90 Day Challenge: Day 28 – Draw Your Strength From The Lord

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

I have had to let this day’s reflection sit with me for a while before I could write about it. I guess I have been trying to decide what God’s armor looks like on me.

If I were to “clothe” myself in order to serve God and ward off evil, I would want to be dressed in Mother Mary’s Ten Evangelical Virtues, having the heart of St. Mother Teresa, the bravery of St. Joan of Arc and the penitence of St. Mary Magdalene.

Put together, I believe all would build an armor that would serve any woman of God very well.

It is not an outward fashion I refer to, but an interior one. It is haute couture for the soul.

Mary’s Ten Evangelical Virtues are scattered throughout the Gospels, identified in the early 16th Century by Blessed Gilbert Nicolas OFM and put into the form of a Chaplet by St. Joan of Valois, once a Queen of France and a founder of the Order of the Annunciation.

They form the devotional tradition of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, but have long been seen by mystics and Popes as a simplified way to holiness, because to follow her example is to be a model disciple of Jesus.  It is to go “to Jesus through Mary.”

They are also reflective of The Beatitudes as recited by Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount.  These virtues are representative of the heart of his teachings.

In their order, the Ten Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary are:

1. Most Pure 2. Most Patient 3. Most Humble 4. Most Faithful 5. Most Devout 6. Most Obedient 7. Most Poor 8. Most Patient 9. Most Merciful and 10. Most Sorrowful.

To have the heart of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is to love as unconditionally did Jesus himself. To have St. Joan of Arc’s bravery is to believe in the mission God sets before you and literally fight for it. To have the penitence of St. Mary Magdalene is to be truly contrite and repentant for the times you fall short, the times the chinks in your armor are exposed and your wounds are made visible in your weakness.

Putting on the armor of God is not done in a day.  It is a lifetime of building a protective shield against life’s evils by devotion to Scripture, prayer and works of mercy.

It is learning to swim against the tide of popular culture and societal expectations. As with swimming in nature, swimming against the tide comes more easily to some Christians than others. Some take to God’s spiritual flow as ducks to water.  Others struggle to stay afloat. Some fear the water and won’t dip a toe. Others drown from the evil pooling within their own hearts.

You have to polish your armor daily so it does not rust. Sometimes it is so light to wear you feel you could float away; at other times it weighs so heavily it is hard to take a step forward.

But without it you are naked in the world and open to all its hostilities, vulnerable to real evils and threats that exist.

Putting on God’s armor requires you do battle with your own foibles, with the slings and arrows of others and against the snares and the traps of Satan himself.

Every victory is a grace, and each grace a rose for a crown of mercy – worn in triumph to the honor of Jesus through Mary.

”With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18”

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90 Day Challenge: Day 27 – Chastity

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Chastity. As a nearly 65-year-old woman who came of sexual age in the advent of The Pill, this seems a strange topic for me.  I am long past the age where “chastity” in its traditional sense has meaning.

When I was young, the parental mantra was “don’t have sex because you might get pregnant.” Young women in the late 60’s and early 70’s thought The Pill solved that problem.

Parents then ( do they now?) did not talk about STDs and HPV was still an unknown virus.  Doctors either didn’t know – or didn’t properly inform – of the side effects of various birth control methods or – as did not parents – about the dangers of STDs leading to infertility, cancer and even death.

It was the dawn of the women’s liberation movement.  We  in that age thought we were coming into parity with men, including sexually.  We thought we were “free” to experiment with who we were and what we wanted from life.

This was also the dawn of “R” rated movies and more sex depicted in them and on TV.  It was the season of “The Graduate” and “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.”  Life was a buffet from which you could choose whatever suited your taste.

We were wrong. The “drugs, sex and rock and roll” era didn’t lead to liberation.  It led to deeper bondage.  It led us into the culture of death.

Once the possibility of getting pregnant lessened, so did the consequences for how to deal with it if you accidentally did.  Or so we told ourselves.

