Clearing Debris III……

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Clearing Out

Still on this subject? I am tempted to ask myself that however I have since learned that there is a difference between staring at the same point from the same location and looking at an object from different perspectives – the former stultifies while the latter informs and empowers. I have to admit that it has been a horrendous weekend for me but again in the light of the options available to me, I choose to still be thankful because what I just might consider as ‘granted’ can and is usually someone else’s luxury. I walked into my daughter’s room this morning after the usual protocols had been observed and once again, it looked like The Flash had just zapped through her room. And oh boy, did I learn in unforgettable ways that ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ As a growing child. However I now know that the context in which cleanliness is used is in reference to holiness (that is another subject to share on) and so the many unforgettable ways did not really help me until I understood what it meant.

Me : “Why are your clothes strewn across your bed?” Her response was sensible but more of an explanation for not doing what is right, “Oh, these are for washing cos I have worn them before and the others are for ironing…..” well to just sum up the entire conversation, we agreed that anything not properly stored in its place was destined for someone who needed it more because families had lost their all. Well, this post is not from some far off city where the devastation was seen on TV, we witnessed it and we do know families and friends who had to leave everything behind (and lost almost everything) so that they could be evacuated by The National Guard using an RFB. Now, the road to recovery from the Hurricane is still ongoing and may very well be for a long time however with each drive through the city, the debris on the front lawn of homes are still reminders of how we were saved from the storm. Yes, I said saved. The default instinct of natural man is to ‘store for the rainy day!’, but when the rainy day is here, we still find an utterly ridiculous reason to still keep storing and before we know it, we create breeding grounds for pests and put ourselves in harm’s way.

Clearing Debris III

For the dump

It just occurred to me a while ago that we each have varying amounts of debris in our lives and it takes the occurrence of a storm for us to seriously and quickly determine what counts and what can be recovered later. All this going through my mind as I wondered how on earth I still give in to the temptation of sleeping or trying to sleep by laying on my stomach; that was my default sleeping position pre-exacerbation of dystonia and its dx. I can be very graphic at times but when the pain on your lower back feels like your lower spine is in a huge torque wrench, and the lightest of movements feels like that torque wrench has just been given another turn, then attempting to chronicle these frequent episodes is quickly forgotten. In high school, I encountered the term ‘opportunity cost’ and it just made a whole world of things clearer than before. I would gladly defer the option of having a body that sometimes just ‘goes rogue’ for even a popsicle on a winter morning. It is said that some things are better experienced than told, for this case I would definitely call for a timeout on the grounds that this should not even be on anyone’s to-do list!

As I pass through the lives of those that I have been and am still being blessed with, I still find it just a mite disconcerting that many of us have blissfully chosen to ignore the fact that for there to be a beginning, there has to be an end. And most times, endings are not always pleasant because we want to keep hold of what we should give up. Now this is one truth that stares us right in the face but we so often choose to ignore it; until the debris that has built up over the years from bad habits, wrong choices, stubbornness, recalcitrance (the list is endless)is cleared out, there can be no fresh start. I remember what it was, what is and I know what it will be because thankfully the storms of dystonia has compelled me to clear the debris. It is in the middle of the rainstorm when you are drenched and the chattering of your teeth is the the only familiar noise above the storm, that you give no thought to the cost of the poncho or umbrella that you suddenly see. No storm is similiar but being through one prepares you on the off chance that you find yourself in another.

Taking a cursory look at the things I hold dear now is somewhat of a pleasure because they are all intangible, I have seen the utter destruction and loss of material things, I have heard the despondent words that accompany the reality of a hopelesss situation, seen the sheer fragility of our puny strength, witnessed the camaraderie that comes from being in the presence of one who has walked in shoes just like mine, and in conclusion, I know that today’s present state is not a definition of my end. There is no degree of finality that we can conjure up even in the heat of emotions, it is neither our call to make nor are we a creation of our own hands and so if we can comprehend these salient points, then the transformation that births the mythical Phoenix happens. The transformation of the entirety of your being when you acknowledge that we are creations of an Awesome God whose love is never in doubt, is an exhilarating experience with each new day. Those are the things that will never be categorized as debris.

I am not one who spoils for a fight, feeble are the arms that rely on a cane, however I will not quit from a fight and if life with its curved balls and sucker punches deem me a feeble opponent then I am afraid that an error of gargantuan proportions will make its way into the annals of history. What makes me me is not the ferocity of the storm or the loss that inevitably follows in the aftermath of a storm, what defines me is that I have since realised that I have chosen to be on the winning team. Life’s scoreboard might be telling a story to the pleasure and delight of a few but guess what I am still on the winning team and the assurance of victory is what drives me each day. Now I see the glaring ignorance of those who think that they are as indestructible as their wealth safely squirrelled away in the vaults of Switzerland; a generation creates wealth while the subsequent generation spends it completely and so the question that still goes abegging is ‘will you allow the clutter and debris gathered over the years, now out on the side walk determine the state of your life?’

