Grateful To Find Comfort When In the Valley

It is hard to feel happy and grateful when you are afraid and stressed with life events. Last night I was in the “valley” in my life as my cancer has returned after more than five years being cancer free. Apparently, my tumors are like “sands” and they cannot perform surgery as they would have to “take up the entire beach”. I lost hope when learning that I would have to take chemo again. I hoped/believed that during the five years some new treatment might have been discovered, yet I was reminded that my ovarian/peritoneal cells were rare and my prognosis for life was short. What ever might I post today to lift our spirits?

Then, I remembered the verse from Psalms 23:4:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.

KJV

What does this verse mean for us?

I am grateful to find comfort within this verse, and as I typically do, I searched for a deeper meaning to understand the new calm I felt when reflecting on these words:

  • David, in the earlier verses, had been describing green pastures, still waters, and pathways. I compared this to my five years of cancer-free joy and gratitude.
  • In verse 4, David switched to a description of a “shadow of death”. This seemed to capture how I was feeling with the diagnosis and treatment plan upon relapse.
  • But just as soon as I had a heart-felt low, David reminds one “not to fear” because God is with us.

Thus, through this post today I wish to emphasize the importance of “spiritual medicine”.

Just as I plan my chemical infusions, I realize I am also reminded regarding and recognizing the presence of ongoing Divine intervention. Divine intervention which never changes over the years.

God inspired sweet and deep passages to continually protect, love, instruct, and remind us.

Today, I find deep gratitude as the words in Psalms echo in my heart: no more shadows, no more fears, no more evil as God is with me, now, in this valley of decisions.

#gratitudeultra

Grateful That Peace Surpasses All Understanding!

Five years and one month ago, I was ill and expected to die soon. Yet, obviously even today I am still very much alive and am expressing my gratitude for such through my postings to you on my gratitudesquared.com

Recently, and unfortunately, now I am facing uncertain illness again and am finding it hard to express gratitude in the face of my fear.

But, yesterday something happened to strengthen my resolve towards gratefulness, just in time to offset the strength of my growing fear as a multi-hour biopsy procedure approaches tomorrow.

In brief, I was engaging in a chat with a dear friend about health and wellness and she remarked that my parents and grandfather were with me in spirit at that time. This felt like a nice statement and I did not think much more about it at that time. About five minutes after, as I was driving alone in LA traffic, the phrase “peace that surpasses all understanding” came to mind. I rushed home to google the origin of this phrase because I had not heard that phrase for years, if at all. I could not remember, and certainly I do not speak like that. I should note, however, my father was a Baptist Minister, a relevant fact to this story I believe!

Thanks to my computer and Google, when I put that exact phrase in, I learned such interesting facts that I had to share with all of you. I learned that Paul the Apostle had written a letter to the Philippians (which is now known as the country of Greece) in which he instructed people to remain steadfast in their faith. Paul’s letter is the eleventh book of the New Testament, and Paul wrote it while in prison for preaching. Of course, I wondered what does this have to do with me and/or my health?

Those of you who know me know that I am very analytical, a researcher, and make decisions and take actions based on data, so I kept probing this phrase… My years of Ph.D. training were kicking in full blast. In brief, I just had to research this phrase, and learn the significance of such. This is what I am discovering even as I type this blog to you:

  • Paul wrote to the people In Philipi to express his GRATITUDE! Go to learnreligions.com for more information. It seems serendipitous that this verse is related to Gratitude! Out of all the verses in the Bible, this one emerged…
  • The Book of Philippians “conveys a powerful message about the secret of contentment… in every circumstance he had learned to be content“.
  • The main and consistent theme of this eleventh book is JOY! Joy and gratitude go hand in hand along one’s journey to a State of Gratitude. How wonderful…
  • The main message of Philippians 4 is encouragement. I felt I certainly needed that message to face the biopsy again after five years of no new tumors.
  • Important principles in Philippians 4 are peace and joy in all circumstances. Indeed, I was looking for peace of mind for the upcoming procedure. And, I must admit it is hard to find joy in the face of fear. This verse became my reminder.
  • My verse: Philippians 4:7 is “peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds…” (KJV). See the relevance of this below.

Does anyone see the connections between this verse and my daily practices of Gratitude, joy, happiness, contentment? I do. I felt like I had received a message.

I wanted to learn more so I went to Pulpit Commentary on biblehub.com. Note: I am keeping this posting short so I will not explain verse 6 above my particular verse 7, but 6 is also relevant to my circumstance (“in nothing be anxious“).

