Faith of the Mustard Seed

pig weedThe Continuing Saga of Pretty-Stinky-Purple Flower

Last fall I was informed that the supreme nemesis of my gardening/landscaping efforts is, in fact, Wild Mustard – this may/may not be true, because, as a previous dispatcher, I can tell you at least 15 different terms that refer to any intersection in Rural America (Johnson’s Hill or Corner is a perennial favorite)-

I’m learning Avid Gardeners have more ‘commonly known local’ terms than Dispatchers do – so there ya go – for what it’s worth -Here is the extent of my current knowledge…

When I was 6

I learned in Sunday School that all I needed was Faith the size of a mustard seed in order for Life to be Good –

When I was 12

Mustard seeds encased in a clear, glass marble and hung on a chain about the neck was all the rage for age-appropriate jewelry.

When I was 18

A missionary from a world-view different from my own, informed me that, like wild mustard, the faith of the true believers cannot help but spread.  Just which true believers Mustard chose to bless,  he never wanted to go into details about, until after I was baptized into that church – after which, I failed the Mustard test because I like to ask questions instead of just blindly believing everything I’m told….

When I was 27

I prayed for things to get better, and would tell whichever omnipotent being(s) might happen to be tuning into the latest episode of “Tamrah Self-Talk Radio”:

“Yes, I’m worried, but I have my mustard seed of faith – just wait while I retrieve it from underneath the refrigerator….I do have it – just not in hand, right now…”

When I was 34

A Biblical Archeologist, who knew the culture and languages spoke in the time/place Jesus lived told me the story of the Mustard Seed was aimed at farmers who knew how fast and furious one mustard seed could spread throughout an entire field – both as a warning and promise at how fast the beliefs/opinions of others could take root and flourish…whether for good or not…

At 46?

I have spent 3 years observing, trying to understand and pitting my will against wild mustard  – and I tell you,

All of the Above is True –

  • If you let negative, worrying thoughts run rampant in your space, they, like mustard, will soon overwhelm you.
  • If you ignore that which looks pretty, but your nose tells you is bad news, there will come a day when you regret your dilly-dallying in rooting out the stink when first it appeared
  • There will always be those who think their way is the only way and, like Mustard, will do their best to choke out and silence any other options.
  • If you recognize the lesson, apply said lesson to propagating those things that give you quality of life and ruthlessly weeding out that which detracts from it, you, too, have an above-average-statistical shot at Heaven on Earth –
  • And, if you want, there’s probably someone who will encase that pretty purple blossom in a clear marble to wear around your neck, just so you never forget what you’ve learned while simultaneously preventing the smell and spread of said plant…

P.S. If you’re new here and feel you’re missing out on the backstory – here ya go:

  1. Crisis of Conscience
  2. The Stinkweed Update
  3. Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

Yup – It’s been a 3 season journey – but of all the reports, #3 is my personal favorite…

I re-read it once in awhile to remind and cheer myself –

There will always be some good-hearted soul who comes along with a more generous and kind perspective than you may be currently housing –

Who innocently startles you into wisdom… 🙂

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Another Hurdle Jumped…

Occasionally I share when I’ve gotten past a challenge that appeared in the wake of grief and/or stroke.   I think it’s important for those of us who have walked down the road to yell encouragement to those behind us  –

So I must share with you two personal challenges I dealt with this past week.

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I don’t do funerals unless it’s my responsibility to send the loved one off in style – I never really have, unless I intimately know the deceased’s family/friends.  Why?  Well, because I’ve always chosen to grieve in my own way and to me, showing up to the funeral is a way to show support to those left behind and let them know how well loved their special person was, rather than a part of my personal grieving process.

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I’ll share my warts and intolerances now- it really chaps my bum for speakers at a funeral to be so torn up they can’t get through their portion of the services without loud outbursts and incoherent sobbing….