Mercifully I never had to face an unwanted pregnancy.  I never had to contemplate whether I would or wouldn’t have an abortion.  I don’t think I could have had one, given how deeply I felt the wound of being “given up” so easily by my birth mother in favor of a man she barely knew.

For me, abortion would have equaled a similar motherly abandonment and that was worse than death in my mind.  In my heart.

But I did pay a price for my birth control choices.  At least I believe the copper IUD I used during my marriage perhaps contributed to the endometriosis that would result in my hysterectomy in my early 30s.

This is why my son is my only child: because I did not treat my body as God’s temple.  If “unchaste” is too old-fashioned a word, then I was undignified in my choices.

My Christianity was more nominal then. I did not see myself as God’s precious daughter, as a royal personage worthy of all respect and honor because of that.

Now my heart is broken for the women I spiritually counsel when talking with them about choices they have made that have led them to lives behind bars with their faces and bodies aged and degraded more than their years.

There are both moral and practical reasons for the instruction that comes to us in God’s word.  I think sometimes if the appeal to the Christian lifestyle focused in more on its practicality, the morality sought from the pulpit would naturally follow.

God knows we are fallen creatures and more likely to pay attention when our very survival is at risk.

Why must we hit “bottom” before we are willing to turn our lives and our will over to God?

No wonder his Sacred Heart is sorrowful. It is wounded, and we are the cause.

If I had a granddaughter who was starting to sexually mature, the advice I would give her now would be so different from what I would have given even a few decades ago.

I would tell her to always choose to protect her dignity and her self-worth, not because saving your virginity makes you morally superior, but because you will be healthier and happier when you are older if you do.

Because the body is a temple, it is the vessel that carries you through this life, and to maximize your chances that it be a long one, all the choices you make for your body have consequences.

Don’t do the drugs, wait for marriage to have sex and enjoy the rock and roll for the dancing that is great exercise and a stress reducer.

At least my generation got the rock and roll part of it right, even if we didn’t know about its health benefits.

We just danced for the fun of it.

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90 Day Challenge: Day 26 – Continence

“I thought that continence was a matter of our own strength, and I knew that I had not the strength: for in my utter foolishness I did not know the word of your Scripture that none can be continent unless you give it.” -St. Augustine

My first reaction on seeing the word “continence” in today’s Challenge reflection was to think of a Depends commercial.

It shows just how easily our minds turn to the messages of this world rather than to God’s. How conditioned we become by advertising to hear certain words and immediately think of the brand product associated with it.

But St. Augustine means the word “continence” in terms of “self-control.” Basically he is saying without God and his Word to guide us, self-control is beyond our grasp.

It is akin to that need to surrender to a Higher Power referenced in the Big Book and other anonymous materials.

Surrender must be the first step every Christian takes – to give oneself totally up to the Lord – before he or she can begin to possess any of the fruits of the Holy Spirit or undertake any of the discipline that comes with discipleship.

For me, self-control has come with starts and stops.  I can be very disciplined for a prolonged period of time. And then, suddenly, something interrupts that rhythm I began and – poof – all is abandoned.

For nearly 20 years I was an exercise freak.  It could be 11 pm and if I had not done my Jane Fonda workout, I would still make sure I did so before turning in.  It mattered that much to me.

Then my circumstances changed and my ability to engage in this long-held habit became interrupted. And though I go through periodic spurts of trying to reestablish this discipline of physical fitness, I never quite succeed in fully re-establishing it as integral to my well-being.

The same can be said for my prayer life and my eating habits as well. I am reminded of a song by The Animals at this juncture:

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”

But intentions are not actions, and right action does not come without discipline and self-control.

This is why I decided to try the Nineveh 90 Day Challenge.  It encompasses both the healthy spiritual and physical lifestyle I want to be dominant in my life for however many years I have left of it.

So nearly 30 days in, how have I done?

