Let the Light Enter
By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper 1825–1911
The Dying Words of Goethe
“Light! more light! the shadows deepen,
And my life is ebbing low,
Throw the windows widely open:
Light! more light! before I go.
“Softly let the balmy sunshine
Play around my dying bed,
E’er the dimly lighted valley
I with lonely feet must tread.
“Light! more light! for Death is weaving
Shadows ‘round my waning sight,
And I fain would gaze upon him
Through a stream of earthly light.”
Not for greater gifts of genius;
Not for thoughts more grandly bright,
All the dying poet whispers
Is a prayer for light, more light.
Heeds he not the gathered laurels,
Fading slowly from his sight;
All the poet’s aspirations
Centre in that prayer for light.
Gracious Saviour, when life’s day-dreams
Melt and vanish from the sight,
May our dim and longing vision
Then be blessed with light, more light.
This morning, I forgot that I am trying not to be a "Do as I say, not as I do" kind of a parent. This morning, I naggingly said a whole bunch of unfiltered things, and didn't do any great example setting. It's just about the hardest thing in the world I think: to accept (and remember) that human beings (including the ones I birthed) aren't computers I can reprogram. Because that would be easier, wouldn't it? Then I'd be a computer too and emotions, pride, they couldn't throw me.
What am I afraid of? That they'll grow up to struggle with laziness, anger, doubt, vanity, materialism? Of the ridiculous decisions they're bound to make (you know, because they didn't heed my warnings)? That self-centeredness will inhibit their ability to serve others without strings attached?
Yes, yes that's it!
So hows about I save myself some time and energy by getting real here? All that stuff I fear? It's Going. To. Happen… no matter what. And those expectations I have for my children? Well they're downright hypocritical. I've had three and some decades to overcome those very same vices and still they linger on my person like sticky, prickly burrs.
There are natural consequences and then there are judgmental, merciless, pride-driven accusations…or even worse, summarizations born of lofty standards even I, as their adult mother, could never live up to. It's the latter I better get serious about squelching lest I communicate by my actions something far different than I believe in my heart, with all my heart, about grace and forgiveness.
I need to break this out again today by Elder Porphyrios, because I've been talk, talk, talking too much:
Pray and then speak. That’s what to do with your children. If you are constantly lecturing them, you’ll become tiresome and when they grow up they’ll feel a kind of oppression. Prefer prayer and speak to them through prayer. Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts. That is, you shouldn’t give guidance to your children with a voice that they hear with their ears. You may do this too, but above all you should speak to God about your children. Say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, give Your light to my children. I entrust them to You. You gave them to me, but I am weak and unable to guide them, so, please, illuminate them…It is not sufficient for the parents to be devout. They mustn’t oppress the children to make them good by force. We may repel our children from Christ when we pursue the things of our religion with egotism.
You've really gotta dig down deep, and gird yourself with prayer, in order to achieve love that is patient, kind, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs – love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes and perseveres without expecting anything back (like gratitude for your efforts or a conversion to your point of view) in return. Oh but how much better I sleep at night when I bite my tongue, and meet exasperation armed with the dedication to remain a calm and healing presence!
Let the Light enter me and illumine the darkened reasonings standing between myself and long-suffering loving-kindness. May Light, only Light, flood my soul and this home.
Oh, I've been warm alright…for all the less than cozy reasons. The antibiotics have started to kick in, however, so I'm up from off the couch. Woo hoo! Anyway, I've got a variety of photos to share that represent warmth to me in one way or another. Let's just go on and get started…
My two girls are such snuggle bugs. I never had a sister so I so delight in watching them be a comfort and support to one another. Here are their feet. Prissy was reading a book to Mary under the afghan my grandmother knitted for me as a going away present when I left for college back in 1992. Little toes + nostalgic blanket = warmth in my book.
My brother and sister-in-law recently got an espresso machine, which I must admit has been way fun for all of us. Paige makes a killer latte - they are really, really good. They are really, really warm. For an extra special treat she creates designs in the frothy milk part, because… why not?
My kids and their cousins stayed warm during a blustery snow storm this past week by playing a dance game on the Wii. Oh my goodness were they a hoot to watch! Your Christmas gift was definitely appreciated, Aunt Carrie!
It warmed my heart when I walked into the boys' room and saw this sweet note from my six-year-old to her older brother written with a window crayon.
* Note to self: wash your windows
I wanted to use this shot I took of a framed photo of Paige and her mom because it demonstrates, to me anyway, the power of an image to evoke warm memories. And warm memories, in turn, evoke gratitude. Gratitude conquers discontentment. Therefore photography is exceedingly important. Well now, I feel way better about obsessively taking so many photos…and reading about taking photos…and thinking about taking photos…! : )
Here is my husband by a fire. The fire is warm. My husband is warm when I cuddle up next to him. That pretty much sums it up.