I know, I know – I’m a HardArse – but really – we only have one chance to do a funeral right, and over the years, the funerals I regretted attending the most were the ones who paraded a litany of ‘speakers’ past the podium who could barely squeak out two coherent words – To me, this does not honor the one that’s gone – My Own Opinion and you’re welcome to disagree with it if you want.

I commented on this once and a family member informed me that it’s “healing for others to experience the raw grief” – Maybe so, but for me, Raw Grief is dealt with in the privacy of one’s own home or in the loving circle of supportive friends- when you’re publicly honoring your loved one, you’d best have your act together or hire someone who does.

The family will remember the funeral – they may have videotaped it – this is not Comedy Central or Reality TV – it is their reminder of how they said goodbye to their loved one – it is not the time or place for Amateur Night

Okay – I’m done ranting – – Back to the original story….

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After my period of losses in a short time frame happened, I was even LESS enthused about funerals.   There were ones where I genuinely wanted to love & support the family – but I chose to do so through cooking, cash gifts and behind the scenes help.  When asked, I wholeheartedly offered whatever I could, but begged for understanding that I just couldn’t attend the actual services…just not yet…

Funerals triggered too many unhealed portions of my soul….

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Since my stroke drastically affected my speech pattern, AND since I still descend into Elmer Fuddism (yes, it’s a word, look it up) when overtired, ill or stressed, I have not done any public speaking since October of 2011.

Before my Chatty-Kathy ways were hobbled by Elmer Fudd, I eagerly offered to present training sessions, low/no cost classes and spoke at a variety of work and volunteer functions.  I like public speaking – I once had the dream of earning my living that way.   But when the stroke affected my speech, I dutifully put that all behind me and looked forward to a future that did not include me speaking in front of crowds.

I mourned the loss of this part of myself – stuffed those dreams into the memory box of my soul and moved on.

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This past week, a friend of the family’s passed away – – at a young age- – – leaving behind three children.

This friend and his family have been there for me and mine in countless ways over the years, especially when my dad and son died, as well as when the rest of my world fell apart.

I hurried over as soon as I found out to see how I could serve.

The family asked if I would share the memories folks have of their loved one at the funeral, for those who couldn’t be there and those too torn up by grief or too introverted to do so themselves.

GULP – –

 I said, “Yes – whatever you need – I’m here.”

But I came home and wondered if I should have said no…

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When I was 9 or so, I was awakened in the middle of the night by my Dad’s voice.   I crept out to the kitchen to see what was going on, as my Dad was leaving the next day for a distant state to perform the Masonic Funeral services for a Brother who had passed.  He was often called upon to do this and I’d never really given any thought to why he was asked, or why he did so.

When I tiptoed in and asked who he was talking to, he told me he was practicing for the next day.

I wanted to know why and I’ve never forgotten what he told me:

“Sis, a funeral is the number one place where you can have the best intentions and motivations but still manage to put your foot in your mouth and wound those who are already hurt.  If you’re to speak, it’s best to practice before you do so.”

After my own adult experiences with what folks say and do when trying to help you after the loss of a loved one, I know that not only was his observation correct, but a whole lot of people in this world didn’t have a Dad who shared this valuable information with them.

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So this week, I attended a funeral for the first time in 5 years and made it out in pretty good shape.

For the first time in 2 1/2 years, I spoke before a large audience – no one thought me the village idiot and more importantly, I managed to do my part in a way that that was satisfactory to the family and other members of the community.

I personally think I escaped Elmer Fuddism, because I Ordered the Universe to make it all turn out right.

Ordering the Universe around is a dangerous thing, and I suggest you only do so when the stakes are high and in service to others – otherwise, it often backfires…

The Universe is kind enough to immediately respond when I deem something High Priority – I’ve always been grateful for that.

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In reflecting upon this past week, I realized I had to tell you –

No matter what wounds you carry or what disabilities you’ve encountered – there is always a way to be the person you wish to be.  It may take awhile or some ingenuity, but I believe it can always happen.