In life we meet to path, and more often than not, we also part to meet. During these sometimes brief exchanges, what will you be remembered for, what light (or darkness) announces your presence, what compassion drives you to be hospitable to strangers, what strength drives you to give your best and some to what ever you are tasked to do. Now I can boldly say that the pursuit of knowledge is a noble cause but when the storms of life hit, referring to your academic levels will be the last thing on your mind. We are so carried away by life and the cheering of the crowd that we often forget that life is a process and within those processes, there are seasons. When the cheering is over and the crowd is gone, do you find strength in your foundational beliefs or you suddenly realize that you never prepared for that aspect of life. Just as God causes the rain to fall both on the righteous and the wicked so also must we realize that our very best is displayed when we allow ourselves to be used by The One who created us. Regardless of the situation of today, that little role that you have been assigned to, remember to do it not for the praise of men but for the pleasure of Him who watches over us.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine; Keith McDonut took the pains to compile the behind the scene experiences of people living with dystonia and I admit he did a fantastic job. I live with dystonia but I am not defined by it and oh sure, there was quite a deluge of comments and ‘prayers’ but after reading, what do you actually do besides making sure your name showed up on the comments section. It is not the perplexity that is outlined in the furrows of your brows as you wonder if that distant  noise is the noise of battle or just the rejoicing of a crowd, it is the responsibility and courage you display when you look around and help another who has fallen back up to his feet. It is not the applause you receive when you give a fraction of what is stored up in your barns that will count for a lifetime, it is the whispered words of encouragement, the sitting in silence with one going through a horrific time, it is that $2 Baconator fries shared in love…..those are the moments that create memories that last a lifetime.

Admittedly, storms always create an opportunity to take stock, re-evaluate and rebuild and so even as the tears roll down grime streaked faces as we embark on the sad part of taking out debris, be quick to remind yourself that you came into this world without a stitch of clothing and so if people helped you along the line to where you stand today, be sure to pay it forward. Elevators are designed to go up and down, but in order to go up sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the elevator to descend to your floor. It also follows that sometimes the best way up begins from down and so when you get all caught up with the fineries of the 1st floor, do not let this thought escape you; it will only take a storm to make those fancy cars and cellars stocked with vintage wine to become the debris of today. I am confident in certain immutable facts; God designed each person with a unique set of skills so that you can be of use to someone other than yourself and if for reasons best known to you, you choose to hold very tightly what you have been given, the reminder is never a savoury experience.

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Tomorrow

Today is a new day, a brand new blank canvas that awaits the depiction of whatever we choose to and if you choose to adorn that canvas with the continued errors of past years then you just might be like the child who is petrified by the face of a painted masquerade. For me, it is not a default setting; I choose to be thankful for the air I breathe, the friends I have and for every opportunity where I can be of help in making the dreams of someone become reality. Remember this, “Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy” –  Heraclitus.. Yet again, we are faced with the option to choose however I want to state categorically that the former bodes no good but the latter is the pursuit of every man.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Clearing Debris II……

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After the storm

“The tides of life are a beauty to behold on a cool spring evening but remember that like many of the elements of life, the mysteries of life can either be utterly devastating or be a panacea for some”-Ryan CC. It has been no intentional act of mine to take a summer break but in the light of recent events, I have been stretched in more ways than one and the frustration of realizing and accepting that there is so little I can do in the face of the many needs is quite a sore experience. Relieving quite a few people who were severe victims of the hurricanes has been an exercise with mixed feelings. Mixed because there are so many layers to life and when you unknowingly choose to disregard that fact, then sometimes the reminder can be quite traumatic. It is in times like these that you understand that sometimes not speaking is more of a solution suitable to circumstances rather than going full steam in expressing your regrets. A simple phone call to check on how another is doing means so much more than asking what the cost of restoration might be, wisdom is absolutely essential.

Why do I write? I write because I am hopeful that maybe just one person, whether you are going through your own storm or not; will find some strength and hope to persevere  through their storms. There are so many learning points, so many peculiarities in the experiences I have had and am still having on my life’s journey. Being a parent, I always say, is not a task for everybody most especially the ill-disciplined and those who lack self-control, because in order to give, you first of all must know what giving is and also have something to give. It is so easy to stand in your cozy den beneath the sturdy roof of your house, looking out the window and feeling some degree of pity for those struggling through the rains, battling with gusts of winds and more often struggling to keep an umbrella open while lugging your bag or briefcase around. It does not usually require an academic degree to empathize (for most people), but neither is a degree required to see a need and do something about it to the best of your abilities. It is your response or reaction when you are in the middle of your storm that to a very large extent lays out the default pattern for your choices and responses to the lives that you have been privileged to be amongst.

