-like panels. From a distance, it looks a bit like a space ship ready to launch from its pad. Extending the similarity, it is rounded, not a true cylinder, but rounded artistically. How do they do that — bend building materials? They’re probably glass panels so that they create a smooth roundness that looks effortless. No doubt it costs a lot, but apparently big banks don’t mind the expense. Still it’s forms a contrast with the buildings around it both in materials, height, and shape — probably just what was intended.

Pushing the concept even further, Frank Gehry has forsaken traditional grounded architecture for something with no distinct lines. Take the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle:

It’s easiest to use a quote to describe how this building is constructed, but it must have been a challenge: “A fusion of textures and myriad colors, MoPOP’s exterior conveys all the energy and fluidity of music. Three-thousand panels, made up of 21 thousand individually cut and shaped stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles, encase the outside of the building. Their individual finishes respond to different light conditions and appear to change when viewed from different angles, reminding audiences that music and culture is constantly evolving.” I haven’t been inside the buildings (these are my photos of the outside); the exterior is an adventure in itself as one tries to identify shifting colors, and irregular, unexpected shapes. Sitting near the once innovative Space Needle (also encompassing a round section), it now sits in what is definitely the cultural center of the city.

Apparently Gehry “purchased several electric guitars, sliced them into pieces, and used them as building blocks for an early model design.” What an organic and unique, creative process going right to the soul of the museum.

What a departure in modern architecture! Unlike my curved spaceship building, this is a true departure from standard practice that challenges one’s concept of how a building “should look!

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This image of the Gehry’s Lou Nuvo Center for Brain Research at the Cleveland put the square lines of the windows in contrast to the curved lines of the building. It reminds me of the art of Rene Magritte!

So much for skyscrapers! There are alternative ways of think about the spaces in which we work and live.

Luck or Something More?

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Why do some people breeze through life seemingly with no problems? Why are some people thin and never have to consider what they eat? Why do some people suffer what seem like more than their fair share of life’s tougher issues, and others don’t?

Who knows — only God, I guess. At any rate, God is the one I have to trust, believing that there’s a reason for suffering, that he has a plan for each of us, and is willing to go on the journey with us, if we ask him.

My niece was born with a birth defect. You’d never know from looking at her, but at age 40 she’s had about the same number of surgeries, and they’re never easy or straight-forward. She’s had far more than her share of pain, not because of the defect, but because of the surgeries necessary and how they have affected her body. The doctors have been great — no fault there. It’s just a continuous problem she lives with daily.

My niece was also born with the kindest, sunniest disposition that one can have. She has a beautiful smile, and uses it often to warm people’s lives: her family, her patients (she’s a nurse), and friends. She doesn’t complain, and continually pushes herself to be the best possible person and professional she can be. Giving in to her health problems is not an option for her; she lives life to the fullest and has a gift of helping others, listening with empathy, and offering sound and caring advice.

I admire her fortitude, her love of life and those in it, and her determination. I just wish she’d get some health breaks, and not have to suffer the pain I know she live with amidst her busy life.

As she recovers from yet another surgery, tougher than expected (as usual), I wish her speedy recovery. I know her faith is strong, and God is at her side.

Bless her.

Transformation

This is a wonderful and helpful post, Shannon. You are right on so many levels, and your confession is appropriate. We’re all that way, no matter how much we involve God in your lives. Life is a struggle sometimes. I’ve had a couple of really bad periods/events in my life and fortunately I did come out “a better person” for the journey, by the grace of God. I don’t know if I need your permission to reblog this, but it is in harmony with some of the blogs I’ve written lately that I’d hope you won’t mind.

Doodles Invigorate

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I always hear people ask why can’t I be happy all the time? I see them striving to obtain this eternal non-stop bliss party. I was one of them. Life doesn’t work that way! God allows bad things to happen for a reason. Overcoming horrible events and emotions are what shapes, molds, and transforms us. It can shape you into a monster or it can shape you into something beautiful. How you transform is based on your perspective on life and how you handle your emotions. We must fight to ignore negative emotions caused by bad experiences. We must strive to look through a positive lens. Then we will find moments of happiness in stressful times. Then it is easier to hear God. Moments that are filled with light, guide us through the darkest valleys.

A special note to Christians in the valley: The valley is filled with spiritual warfare…

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Overcome

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I cannot help but think of the great hymn, “We Shall Overcome”, sung so frequently at civil rights marches in the ’60’s. It brings a lump to my throat, not just because marchers were often treated violently, but because they had the fortitude, faith, and moral character to demonstrate peacefully. What a leader they had in Dr. Martin Luther King. Not a perfect man, but a perfect man for the job and the times.

Were all the marches peaceful? No, even if the marchers were, often violence was instigated by law enforcement under the direction of the city, the state, the governors — those who are charged with keeping the peace, except when it came to blacks marching en masse, including many white supporters.