I may not know first-hand what you’re dealing with…

It may happen sooner or later than the 5 years it took me…

But if You Desire to do what you’ve deemed as Important, I have no doubt you’ll find the way –

Grace descends and blesses you when there’s work to be done and you know, in your heart, it’s your job to take care of.

Keep the Faith and Never Give Up Hope.

Spring at LAST!

Check out that blue Colorado December Sky!
My new house in December
Check out that Colorado Sky!

I live in Colorado – which means my absolute glory in hauling landscaping materials may just as quickly turn to the ‘oh crap – they’re buried in snow’ blues when the next spring blizzard hits.

Nevertheless, I’m ready to begin my gardening project.

My first project is to used rammed-earth tires to build raised planting beds up against the house on the east, south and west sides.

My reasons for surrounding my house with garden beds are many:

  • Why spend $600 for gutters, when I can plant my garden where the run-off occurs naturally?
  • Extra insulation will aide in capturing the sun’s warmth in the winter
  • Growing things on trellises at the back of the bed will help cool the house in summer
  • I’m putting old tire waste to good, ecological use
  • A garden right outside the kitchen door – what’s not to love?
  • My garden will be easier to maintain and future owners won’t be tempted to use a gas-guzzling or electricity burning Roto-tiller in it.  (Although, the dudes from that Jackass show may try)
  • I like trying things the neighbors “pooh-pah” about and that I can’t find specific instructions for – makes me happy.

So Friday was spent getting the brick and gravel to fix the ditches near the foundation that the stucco guys left unfilled.

On Saturday, I suckered the child-unit into helping me haul in tires (for free from grateful local mechanics).

Full disclosure – suckering my child-unit into helping me consists of saying, “Please?  Pretty Please?  It’ll be so much more fun and quicker if you help me…What?  No, I meant funner and quicker for me…Yes, I’ll buy you a Gatorade and Sunflower seeds…I’m going to grow sunflower seeds and popcorn for you…yes…they’ll be planted right here and over here…”

I now have all the materials for Stage 1 of the plan – except for the dirt for the beds – which for my complete project plan will run from $1,380 to $2,000, depending on who I buy it from and whether I haul it myself or not.

What happened to “dirt cheap”?

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Getting the dirt estimates Friday night sort of put the nix on my ecstatic mood derived from finally starting the project I’ve been dreaming of before I even moved in.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I research ’til I’m blue in the face – I read – learn – ask questions –  use computer-aided drafting tools and databases to plan and cover every contingency.

And then there’s always one little thing I didn’t think about – that usually puts me in a tailspin – this time it was how pricey garden dirt is.

I woke up Saturday morning at 2:47 a.m., wondering whether I should even haul in the tires, as I can’t put them to use until I have dirt to ram into them…

I learned a long time ago the fastest way to get the Universe motivated to help you with a project is to start and let It figure out the details.  Did I not find this house within 36 hours of my decision to move?

Early Saturday morning, we started hauling tires even while my mind was quietly chanting,

“Dirt – Dirt – How am I going to get the Dirt?  Yes, I know, I should have faith – but I was raised that God helps them who help themselves – okay, mustard seed sized faith – I can do that.   See?  I’m hauling the tires.  Please make sure the dirt shows up.  Thank you.”

While unloading tires, magic happened.   As I reached to haul one off the tailgate, what should appear but a Ladybug!   The Guardian Angel for all who play in dirt alighted ever so gently and then sat calmly while I sent the child-unit to “quickly, but quietly” grab my camera so I could take a picture of her.

The Garden Fairy - Ladybug
The Garden Fairy – Ladybug

After posing prettily for the camera, she enjoyed the ride as I ever so gently carried the tire and placed it in the corner-stone position.

I consider my project duly approved and blessed.

I hauled in all the tires to be had –  here’s a shot of my beautiful Easter Lily and you can just make out the stacked tires behind – patiently waiting for dirt.

My "Thank You for Driving Me" gift from Mom.
My “Thank You for Driving Me” gift from Mom.