And last, but so, so not least, is this, my favorite photo of all. Being such a visual person, icons capture my attention away from the trivial fluff and banality my eyes are exposed to on an every day basis. They draw me into a deeper reality, into eternity, into prayer. Prayer corners warm my soul.
Do you have a reflection on warmth you'd like to share? I'd love to see it! Please leave your site address in the comment section below. Next week's The Way I See It theme will be: A Different Point of View
Peace and warmth to you!
I'm in the midst of a frustrating, overwhelming, never ending house project. Early this spring, we'll be moving to the other end of town and I've got clutter out the wazoo that needs to be sorted through. Monday, I tackled the girls' room, filling garbage bags with dried out markers, torn Polly Pocket dresses, dead flowers, candy wrappers (hmmmmm). I donated another bag to our resale shop bulging with outgrown clothes, stuffed animals and various other odds and ends prompting more than a few "We have too much sttttuuuuuufffff!" outbursts from yours truly.
Currently, I'm avoiding the boys' room, the attic, the basement (ohhhh, good grief, the scary basement) and the kitchen. It gets to me, you know? The hugeness of an undertaking that must be slowly chipped away at. There's no shortcut for this, I just have to dig down deep and jump in somewhere, avoiding as much as possible thinking ahead about the tasks still in front of me. And this applies to parenting, faith, depression, illness, etc. – any and everything that can't be "solved" or completed with the flip of a switch or the click of a mouse. Blinders and gratitude: that's my game plan today. No dwelling outside of the present, no gawking at the length of the road stretched ahead of me winding over mountains, through deep valleys, and on out of sight. One minute, one room, one prayer for strength at a time.
I want you to try something with me: Pause a second. Take a deep breath. What are you thankful for? Are you stumped? I understand. I have days like that too. When my gratitude is elusive I pull out my Akathist of Thanksgiving and recite the praises contained within it with whatever scant belief I can muster, allowing them to wash over my fears, anger, confusion, laziness, shame like a mystical balm.
Glory to Thee for calling me into being
Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to Thee for every step of my life's journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age
Nothing outwardly changes when I do this. The physical mess remains and the uncertainties remain uncertain. Mysteriously, however, I am lifted above them. I become anchored to a peace born out of a remembrance of Christ's ever, ever, ever present mercy, and His divine and perfect Will.
Glory to Thee, ceaselessly watching over me
Glory to Thee for the encounters Thou dost arrange for me
Glory to Thee for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends
Glory to Thee for the humbleness of the animals which serve me
Glory to Thee for the unforgettable moments of life
Glory to Thee for the heart's innocent joy
Glory to Thee for the joy of living
Moving and being able to return Thy love
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age
My soul stops flailing like its drowning when I grab hold of the life boat that is gratitude to God for even the hard parts of living.
Glory to Thee, the highest peak of men's dreaming
Glory to Thee for our unquenchable thirst for communion with God
Glory to Thee, making us dissatisfied with earthly things
Glory to Thee, turning on us Thine healing rays
Glory to Thee, subduing the power of the spirits of darkness
And dooming to death every evil
Glory to Thee for the signs of Thy presence
For the joy of hearing Thy voice and living in Thy love
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age
This is my place: planted firmly in the "now" – in the stillness of wholly depending on Christ for illogical tranquility despite the turbulence breathing always down my neck.
Glory to Thee, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love
Glory to Thee, making wonderfully Sweet the keeping of Thy commandments
Glory to Thee, making Thyself known where man shows mercy on his neighbour
Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others
Glory to Thee, rewarding us so well for the good we do
Glory to Thee, welcoming the impulse of our heart's love
Glory to Thee, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age
This is my vocation: To throw myself competely, humbly, prayerfully, as an offering of Thanksgiving to God, into even the most unglamorous of jobs, the most draining of interactions.
Glory to Thee for every happening
Every condition Thy providence has put me in
Glory to Thee for what Thou speakest to me in my heart
Glory to Thee for what Thou revealest to me, asleep or awake
Glory to Thee for scattering our vain imaginations
Glory to Thee for raising us from the slough of our passions through suffering
Glory to Thee for curing our pride of heart by humiliation
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age
This is my reality: Christ is Risen, death has been vanquished! None of my suffering, my setbacks, my challenges, my multiple screw-ups, my disappointments are meaningless or necessarily growth stunting. Love, thanksgiving and humility can 100% of the time flip despair on its head. I am adored as I am. I am saved from despondancy, discontentment and excessive worry by loving others and returning over and over again, until this chapter of my existance is over, to gratitude when I start going under.
I think I'm ready now to head upstairs with a trash bag and vacuum – ready to pace myself.