Verse 4:7, as explained on biblehub, flows from God’s gracious presence. The “peace” passes ALL understanding. The peace “transcends the reach of human thought… it can be known only by the inner experience of the believer.” Further, “thoughts issue from the heart… in Hebrew Scriptures, the heart is regarded as the seat of the intellect, not of feeling only.” What a densely worded and impactful verse! I read it over and over again to gain a better understanding of that particular message.

So, how did this experience/verse appearing in my mind… impact me or manifest through my actions as I prepare myself mentally for the biopsy?

  • I am now at peace for tomorrow. Surprisingly…
  • Because I understand that the peace I now feel surpasses my understanding, and transcends beyond what my own human mind may comprehend, I am at peace. In fact, I now understand that this peace is so deep that I am unable to fully comprehend it – I must accept this peace through faith alone.
  • I am yielding my mind to my heart. My heart is in control now and tomorrow.
  • My intellect is given by faith to my heart. This is an interesting experience for me as I continually need to see the data and the evidence to trust, believe, and act.
  • The transcendent feeling I am experiencing today for tomorrow can be known only to me. This is such a true statement. As something like the following was said in the Nixon years, only when you have been in the deepest valley can you appreciate the experience on the mountaintops. I personally find that serious illness drives one to their faith to a greater extent than before, and when additional health issues re-emerge, only those experiencing the decision-making processes can know the depth of fear and sorrow or joy. Looking death in the face and making decisions to speed or prolong life is sobering at best and sacred overall.
  • For more than five years now I have explained my ongoing health to others as a consequence of not only doctors’ surgeries, traditional and alternative treatments, and a variety of life practices, but also due to God’s Grace and spiritual beliefs.
  • I typically say: “I can not explain why I am still alive.” “But, I do know that there is a spiritual component to my continued health”.

Yesterday, what happened to me while driving in the busiest of LA traffic was spiritual… again… It is a unique experience to experience…. it gave me joy, peace, hope, and understanding. It took my fear and anxiety away.

I am so grateful that I have peace that surpasses all understanding.

I hope I have adequately explained the meaning of the phrase that emerged in my mind yesterday………. through this posting. The meaning became clear, at least, to me. I know in reality that some of you will understand this posting fully as you have reached out to me with your own stories of life and death… Perhaps, in time, others will also come to understand… I pray most of you may never need to do so.

As I summarize this posting today, at least one person appeared to understand the significance of this phrase as well it seemed…

That is, one of my Jewish friends, read my post and listened to me calmly but joyfully relay my experience yesterday, after which she very simply and quietly said, “I might have to start reading the books of the New Testament”. I found this to be a significant statement, coming from a nonbeliever…

Blessings to you. My deepest and sincere gratitude I send to those of you who are holding me up with positivity and prayer! I thank you.

#gratitudeultra

Joy in Discovering Vermonica in Los Angeles

Did you know that LA had more than 400 different types of streetlights, having one of the most diverse streetlight ecosystems in the country? Yep. This was true.

However, with changes overtime came new lighting structures and the old unique lamps were taken away and replaced, and discarded.

BUT Sheila Klein, an artist, collected 25 of the vintage lamps and created Vermonica (at the insertion of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard). Vermonica has been called an “urban candelabra” capturing dozens of LA neighborhoods and 70 years of lighting history. The 25 older lamps still light each evening – a beautiful sight, thanks to the efforts of Klein.

Go check the lights out, or google it online at la.curbed.com. I was pleased to recently learn this history of LA lighting, including the Urban Light exhibit (202 lamps from 1910-1930) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Grateful For Independence

Today I am celebrating my independence from ordinary life as I continue my walk in a State of Gratitude. Approximately one and one-half years ago I started my pathway to Gratitude and it changed my life. I can tell you story after story about so many moments of pure wonder and delight in my life now that I am on this new pathway. I am not the only person who is practicing Gratitude these days. Check out Instagram posts such as #gratitudemakestheattitude, and many others to learn that practicing Gratitude provides:

  • portals to suddenly open in your life for a brief moment, then close up again
  • experiences of serendipity during a day when you least expect something awesome
  • insights into meaningful ordinary experiences that bring great joy and pleasure
  • sheer happiness when engaging with friends, family, and loved ones
  • deeper understandings of life events, and relationships
  • genuine satisfaction with everyday interactions with your neighbors, and strangers
  • opportunities for deeper study of spirituality, God, and various religious practices

My blogs will continue to fall into three broad categories: #gratitudezero (pets, foods, places, simple things), #gratitudelite (experiences with people, everyday events, momentary insights), and #gratitudeultra (often resulting from a spiritual or academic inquiry into the deeper origins of gratitude).