In some ways, those were the best of times. When has a cause been so morally justified? When have people demonstrated without resorting to violence, name-calling, or destruction of property? When has prayer, in this non-religious establishment country, been used more effective and forcefully.

I have the privilege of having seen all this during my teenage years. I would not want to have missed witnessing just change come about. Being from Ohio, I did not know the level of segregation and the feelings behind it, that existed in many parts of the South. And I’m glad I didn’t. Imagine being brought up to hate, to disparage other people without consequence, even to kill without proper legal force being brought to bear on the crime. Justice was served, if not immediately, at least in law by 1965. You do not change people’s hearts and minds overnight, so the fight took longer, and in may ways continued peacefully. As Dr. King said (below), “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Some groups wanted violence, but Dr. King always said no to that, and the heinous ending of his life just showed where violence and hatred reap.

These people overcome first their righteous anger, their hatred of whites who had held them in their places for generations in order to overcome on a much larger scale — forcing laws and a legal acceptance which has led to equality.

I will not defend my remark on equality; I know that many feel that racism is still alive and active. I personally question this, and believe that when people come together peacefully and legally, they stand on an equal footing. No amount of legislation will make us hate or love, or wipe out discrimination of all kinds.

When we are individually and collectively able to overcome our own prejudices, biases, and the further ahead we will move in making this a truly free country, one in which all are judged “not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”

 

The Truth, As I See It

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I woke up the other morning with this on my mind (I don’t know why!): There is truth. Something is true or it isn’t, but so much of what we see and hear and even say to one another is only the truth as it is perceived. Is that because of our own experiences, or do we just have personal biases that make us hear facts differently? Are we merely uninformed? No doubt it is a combination of things — but I have become wary of someone telling me something, as if it were the truth, and it just isn’t, it’s only one version, or half the story.

Today I heard someone comment on “news” they had read on Facebook. Is that a good, reliable source for news? What about the internet — what’s unbiased and totally factual? There are even sites designed to purposely skew or misrepresent events. We know our media is biased, though that doesn’t mean TV, radio, and newspaper outlets always attempt to hoodwink the public.

Then there’s the more pernicious disinformation which is information given out generally by government agencies (all over the world) which misrepresent the facts for a specific reason — they’re lies that sound truthful, and often there’s an agenda in this “lying”. Then there’s misinformation, which is less purposely wrong and misleading, but nonetheless, inaccurate. Finally, there is simply omission. News is just not reported, so the public has no knowledge of events.

What’s a person seeking truth to do? It seems as if any sources we go to may be gilding or diminishing the truth. There is little else to do than choose sources that seem generally reliable and read several of those — then judge what seems reasonable.

One of the most interesting continuing news stories that keeps popping up like Wack-a-Moles is the alleged interference by Russia in the 2016 elections. Have any facts been produced which are indisputable to show that this is either true or false? Yet the story has a life of its own, or it is in the best interest of group to keep the allegations alive.

There are so many other examples, big and small: global warming; Melania Trump’s shoes (who cares — it’s petty and stupid to mention it); the lack of coverage on the devastating earthquake in Mexico (like we don’t have enough of our own problems); the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the election (is her book accurate?); North Korea’s intentions regarding the rest of the world (I dread to think); what diet’s best for losing weight?

Biased minds, conflicting facts, special interests, a desire to be first in the ratings — all of these obscure the truth I’d like to know.

 

 

 

Mad or Madness

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I’m mad. I didn’t wake up this way. My husband came into the bedroom about 7:30 as I was getting up and told me our drain (the main drain) was backed up AGAIN and I couldn’t use any of the “facilities”. When the drain gets blocked, the sewage water from the house drains onto the utility room floor. It’s disgusting, and I should be thankful to my husband for cleaning up that mess. And I am grateful, but I still can’t shake my anger.

For anger to be this strong, I feel like there has to be another reason. I’m feeling it in my muscles and bones, that pent-up feeling of powerlessness. I need a vent, and soon I’ll go to yoga, and hopefully that will help.

What’s odd, is I rarely get rip-roarin’ mad. I think all the pressures that are foisted upon us from a 24-hour news cycle has something to do with it. My sister lives in Florida near Tampa, and of course I’m worried about her, her children, and her grandchildren — and even people I don’t know. What a horrible storm. The devastation in Houston has only begun to be cleared up — and that will take forever — and now we have another area of the country waiting to be torn to shreds and dropped in floods of filthy water.

Life’s not fair. (But I know that.)

I get tired of the Trump bashing, the races fighting, the Alt-Left assaulting the Alt-Right, and vice versa, the Neo-Nazis, the Left-wing agitators, the attacks on free speech and free thought — I think I need a rest from TV and the internet.

I’m mad, but now I’m off to yoga, and hopefully I’ll be able to quit obsessing and cope with the rest of the day, not matter what cr*p it brings.