Taking a drive through the city, it is clear that we are on a long road to recovery after surviving Harvey and I am so grateful to see the resilience of the human spirit and the bonds of compassion that marks us as human beings . I use the word ‘surviving’ because it is about living and not about the ability to make or lose wealth. That is one of the many abilities we each have but again the degree to which it is used varies from individual to individual. It is on the basis of this that I always emphasize that just listening to someone going through tough times is always a first step in the right direction. I have all about lost everything that once mattered to me, and so that poignancy can be quite heart wrenching however the truth remains that just as synonyms and antonyms exist in words, there are always two sides to everything in life. Our definition of ourselves is usually marked by the side we choose to stand or the stance we choose to take, that is something that we either do ourselves or we are compelled to do and I wholeheartedly assure you that the latter option comes with more pain and grief.

Driving through the city, I am dismayed by the huge mounds of debris that line the lawns of homes, seen items that occupied opulent homes now confined to the anonymity of black trash bags; I have been into homes and seen the abject sorrow on faces as home owners still try to comprehend the devastation that they face. I have heard the sorrow come across in waves as friends relate their gut wrenching tales of having just enough time to grab their kids and evacuate the homes that they built through honest means. I can totally relate with that because my first house building exercise was in my late teens and I know the time and effort that went into it. I also recollect vividly the satisfaction washing over me when the house was built, the rush of joy that accompanied the utterance of the words, “Finally, it is ready!”. Regardless of how high you climb, there is always the risk of a fall but does that mean because of the fear of falling, we should not climb? Far from it, however knowing that with a climb, comes the risk of falling, we must endeavor to be careful in our climbs. Ensuring that we leave a kind word with those we climb past because they just might be the same ones who will act as a buffer when you fall. Remember to pause in today’s harried pace, and help someone along because although we each have our own paths, there will always be some intermingling with the lives of others and what we do when those situations occur is very significant.

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Clearing Debris

And because I have also been opportuned to have lost everything of material worth, I also understand the anguish that often comes with that loss. On the other hand, I have known the realization that losing it all does not translate to losing me but if I were to focus more on the pain of losing what was so painstakingly put together then I just may as well be in a court of law hearing the judgement of “life imprisonment without the option of parole” meted out to me. The cruel truth is that we so often define ourselves by what we ‘create’ (totally erroneous because everything we have is a gift from God, Our Creator) that we completely lose sight of the fact that we are all on a journey and no matter how detailed your trip planning was, you can never factor in the unpredictable events that characterize life. By our own flawed reasoning, we so often confine our lives to the tangible and give no room to the intangible, that it takes only an act of significant value to compel us to reevaluate our priorities. In the same manner, despite our skill in logical thinking and acute analytical reasoning, when the unpredictable happens and we are forced to watch in abject dismay as losses pile up, we become like the stalk of corn that is blown in any direction the wind chooses except we have our roots deeply planted in the truth of God’s Word.

I have learned that as long as you focus on the debris in the aftermath of a storm, you will be unable to see the new opportunities that lie just ahead. The debris after some storms are so highly stacked that it takes only a concerted effort with winded breaths to navigate through the debris so that we can catch a glimpse of what lies beyond. Nonetheless, our navigation skills amount to zilch when we steadfastly allow ignorance and lack of vision to reign because the subsequent result is there can be no joy or satisfaction that comes from fulfillment when we are not even moving. No matter how much you love your earthly possessions, when the rot sets in and the mold spreads, when the air around you can no longer be taken in, then you must clean house or else your life tale will be told specifically to the foolish to enable them gain some knowledge. After every storm, you must clean house – get all the debris out, rip out the sheetrock, get rid of that heirloom because until you do that, you will remain stuck in an island of decay, illness and death. For those who unwittingly find themselves on such islands, a note of warning – life and growth do not exist there!

I can say that things will never be the same again because they will not but guess what, you will be different because life’s processes either kill you or make you stronger, if you choose right. Your wellbeing is not a function of the amount of insurance claims you turn in, the efficiency of the insuring company or the amount of subsidies you are entitled to. Your wellbeing rather, is a function of the foundation upon which your life is built in and where your trust is, and there is no better foundation than a foundation of faith, faith in an infallible God who has got nothing but the very best of you. You are an image created in His Likeness and ultimately for His Pleasure and it is Him alone that everything else is subject to. It is okay to grieve but why grieve if you understand and acknowledge that for there to be a beginning, there must be an end. Grieving ceaselessly over the end keeps you rooted in a spot and as long as you stay rooted, you will not move on to the beginning of better things. It is in the middle of your storms that your foundations are tested and so it is wise to be sure of your foundation because when the storm hits (and it will surely hit), you will either crumble like a pack of ornately designed cards or stand tall and strong amidst debris but with peace and faith that can never be washed away by a storm.

Remember that the treasures that count for eternity can neither be found in the tangible aspect of the world we live in but are irrefutably located in the intangible aspect of life, so it is best to choose what treasures you seek and whilst you seek, take into cognizance that it will be foolhardy not to consider a suitable storage place too.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!