But today I hope to remind everyone that Gratitude will bring you a new found independence within your own life. Why?

Because when you are grateful you are more positive, more hopeful, more joyful, and more thankful for what you have in your life.

Practicing Gratitude replaces the negativity, the fear, the worry, the sadness, the anxiety, and even pathways leading to depression in your life.

I invite you to try it yourself! Be grateful! Be positive! Become more independent through your new outlook on life!

Try it and let me know how your own attitude begins to change…

Happy Independence Day to You through Gratitude!

#gratitudeultra

Blessed At The Mission of Saint Agnes of Rome, Virgin and Martyr, in Solvang, California

Recently, I visited the Mission in Solvang, CA, attending a Mass led by an Irish Priest, and experiencing the spiritual and social life of the Santa Ynez Valley. Through serendipity I received a blessing for my upcoming medical tests, as well as a blessing for a precious Bible purchased by a dear friend whose mother is nearing her end of life. The kind greetings from all of the staff at the Mission were most memorable as were the old fashioned gospel songs played through guitar by yet another priest. None of this was pre-planned which is why I am blogging, with gratitude, about my experience this day. It was a very special day!

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Gratitude to My WordPress.com Followers

Today I took some time to read hundreds of the postings from my followers within WordPress. I am fascinated by the wisdom and/or fun insights from all of you! In fact, when your site noted: “sorry we couldn’t find that site”, I became worried. Many of you have hundreds, some thousands of followers, so I read more to see if perhaps you had a health issue and something might have happened to end your life? I felt sad!

As all of you know, we have formed communities of persons who post. We share our ideals, our visions, our knowledge. We are reciprical with each other as we read and learn from one another. I am fond of many of you as we personally share our insights. My gratitude comes from you following me and me following you.

Reading the various site postings made me feel happy today. Some of us focus on inspirations within our lives. Some of us share information about pets. Some have messages for the world. Overall, what a wonderful moment you each gave to me because you took the time to create a WordPress.com blog. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I so enjoyed reading your postings, and I will return again and again.

#gratitudelite

How Will You Spend This Longest Day of the Year?

Today is June 22, the Longest Day you will have this year. I think it is often typical for us to get so busy with life stuff (jobs, children, bills, meal planning, laundry, and more) that we forget to look around, take a momentary break, “smell the roses as they say”, and enjoy the day. So, today, I challenge you to do something special on this particular day.

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I am SO Grateful for the Giraffe

Today is the World Day of the Giraffe. I love giraffes, those large African mammals with long necks, and brown patches separated by lighter lines like fingerprints. I had the opportunity to see multiple herds of giraffes running in the wild in South Africa. I will never forget their grace and beauty in their natural habitat.

Giraffes are gregarious. One may often find them in feeding areas with humans feeding them by hand. They seem to be social animals. I love their long necks (the longest of all animals), and their big soft looking round eyes. I do not know why, but I just love giraffes. I love the way the mothers care for their offspring.

When I returned from South Africa and first observed a giraffe in a zoo, I felt so sad. They no longer had the open spaces to gracefully run and play. They had a limited selection of trees from which to select their food. I can hardly go to a zoo now to visit a giraffe, as I feel so sad that they must live in captivity so humans may look at them.

Giraffes are beautiful animals. I have deep gratitude for the giraffe. Enjoy the pics!

#gratitudelite

Grateful For Dear Friendship

I had an unusual experience this week. I went to UCLA in Los Angeles for a doctor’s appointment, leaving in the dark to beat traffic. When I arrived at my destination area, I stopped to look at my notes and gather my thoughts. At that moment, I realized in my preparation to leave my dog at home, leave a key in case I was delayed in returning, having my hands full of paperwork, I had left my wallet at home!

I was in Los Angeles with no money, no driver’s license, no health insurance card, no AAA card, no car insurance card or registration – I had nothing but my phone and a tank of gas. I could not even pay for the parking to see my doctor! It was a first for me!

Fortunately, I have a dear friend who lives in the Valley in LA whom I phoned at 6:30 am and she rushed over to me to bring me money! I can not thank her enough! Do you have anyone in your life who would drop everything and brave morning rush hour traffic in LA to give you money? What a wonderful and special friend she is…

I learned so much from this experience. I am making photo copies of all my important cards, paperwork, credit cards and storing such in my phone now. I have always been overly worried about identity theft, but no more….