I will sing praises to my God while I have being.
If you were to kind enough to sit for me while I took your portrait, you'd have to be pretty patient. Just ask my accommodating father, who, bless his heart, let out nary a groan while I fiddled endlessly with my camera settings, fussed about the available light and hmmmed and hawed over the composition. How could I best reflect in an image my respect for this man I so look up to? How could a photograph tell a story about who he is and what he does? I still have to think these things through. They don't quite yet come automatically to me.
As one who prefers to photograph rather than be photographed, I understand completely how vulnerable it can feel to be staring down a camera lens. It means the world to me when a loved one allows me the privilege of capturing them with my Nikon.
Paige, my sister-in law
I really need the practice for one thing. The best way for me to learn what works and doesn't work is by doing. I can only get so far by studying books and tutorials.
Janie, my niece
Also, I have this dream of one day filling a wall in my home with white matted frames containing portraits of all my friends and family. Oh, that would make me happy and thankful to look at every day!
It would be for me a wall of comfort, encouragement and inspiration. A gallery of blessings.
Oh yes, I'd remember while looking at the faces of those who have been so merciful and selfless in their support of me, Love is what matters.
Do you have a reflection on portraits to share? Please link to your site in the comment section below! Next week's "The Way I See It" theme will be: warmth.Read More
In December, I was at the drugstore where Colgate Spin Brushes were buy one get one free. Having recently spent a small fortune on dentist visits, I put four in my shopping cart, festively wrapped them when I got home and then gave them to my kids as St. Nicholas day presents. Am I a fun mom or what? These gifts of good hygiene were surprisingly well received but have, unfortunately, become a nuisance. See the base of these brushes, which require batteries, are much too large to store in our regular toothbrush holder. I’ve tried forcing them to fit. I’ve tried precariously balancing them into a Spin Brush, Jenga-like, tower. I’ve tried keeping them in my bathroom drawer, but all to no avail. Much to my annoyance, these brushes have littered and crowded our bathroom counter top on a daily basis.
Fast forward to January when were visiting Troy’s family, including his sister, Michelle, who also has four children – four children with…get this…four Colgate Spin Brushes! Michelle’s bathroom counter top was tidy, however. What in the world was her secret? Within half a second I discovered, oh, she keeps those brushes in a wide-mouthed glass container. Michelle had thought outside the traditional toothbrush holder box while I’d been beating my head against the wall of auto-pilotedness. How many other little headaches have I’ve been burdening myself with unnecessarily by failing to pause and think before acting? Is there a better way to do this? Is a question I should be asking myself a lot more often.
And it’s more than just logistical conundrums that leave me frustrated. I get stuck in mental and emotional ruts as well – especially when I allow, out of busyness, too much time to lapse between moments of prayer, appointments with my priest for confession, the attendance of Church services or the receiving of the Holy Eucharist. What is my deal? I’ll be guiltily wondering, while up half the night worried sick about any number of terrifying scenarios, or when my patience has run thin and I’m snapping at my family members. Why can’t I get over this anxiety, this resentment, this depression, this lust for material possessions already? It’s like these vices are attacking me; my meager willpower just can’t compete. Despair takes hold when I lose myself in that guilt rather than recognizing these yellow flags as valuable warnings that I’m drifting too far from my Source of peace, contentment and wisdom.
The American psychiatrist, M.Scott Peck said, The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. Thinking pridefully that I should somehow be above such struggles is ludicrous. And assuming by now I should be immune to the same old tired stumbling blocks is tragically counterproductive in that I waste valuable time becoming steeped in disenchantment, growing callous, when I could be healing, thriving, starting over via repentance.
Fully accepting I cannot, for even a second, rely on myself to do anything self-less, courageous or wise keeps me from staying down when I’ve fallen down. Because, Oh Yeah, of course I’m discontent! I’ve lost my focus, I remember sooner rather than later. I’ve gotten all tripped up from running around aimlessly. Just figuring that much out, my friends, is truly half the battle.
Is there a better way to get through any given day besides fussing and fuming and ruminating over that which I cannot control? The more frequently I ponder this, the quicker I’ll be to respond when confronted by signs of waywardness with, God I need you! Lord, have mercy! Take my every thought captive! Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture, wrote Elder Thaddeus. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.
This salvation thing is a full-time, all consuming endeavor requiring ceaseless intercessions for guidance and forgiveness. And the tools provided by the Church are hardly optional for those of us aching to rise above pettiness and earthly cares. Perhaps I was never meant at all to once and for all defeat anxiety and self-centeredness. Perhaps the truer answer lies simply in humbly turning Christ-ward, minute to minute, exactly as I am and praying “Thy will be done,” trusting He alone can override my doubts and weaknesses and help me mean it.