Into the Unknown

Newton, Einstein, Eisenberg, Curie, Johnson, Leaky, Carter, St. Brendan, Columbus, Lewis, Armstrong; what have they in common? Whether inward, outward, down or up, from microscope to telescope, coracle to Apollo 11, something drove these history-makers, these explorers. Some might have said that their inspiration was pure curiosity and others would say that they felt an inspiration from God.

Captain Kirk, Jean Luc Picard, Moana, Elsa–television and movies are rife with inspiring characters compelled by passion or a force that could not be ignored, try as they might. I have written about the sequel Frozen 2 and one of the main characters, Anna. Now it is Elsa’s turn. Often a good person must struggle with wrong-doing or past mistakes. This struggle could become what defines them, or it could be the ashen rock-bottom from which a Phoenix rises.

In the original movie Elsa accidentally injures her little sister Anna by her powers to freeze things. During play she sends a freezing ray out to try to save Anna from falling but it hits Anna in her head instead, injuring her brain. She does not know how this power came to be, and since it potentially kills her sister her parents work with her to hide it for years. By the end of the movie she has accepted it and learned that love is the way to control her power; to overcome her fear and use it for good.

In the sequel, she and Anna are going to bed and remember their deceased parents who were lost in a shipwreck. They sing the lullaby their Mother sang to them as they were tucked into bed. Elsa awakens later that night to a beautiful voice singing to her. It pulls her to the window and to the sea like a siren song. Elsa sings “Into the Unknown,” its lyrics perhaps reminiscent to anyone who has been called to explore. Some may have resisted the call, like Elsa. Practicality, parents’ aspirations, responsibilities, lack of funds, complacency, procrastination, shame of selfishness, or fear naturally make us pause, putting the journey off for a time or entirely.

“I can hear you (but I won’t)
Some look for trouble while others don’t
There’s a thousand reasons I should go about my day
And ignore your whispers which I wish would go away, oh…

You’re not a voice, you’re just a ringing in my ear
And if I heard you (which I don’t) I’m spoken for I fear
Everyone I’ve ever loved is here within these walls
I’m sorry, secret siren, but I’m blocking out your calls

I’ve had my adventure, I don’t need something new
I’m afraid of what I’m risking if I follow you…

Into the unknown
Into the unknown, Into the unknown
(Oh) What do you want? ‘Cause you’ve been keeping me awake
Are you here to distract me so I make a big mistake?
Or are you someone out there who’s a little bit like me?
Who knows deep down I’m not where I’m meant to be?
Every day’s a little harder as I feel your power grow
Don’t you know there’s part of me that longs to go…

Into the unknown?
Into the unknown, Into the unknown
(Oh) Are you out there?
Do you know me?
Can you feel me?
Can you show me? Oh!”

Elsa has worked through the denial and acknowledges within herself that she wants to go. We each decide for ourselves, when faced with a call like this in our lives. Is this journey one I was meant to go on all along? Will it complete me? Will it help me to find others like me–or that others are like me? Is it just a desire or is it God?

“(Ah) Where are you going? Don’t leave me alone
How do I follow you”

Elsa goes–and she finds the answers to her questions. As a result, her sister Anna finds her own destiny, and humanity is saved because of it.

For interior quests and external, for researchers, archaeologists, theologians, parents, philanthropists, ordinary people…each of us has a unique call in this life. Elsa followed a spirit and found that she was part of that spirit, the force that animates the world. As much as it took a journey outward it completed the circle back, inwardly. Perhaps God uses ways which are individual to each of us to call us back to where we are meant to be–Immanuel. We realize that everything from that point on is different, changed for the good of ourselves and others.

“Into the unknown?”

The Next Right Thing

Disney’s Frozen 2 had some mixed reviews. One of my daughters who loved the original was unsure if she liked the the sequel as much as other children’s animated movie sequels. She thought it was heavier into magic than the original, but liked the music. She is a mother now herself, and will undoubtedly sing every Disney song to her babies. I loved hearing her and her three sisters as young adults, singing Disney songs while playing board games at the kitchen table.

I had a different reaction to Frozen 2 and felt that there was much allegory to a Christian life, whether it was intended or not. Analogies are not perfect, of course, but I saw aspects of virtue and the human experience in the characters. The lyrics to one of Anna’s songs in the movie, The Next Right Thing, were profound in light of then-to-be-future-events in the real world with the Covid-19 virus.

Anna believed her sister to be dead and she was now on a journey alone. She knew that she was in great danger.

I’ve seen dark before, but not like this
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out

Interesting that current events have been globally unprecedented, and have locked down millions of people around the world. Human lives have been detrimentally affected, and not by the virus itself.


Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb
I follow you around, I always have
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down

Many people have been frightened by Covid-19. Scientists and doctors have different opinions. Countries have vastly different approaches. The United States is polarized even more, politically, and social media is rife with anger and ugliness. Unemployment has skyrocketed and businesses have closed.

But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone

Fear is paralyzing. In the movie just prior to this song Elsa addresses that fear is what cannot be trusted, not people different than us. When all seems confused or lost, how do we react positively?


But you must go on
And do the next right thing


We must decide what that next right thing is, baby step, inconsequential as it may seem. It leads us on.

Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don’t know anymore what is true
I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone

So many people feel hopelessness. Suicide rates are higher. How do we know what is true when there are so many different opinions and even experts disagree?


The only star that guided me was you
How to rise from the floor?

Anna believed that Elsa was dead, and had relied on her for so much wisdom. Our trust has been placed on experts, on the belief in the best government which cares for citizens, on a tangible world where education and intelligence are the best hope, where good triumphs over evil. Anna must now decide for herself.