I will also hide some money in my car for emergencies. I did not have one penny, no change, nothing at that moment. I could have been homeless in LA. I had nothing. I could not go to a bank machine as that card was in my wallet. If I had been stopped by a policeman, I had no identity. I was absolutely at the mercy of someone I needed to ask for help. Without my dear friend, I would of had to drive back home, missing my doctor’s appointment as I did not have the necessary health insurance cards, and identification to check in. I was left praying that my car had no issues in the busiest of traffic times in Los Angeles. It was such a horrible, lonely experience, except for my friend’s caring assistance.

I hope you have a dear friend as do I. I will be ever grateful for her help that morning. Be grateful for dear friends.

#gratitudelite

Grateful For Wisdom When Ending The Journey Of Life: An Overview

I have always loved elderly people because they are wise and have wonderful stories to tell, if you listen. Unfortunately, we often get too busy during our own life’s journey to notice that older persons among us need more care from us. It is as though our journeys through life demand extra care when we begin our life, and again when we are nearing the end-of-life.

This posting includes my observations for you as a daughter, mom, friend, and health care professional regarding End-of-Life Care.

It is well known that people tend to like to stay at home as their journey through life comes to an end, but that is not always possible because of health issues, personal care needs, nutritional requirements, family distances, and so on. So, as we all age, the questions before us are: “What do we do?” “How do we plan for ourselves as we grower older and need extra care?”

Why am I posting this information for us today? Because I have watched my younger sister, my mom, and my dad pass away. Now I am watching dear friends and neighbors age, and I myself am growing older. As I was recently listening to Amanda Stead’s lecture on End-of-Life Care, I felt so grateful that Amanda reminded me, and helped me to summarize the wisdom we all have access to for our own planning:

  1. We are all going to die at the end of our life journey, so how does one prepare for the best end of life? There are multiple resources to inform us about end-of-life care just as there is knowledge regarding beginning life, as in birth, parenting, etc.
  2. As each of us, or our family members and friends age, it is important to learn about choices we each have regarding Hospice care, or Palliative care. Our choices do not need to be permanent as our health and care needs will change over time, but it is better to plan ahead and learn about such choices before being faced with an emergency.
  3. As one ages there needs to be decisions regarding independence, dignity, spiritual preferences, psychological, emotional needs, ethical decisions, and personal wishes.
  4. We all need to have people (family members or friends), who are our spokespeople in case we are unable to communicate clearly. We, or others, need to have an advanced directive (a written document) regarding our wishes for end-of life care.
  5. We all need to discuss realistic outcomes as we anticipate what may be coming in our future. Thus, before you become ill or lose the ability to communicate, you need to talk about what you imagine to be a good plan for your End-of-Life. You might begin such conversations by answering the question: “What matters to me most at the end of life is ______________________________________?”
  6. Sharing information is so important during this time. Information regarding your location preferences for where you wish to be as you grow older is important. Your financial costs, insurance coverage, wish for pain control, treatment preferences for eating, feeding, and swallowing should be identified.
  7. Your personal wishes, and cultural values are important and necessary to understand and honor during this time period.
  8. Reach out to Chaplains, Priests, Pastors, and Rabbis to incorporate your spiritual needs during these times of decision making.
  9. Take care of the above types of decisions before you grow too old for such planning. Make sure you share your thoughts with your family and friends.
  10. Know there is a “Dying Patient’s Bill of Rights”, and an abundance of resources provided through Medicare to assist you. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you should do today!

In the future, I plan to introduce a new “gratitude category” regarding end-of-life care as I am so grateful that information is available to me to provide for my dignity, spiritual, medical, psychological, and emotional needs as I grow older. In the context of generational differences in perception, as well as societal changes in our family constellations, it is more important than ever before to allow the elderly to prioritize their needs for independence as well as dependence on others.

I am grateful for knowledge regarding end-of-life care. How ’bout you?

For a spiritual perspective on End-Of-Life, let me conclude this blog with a poem written and read by my mother from her Book of Poetry titled, A House Inside of Me. The relevant poem for today is, I Don’t Want to Die I Like It Here. When you click on this link you will hear this poem. It seems relevant, in a more personal style of writing, to our topic today.

At this time in your life, What Matters Most to you for Planning? Please think about it as I am watching friends dealing and struggling with these issues right now.

#gratitudelite