Devil’s Advocate

If you follow my blog, my recent post, Cliff Jumping may have seemed to contradict what I said in Heads I Lose, Tails You Win, in regards to my stated desires of pruning judgmental personages from my life and then turning around and admitting that I often try to explain myself to the satisfaction of others.

I’m an A1 Devil’s Advocate – take any side of an issue and I’ll take the other, just to see where this mental game leads us.   I do so with myself and if you approach me with an idea, followed by anything other than an absolute statement of, “I’m doing this, ain’t no one stopping me and I don’t care what the neighbors think”, I’ll be happy to play the part for you, too.

Play to your strengths, is my motto and taking the opposite side to help you make a decision is one I think I’m good at.

I never ask anyone’s opinion if I already know I’m going forth and doing no matter what they say anyways – why waste their time?  And isn’t it insulting to ask someone their opinion when you know if it doesn’t correspond exactly with yours, you’re going to ignore it anyways?

So I foolishly think if someone asks what I think of planned action, they are searching for more perspectives or information before making their final decision – and I’m happy to delve into every perspective I can think of, especially the ones I don’t like – – those are where our comfort zones and ignorance butt up against an opportunity to expand our horizons – so I spend time in territories I don’t always like, just to make sure I haven’t missed a gem of opportunity.

Hence, I have the reputation of picking fights….

Yes – it surprised me, too.

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I’ve learned from my own experience there is always another story that would serve me better than the one I’m currently telling.  Sometimes I’m ready for an upgrade and sometimes, I just need the time and space to wallow in my current one – – I don’t want to miss any jewels by racing through a less-than-pleasant chapter.

Here lately, I’ve been playing Devil’s Advocate regarding the work I’ve been doing with the Anger portion of my grieving journey.   For now, my story is still, “Anger is sometimes what keeps me from laying down and giving up – – from giving way to Apathy.   So for now, Anger is the healthiest choice for me.”

I’m playing Devil’s Advocate for myself because there is not much support in our current culture for Anger.  I believe it to be one of our greatest survival instincts, but the reality I live in supports everything it can to suppress, ignore or medicate the emotion away.

There’s an insidious myth that slinks around the “Self-Help” world that if only you can become enlightened enough, you won’t ever experience anger – because you will see the perfection in everything and hence, no reason to be angry.

I call it a myth, because I believe that to be dangerous thinking – it leads to apathy and non-compassionate behavior regarding broken systems we’ve built, are maintaining to the great detriment of many and need to change, but instead choose to blame the Universe for.

You’re free to check back in a year or two to see if I’ve changed my tune.

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As for Anger – I’m not talking about the irritations that occur over daily things – like running late, traffic jams, spilled coffee and crying children in the movie theatre – that moment in time where you say, “WTF?!?” and then move on, with little or no residuals.

What I am talking about is the Anger that comes from deep within – the messenger that says, “This isn’t good for you – – this must change or you must leave.  You are about to be destroyed – let me help save you.”

That kind of anger sometimes comes from single moment in time – one event that kicks all your survival responses into immediate overdrive.

More often, it comes after years of placing ourselves in unhealthy lifestyles, jobs and relationships.    It creeps up, trying to protect us, trying to pull us away from the lion’s den – steadily compiling a little more strength each time we suppress it, vowing that next time, it will be heard and acknowledged.

Until the day we realize we are angry all the time -that spilled coffee and losing a loved one get the same explosive blast of Anger.

At that point,  we must choose between being Anger incarnate or heed its’ advice.

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I’m not done with Anger, quite yet.    I’m still learning.   Now that I’m listening – Anger, like Grief, is nicer about the times and places he chooses to show up – – we spend less time blowing our top in public places and more in conversation while I sit in the comfort of my own home with no one around to be hurt by the resulting shedding process.

I’ve also found those who have had their own walk with Anger and now they sometimes hold my hand and offer their perspective when Anger shared some pearl of wisdom with me I don’t quite get.

They play Devil’s Advocate for me, because they know that’s what I’m asking for.