The results are mixed. I have done much, much better with the spiritual challenge.  I consider the habit of writing daily as part of this.  There have been only a couple of days when I have doubled up due to not getting my prayers completed and my own thoughts down to share.

I am gaining some momentum on the physical side, though not in a regularly fixed pattern yet.  Still, I have exercised several times at some point throughout these last three weeks, and hooking up with Kelly from Earth School Yoga for weekly restorative yoga classes has been a tonic. ( I even gave up Netflix for the Gaiam TV Fit & Yoga channel!)

The diet discipline hasn’t kicked in, but I haven’t been to the nutritionist or laid in a supply of her Healthwise protein bars yet.  That is an errand for Monday.

Still, kicking the Coca Cola habit is the hardest, as drinking soda daily goes back into my childhood years growing up in the taverns where my parents mostly worked.  (Reminder: they don’t serve milk in bars.  And up North, we call soda “pop.”)

So basically I am still in the “surrendering” stage, working on building up my muscles of self-control.

I would grade myself a “B” for spirituality, a “C” for exercise and a “D” for diet. So evidently still plenty of room for improvement.

But my intentions are good.

90 Day Challenge: Day 25 – Modesty

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)

In this chapter, the Lord has sent Samuel to find Saul’s successor among the sons of Jesse in Bethlehem.

The above bolded quote is the Lord’s response when Samuel looks upon the first son, Eliab, and – based solely on appearance – decides this is the son God wants him to anoint as the new King of Israel.

Rather it turns out to be David – the youngest and seemingly the least qualified – that God chooses.

God often chooses the modest to make his works manifest; that person we would least expect is the one God wants so that his power and glory are our focus, not the charisma and magnetism of the vessel he uses.

This is indeed a very different way of seeing than we are conditioned to look upon people. We are likely to overlook that person who isn’t as “well-packaged” in favor of the person who – based solely on appearance – seems to “have it all.”

I use the term “well-packaged” because it is a term one of my bosses once used with me to explain why another woman with whom I worked was considered more “worthy” of promotion than I.

It certainly wasn’t work product that separated us; I out-worked her many times over and did receive accolades for what I did – just not promotion and pay raise at the same level.

But she “presented” herself in a more sophisticated way and played the corporate game far better than I.  My boss was more than happy to have me as his work-horse, but made very clear to me I was not the show pony.

This stung, as my looks had always been a source of discomfit to me.  Convinced by my peers that I was a fat and ugly child, I always longed to be told I was pretty.

I vividly remember bringing home a note from my second-grade teacher in which she had written to my mother I was a “lovely” child.

At seven, I took the word “lovely” quite literally and drug a chair over to the mirror hanging above the old Motorola radio to marvel at my reflection and that someone had said it was lovely. ( In hindsight, I realize she could have been talking about my personage, not my visage. But even at a young age, I had already been indoctrinated in the belief that a woman’s looks are everything.)

This was reinforced as I grew up and slimmed down and became more fashionable.  The first man I ever deeply loved taught me this lesson in a harsh way.  For every five pounds I lost while we were together, he would always say “Now you would be perfect if you just lost five more.”

I “five-mored” myself from 135 pounds to 105 pounds by becoming both bulimic and anorexic.  Only 20 years old, eventually I was even suicidal when he informed me the entire time we dated during our Naval service, he was engaged to another woman on the other side of the continent.

I don’t think five more pounds would have made a difference – for him, I was never going to be “perfect” after all.

At nearly 65 and surrounded by women of faith, you would think I would have out-grown my need to feel physically beautiful among them. Sadly, for me and many of them, this is still not the case.

Some among us still obsess about our hair, skin, weight and dress.  It is those comfortable in their own skin I now most admire and wish I could be more like.

Yet that little girl in the mirror who wanted to be “lovely” still stares back at me as I get ready for Mass each week.

I know losing five more pounds won’t make me more  beautiful in God’s eyes.

Yet in my immodesty, still I try.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

90 Day Challegenge: Day 24 – Faithfulness

“But the Lord said: ‘If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you may say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted, and be transplanted into the sea.” And it would obey you.’” (Luke 17:6)

My faith ebbs and flows

Like the ocean

Sometimes 

It is high and deep

Covering the beach

In its fullness

So water is all that is seen

And to wade in it

Would mean immersing oneself 

And daring the current

To take you

Sometimes

It is shallow

Leaving sand

Exposed to sun

Drying out everything

That lives and moves

Leaving the stench

Of all that has died 

Like limp kelp

Draped over driftwood

Bleached like bare bones

Sometimes

It is neither

Shallow nor deep

But playful

Covering the ankles

Then racing away

To leave them exposed

And waiting

For the next surge

With expectant hope

That the sand that clings

Between toes

Like dirt on the soul

Will be washed away again

And you will be cleansed

My faith ebbs and flows

Like the ocean

Sometimes deeply

Sometimes in shallows

Sometimes like water rushing up

Only to rush away again

My faith ebbs and flows

My faith ebbs and flows

And with it my life

In the Lord

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90 Day Challenge: Days 22 & 23 – Longsuffering and Gentleness

My Mom was a ghost, walking in the everyday world; she was there, but she wasn’t.

She was there for me, but she wasn’t.

Her name was Vernette.  She married my grandfather (whom I grew up to referring as “Dad”) three years before I was born.  Born herself on the prairies of Montana, she was a dark beauty, with jet black hair, olive-toned skin, hazel eyes and beautifully straight, white teeth that people now pay to acquire.

Her parents and her brother, Victor, were fair, blond and blue-eyed.  She believed with her whole heart that she was not really a part of that family, but some Indian baby found on the prairie and taken in by them. Caught up in her tale, I refer to her high school graduation photo as her “Indian princess picture.” She was gorgeous.

Whether they were truly her parents or not, she adored her father, a barber named Fred. Somehow, they came back to live in Indiana near their wealthier relatives and practiced their religion of Christian Science.  She graduated, went to business college, married and was left divorced with two young sons when she met my Dad on a blind date.  Mom was working as a telephone operator at the time.

Though she said she did not love him, she married him anyway.  Being a divorced, working mother was still unusual in the late 1940s. As part of the marriage, she gained two step-daughters, the oldest of whom would go on to give her me, the little girl she said she had always wanted.

Even though she didn’t give birth to me, I without a doubt knew my mother loved me, even when she became a ghost of her former self after the unexpected death of her elder son when he was only 20.

It was his death that left her in that wraith-like state, unable to speak above a whisper for several years due to hysterical laryngitis, a white streak adorning the front of her dark hair where her hand had gone as the state trooper informed her of Gary’s death.

It also broke her heart so thoroughly not long after she would suffer the first of several heart attacks and a case of angina that would plague her the rest of her life. She would become somewhat reclusive, but never to me.

For me, her silence was comfortable companionship to which I clung as I nestled next to her in the gray leather rocker she preferred in our house by the lake.

I didn’t know until much later – after we lost it as collateral on a restaurant deal of Dad’s gone bad – that she had bought the house out of the insurance money from Gary’s death.  It was one of many things I wouldn’t grasp until I was older.

I knew my Mom was different from the other Moms of my schoolmates.  While their Moms provided home-baked goods for school events, my Mom would purchase a package of cookies to send.  She never dropped them off at school and stay like the other mothers.

While she never learned to drive, I don’t think that was why.  She had no friends among the other mothers; unlike my phone, hers never rang with people calling to share their latest news.  It was only ever Dad, telling her he was sending someone to pick her up to come help him at the bar when he was too busy to serve both drinks and food.

Both my parents were fabulous cooks.  Mom did hers in servitude to Dad.

That she saw her marriage as a form of bondage rather than a sacramental bond was something she never hid from me as I grew older.  While I loved my Dad, like her I grew to hate his vituperative nature that grew nastier toward her with every passing year of his highly alcoholic life.