Soon, I’m hoping Grief and Anger are satisfied I’ve gotten the main points I needed to.   I live for the day they will take a vacation, because they trust me not to burn down the house while they’re gone.

They’ll leave emergency funds on the counter and say it’s okay to have a few friends over –  – they’re proud of me and they can trust me.

I’m going to call Joy, Faith and Hope first – – they’re always a fun crew to hang with…

The Lurking Troll and Lost Faith

Grief jumped out and grabbed me this morning.  I’ve come to the conclusion Grief must be a troll-like creature – he (obviously a he, no woman ever caused me this much problem!) has become more wily – stealthily evading all the wonderful detours , labyrinths and traps I’ve erected around myself in order to gain some peace and lead him somewhere far from me.

He’s learned how to sneak around, jump up and bite me in the butt when I least expect it…

Durnit….

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I’ve immersed myself in the Teaching Series, available at my local library.   These wonderful CD volumes with accompanying study guides contain a series of lectures from a host of college professors on a a variety of topics.

Yesterday, I started Professor Tefluio F. Ruiz’s course, “The Terror of History – Mystics, Heretics and Witches in Western Tradition”.   A broad overview of the culture, political, economical and religious mores of the time period from approximately 1000  – 17000 A.D., this course examines the foundations upon which Mystics were created, Heretics identified and what powerful social climates lead to the Burning Times for those labeled “Witch”.

So perhaps I should not be surprised that Grief showed up today.   After all, you cannot immerse yourself in the subject matter of the nature of God, nature of Man, how we explain our birth, life and death, without at some point, thinking about the ones you’ve lost…

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Interestingly, Professor Ruiz starts the course with his idea of how religion and culture come about.

Excerpt:

“The Satyr, who frequently dined with the gods, was asked by King Minos what was the best gift to request from the gods.   After he spouts a variety of possibilities, including wealth, power and wisdom, the Satyr turned on  Minos and blasted,

“You Fool!  The kindest gift man could ever receive from the gods is to never be born.”

This story eloquently illustrates what I call the “Terror of History”.  Once we became self-aware, conscious, if you will, we came to be at the mercy of the Terror of History – aware of our own mortality and fragility, aware of the apparent chaos of the world around us and the fact so many of the natural forces to which we could fall victim at any time were completely out of our control.

In order to distract ourselves from this Terror, we looked to magic and ritual – changing it as we went, in a futile attempt to control the world around us – and ensure our survival.  These rituals developed into religious beliefs and dogma.

Some looked to materialism, hedonism, if you will, in order to escape the Terror.   A focus on the moment and all the pleasures of life, immersing themselves in what could be experienced richly through the senses.

Still others looked to ways to bring order and beauty to the chaos.   Through intellectual pursuit, laws, art –  they forged cultures that strove to bring order and control to daily life.   Through the pursuit of obtaining order, they gave meaning to their lives.

These three responses to Terror are the cornerstones of the rise of  western civilization.”

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Makes sense to me.   I know about the Terror.   I also know about all the various ways you can attempt to escape it.   Lately, I tend to spend most of my focus of escape in the number 2 and 3 categories – cigs, intellectual pursuits and hobbies bring me a calm that meditating or praying fail to provide – –

In other words, I’ve lost my Faith….She’s probably wondering around in one of the mazes I set up to entrap that nasty ole troll, Grief….

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It soothes me to immerse myself in the stories of the past.   Learning about the times when women couldn’t vote, inherit or own property – when 5 out of 10 of your neighbors were dying from plague – when life was a precarious existence, a daily toil in the fields with the possibility of either wacky weather killing your crops or the local Lord and his knights deciding to duke it out with another in your field of barley – -when despite your most ardent prayers and work, any number of natural or man-made disasters could befall you at any moment, without warning.

When I immerse myself in times of the past, I realize how wonderful my current reality is.   I realize how much worse it could be.   And I feel gratified that I have only had to bury one child, and not seven or eight or more, as many of my ancestors did.

Faith may be lost in the maze of my own making, but she still manages to shout directions to me over the top of the hedge….