She and I would both sit quietly and passively each evening he came home late cursing to a supper grown cold because he stayed behind to have a “few” beers after a day of bar tending and drinking.

While it was before the advent of the microwave, I suppose she could have kept dinner warming in the oven for him. It was a small revenge for the way he cussed her and you know what they say about revenge: a dish best served cold.

But throughout her trials and tribulations, Mom was never cold to me.  She was my refuge against the taunts and terrors of my classmates, where I would take the shards of my broken heart.

Hers was the lap in which I would bury my head to cry my own bitter tears, her hand stroking my hair until I became quiet and settled down to enjoy the comforting safety of her presence.

She was the one who taught me right from wrong, who encouraged my ceaseless love of reading, who made sure the pursuit of knowledge and education were ingrained within me.

While she did not get to attend my college graduation in California, I knew she was proud of my accomplishment, especially as I achieved it after ten years of effort that included a stint in the Navy, a marriage that ended in divorce and a toddler in tow.

She wouldn’t be very happy I have become Catholic, as her view was Catholics sinned all week then went to Church and confessed, only to turn around and sin again.

But then, since she never forgave God for Gary’s death, it could have been any religion that I chose; she still would have objected.

Usually it is lovers who have songs together.  My Mom and I had one…”You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor.  Ironically, I would have a “song” with only one other love in my life – “Meet Me Halfway.” But that is a different story. Maybe for another time.

For my sixteenth Christmas,  my Mom gave me a copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets From The Portuguese.” In it she wrote: “With loads of love Sweetheart. Books are like good friends; cherish them & treat them kindly – they will give you a lot of enjoyment in return.”

My Mom was longsuffering and gentle. In her I had a friend.

And not only that, but we also find glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation exercises patience, and patience leads to proving, yet truly proving leads to hope.” (Romans 4:3-4)

When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.” -St. Francis de Sales

 

 

 

90 Day Challenge: Day 21 – Goodness

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)

These last lines of Psalm 23 represent the covenant promise God made with Israel and – by extension, through his death and resurrection – to all Christians through Jesus.

Goodness and Mercy. Good is one of the first words as children that we learn, as we are constantly being told from toddler-ship onward by our parents whether or not our behavior is “good” or “bad.”

Sharing our toys with other children: good.  Touching a hot stove or an electrical socket: bad.

As we grow older, the list gets longer and increasingly complicated, especially as “relativism” in social conditioning comes into play.

If I am not hurting anyone else, I can’t be doing something bad, right?

How seldom we count ourselves as being hurt by our own actions in that hypothesis.

Yet Jesus offered a very simple and straightforward way to measure whether or not what we choose will be a good thing or a bad one:

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

He didn’t leave self-consideration out, did he?  No, Jesus told us to use as our measure the Golden Rule of how we ourselves would want to be treated.

So before we make decisions we know will surely impact someone else’s life, we must first ask: If someone were to do to me what I am about to do to this other person, would I be hurt by it?

If the answer is “yes,” the first obvious response is “then don’t do it.”

But if for some reason it is a thing that still must be done, then it should be done with as much kindness and delicacy as possible. Being merciful, as God is merciful to us.

For there is no way to hurt another without causing self-injury too.  Whether we recognize it or not, hurting others  leaves a scar on our hearts and in our psche’s as well as on the other person’s.

Sometimes the scar is minimal, hardly noticeable or felt.

At other times, it is a terrible pain that makes it feel all is shattered and beyond repair.

Because we are not God, with this shattering hurt we do not see that kindness will have any healing effect.  But because God’s mercy is all-powerful, he can heal us, if we let him.

Again, this doesn’t mean we won’t bear the mark that something bad has happened.  Resurrected in all his glory, Jesus still bore the wounds that bound him to the cross.

But for Thomas, the Doubter, the ability to touch Christ’s wounds became the foundation of his faith.

When we are willing to share our pain and suffering with others, show we have endured and even begun to heal, we give them hope that they can as well.  In this way we live out our call as disciples.

So ironically, bearing our wounds for others to see is a good thing; hiding them away and pretending they don’t exist is not.

And so goodness proceeds from the bad.

Because as promised:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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90 Day Challege: Day 20 – Kindness

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

Remember those bumper stickers that used to encourage us to practice “random acts of kindness?”

Whatever happened to them?  Whatever happened to us?

Be it our political discourse or just going about our everyday lives, we don’t seem to give one another much credit for having good intentions these days.

My Twitter timeline is littered with both random acts of unkindness and deliberate ones.  Whether it is white women calling police on black children selling lemonade, fathers handcuffed for beating up children at sporting events or our President calling people names like a kidergartner would, ours has become a nation based on how unkind we can be because someone doesn’t look like the people who came here on the Mayflower.

Well guess what: there were already people living here who did not look like them and were displaced from their homelands by them. So there is nothing heroic, nationalistic or ethnically noble about being white in the United States.

It just means your skin lacks melatonin to the same degree as other people.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

I often wonder if our Lord were to return among us as he looked when he walked the earth how many of us would accept him these days.  He would look distinctly Middle Eastern in appearance and nothing like the blond, blue-eyed Jesus of European artistic vision.

How many of us would invite him into our homes for a meal? How many would demand he show his passport? Prove he had a legal right to be here? How many of us would tell him to go back to where he came from?

When I think of the Lord in his Passion, as he walked the Via Dolorosa on his way to Calvary, I often think of the small, tender mercies he was shown along the way.

In Mel Gibson’s movie vision, there was Veronica, who offered her kerchief to wipe his bloody, sweat soaked brow.  An unknown woman who tried to quench his thirst. Simon, the Cyrenean who helped Jesus carry his cross.

Even Pilate’s wife brought towels to help soak up his Precious Blood after Jesus was scourged.

Luke 23:27 says “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.”

If Jesus himself were stopped and jailed at our Southern border trying to come into a Port of Authority to claim asylum, would anyone weep for him today?

Not in the United States we are shown on the nightly news.  Not in a country still divided on racial lineage and biased ideas of who does and doesn’t have a “right” to be here.

We seldom practice random acts of kindness these days.

And we are the lessor for it.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

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90 Day Challenge: Day 19 – Patience

The three grades of patience are: Lowest: to bear difficulties without interior complaint, Middle: to use hardships to make progress in virtue, Highest: to desire the cross and afflictions for Christ’s love, to have something to offer up, and to accept them with spiritual joy. (Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

Until I read this morning’s “Challenge” meditation, I never knew there were three degrees of patience.  Lord help me, I have enough trouble just keeping the garden variety, every day definition of it! I.e. “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.” ( Dictionary.com)

I don’t know if irritability is genetic or not, but I can tell you there is a strain of irascibility that definitely runs in the Johnston blood-line (Johnston being the maternal side of my family; not to be confused with my married name Johnson.)

While I have the vaguest of memories of my great-grandfather Robert, you can see in his high bridged nose and paper-thin lips a countenance that brooked little opposition.

I remember that same trait present in my Great Aunt, Mickey, and her brothers, including the “father who raised me;” my grandfather, Elmer.

I even experienced it with my birth mother, Jo Ann, on those few occasions in adulthood we spent time together.

I will never forget a Christmas at my sister’s house in Texas.  I was just dozing off to sleep when Jo Ann barged into the bedroom, yanked one of the two pillows out from under my head and said “so and so doesn’t have a pillow,” then marched out of the room.

As a woman in my forties, I was aghast that I hadn’t been politely asked if I would give up a pillow for someone instead of being treated like a child without the will to resist parental exercise.

It was a full on display of the Johnston, bull-in-a-China shop, “I alone can solve this” attitude of impatience for a situation more peaceably resolved with a bit of cooperation from others.

I always recognize in others the things I am most guilty of inside myself.  And as my birth mother would search out all the similarities between us when we spent time together, so I search them out in the presence of my own son.

God bless him, I definitely see the Johnston in him from time to time, especially during times of problem solving.  It does not matter what he has never confronted before, in his mind he should be able to perfectly execute a solution right away.  God help you if you offer a suggestion.

My impatience in my own nature comes out when I feel pressed into doing things against my will that I am too timid to say “no” to doing.  So I do them, but if I know you well enough, I do them with a lack of grace and impatience that is clearly displayed.

Yesterday was a prime example as I stood impatiently in line to make a return at Target.

There were obviously two clerks on return aisle duty, but one of them swooped around tidying product rather than wait on the line of customers forming because the other clerk was struggling to assist the customer before me.

I could say in my defense I wasn’t feeling my best, but my irritability at being ignored became evident enough that the swooping clerk finally walked up to a second register to assist.

”I’m sorry,” she said, “but they really don’t want me waiting on customers.” (I’m sorry, I thought, but in what universe does a store think lack of customer service is a good policy?)

Then she had trouble identifying which items of cat food I was returning because yesterday I had bought a mix, and the clerk rang them up as if they were all similar in kind.

I explained my 16-year-old cat is having kidney failure and being very fussy about what she will and won’t so I have to search for new flavors every few weeks to keep her interested in eating and weight on her already tiny frame.

”Oh, are you giving her plenty of water?” The clerk innocently asked.

”Of course I am!” I exploded as I impatiently walked off with my refund to purchase more of the type of food the cat today was willing to eat.

I felt ashamed of myself later and was reminded of that jokey prayer: God give me patience, and give it to me NOW!

I have 72 days left in this 90 Day Challenge of spiritual, exercise and diet regimen.

If I can better develop a virtue of patience in any of its three degrees, it will evidently be a miracle of biology indeed.

“My brothers, when you have fallen into various trials, consider everything a joy, knowing that the proving of your faith exercises patience, and patience brings a work to perfection, so that you may be perfect and whole, deficient in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) 

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Great-grandfather Robert Johnston

90 Day Challenge: Day 18 – Peace

Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?” -St. Gerard Majella

Peace of mind.  Peace of heart.  Like pure joy, I have known these states of being at fleeting times. Though I find as I grow older, as I strive less “to have” something, a state of stasis akin to peace is more and more a part of my days.

These past 18 days have – for the most part – been exceedingly peaceful as I spend my days in contemplation, prayer, reading and writing.  Throw in the occasional walk or yoga session, and it is peaceful indeed.

But if I let myself get caught back up in meeting deadlines and other people’s expectations, in appointments that require cross-town traffic or projects with a time due on them, then my peace flees like a thief in the night who has made off with my most precious treasure.

Social media and news add an extra jarring element these days.  If you read my blogs before these last 18 days, you will find that I already have been exceedingly disturbed by the introduction of a value system in this country that is completely transactional, meaningful only in how it benefits our President personally – through profit or self-aggrandizement – and that creates deeper political and personal divides among our citizenry.

And for all the anti-abortionists hoping Trump’s Presidency leads to overturn of Roe v. Wade, you cannot focus on one dimension of social justice at the expense of all its others.  You cannot say life is precious in the womb, then treat others with careless disregard for their humanity, suffering and need.

It doesn’t work that way. And it will not make us a more peaceful society.

But I cannot control world events.  I can pray for peace and healing, for an end to the disparities that create huge gaps in our lived experiences and hope in the “better angels” of our souls.

What I can and am attempting to do for the next 90 days is live within myself as much peace as I can possibly muster.  Hopefully it will become a well-developed habit I can continue long after that “deadline” for my “challenge” has passed.

I am not running to win a race here; I am adopting an attitude of peace in my soul because I choose it. And because it has been promised.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John: 14-27

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