“But it’s not you I’m rising for
…”

Anna must go her journey alone, and feels a duty to save and take care of her people. In truth, we must each act based on our own choices insofar as we are able. We cannot always trust that good will happen, that leaders will do the right thing, that there will be a positive order in nature, on the earth–but we can choose to help another, we can choose to…


Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing

Those who are working, do your work as best you can. Mothers and fathers, love and care for your children. Those who are alone make the next healthy decision–even if it is a glass of water, a bite of food, a moment of rest, a medication to take, a bedroom to straighten. Take one day at a time, one hour, one minute.


I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again


Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing

…Over Fear

So much of social media is upsetting these days due to unprecedented events, diverse views and political divisiveness. Many decide to take breaks from it, or choose more private options with close friends and loved ones. For some, diverse views are intriguing; I fall into that category to a certain extent. When there is time, I will watch videos and read news articles with different views from mine.

An anthropology course in college led to a switch in majors to Nursing. My nursing theoretical framework or philosophy is one that is inclusive of cultural sensitivity. In order for best-care and outcomes, the patient must be the center of the health care team, their lives and desires informing the decision-making process and treatment. We need to know our patients as best we can, to know what their background is, what informs their worldview. Obviously, there is less time to do this in emergent and urgent care situations. Interest in the person as an individual, a family member, a member of the cultural or societal groups to which they belong, fuels my desire to understand and care.

Recently, a few friends sent me current event videos that were upsetting to them. I watched them. I could see how they could be unsettling and cross-researched them. One friend may have made inference to end-times narratives. A neighbor walking past the house yesterday, called out in a greeting to me that things will never be the same.

The world seems so fearful, yet has the world ever remained “the same?”

As a young person I read The Hiding Place, The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the story of Job in the Bible. I distinctly remember feeling so lucky that humanity was past all that, and certainly I would never suffer such events. Later I read Roots, ‘Tis, The Color of Water, and Left to Tell. As a military wife I met the foreign officers from other countries including Iraq in the early 2000s. People had stories so profound and current, how could they not shape one’s worldview, one’s opinion of humanity? The truth is that there have been tragedies, calamities, wars, and holocausts throughout history to the present. I was lucky to be shielded–for a time. I suppose some are for their entire lives but that is really not the norm.

Today we see and hear so much, so fast. Another post may be on the detrimental effects of social media toward our youth, but this will wrap up with words of hope.

Humanity has survived. For every Hitler there is a Mother Teresa. Humanity has goodness at its core. Though the human condition includes selfishness, fear, desperation, and the devastatingly evil acts that can come from them, most of us want what is healthy and good for ourselves and others.

Try to understand why someone has a different viewpoint from your own, or just be okay that they do. In disagreements disentangle the knots of difference to the place of agreement.

In regard to end times, I learned when my young husband who was in the middle of doing what was so very good for the world died suddenly, that each of us is in our own end time. None of us knows when this day will be our last. Do what is right today, even if it seems inconsequential.These things will look different for each of us. Not all are called to writing senators or participating in marches, but if that is your strength, then do it. For others, small acts like gently brushing your daughter’s hair, speaking kindly to a co-worker, smiling on the phone with an irritated customer can be just as world-changing.

George Elliott concluded her novel Middlemarch in regard to humble heroine Dorothea:

“Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Mother Teresa said it so well, to do “small things with great love.” Each of us has gifts that the world needs in tiny unseen ways as well as grand. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Strive to choose love and hope over fear.

George and Liz

Saint George is depicted as the dragon-slayer, plunging a long sword from the back of his white horse into the slithery head of an ugly beast, the devil. George was a soldier and may very well have ridden a white horse. Born of Christian parents at the time of Diocletian he was an exemplary soldier and rose to the level of Tribune. When Christians were being executed and tortured he gave it all up, openly rebuking his ruler and pleading for reason. For that he was tortured and beheaded. End of story? Far from it. There are paintings and statues and legends that are revered by Christian and other cultures. Sacrificial love. Courage? We would assume so, but I imagine that his strength came from God, and doing what was right despite the consequences.

Nineteen years ago on this day of remembrance of Saint George, my mother Liz gave up her armor and all worldly titles. Her life was evident of sacrificial love. She was a living saint, and is now a heavenly one. She loved Jesus, her faith, her traditions, her family, and humanity. She was a steadfast, loving and devoted wife and a warm, funny, supportive, completely loving mother. She was willing to mother anyone who needed her, or who simply crossed her path or doorway. She loved every person regardless of race, creed or lifestyle.

I’ll miss her every day. I take great comfort in knowing that she still loves and cares for us, united with Christ in a mystical body that “witnesses” and intercedes for us all. Life is short. We do not know what is around the corner. To live humbly like Liz, sacrificially, prayerfully doing what she could in this finite life has eternal effects.

Restoration

My daughter Susanna and I traveled to the UK in December of 2019. Susanna graduated with her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and asked if I would go with her on a celebratory trip. I ensured that my amazing husband would be alright with this first, because there are still six children at home and he would go it alone. He enthusiastically supported the adventure.

I think most Moms underestimate their need for restoration. We manage with the bits of time we get, with our prayer and worship time, but I think most of us run on fumes for extended periods and that is not healthy in the long-run. Over the years I have read books on how to organize and manage life. From corporate experts to Mom-managers no one book held the key. I realized that my strategy necessitated adaption of advice with each child born, with each life change.

Some women scoffed at aspects endorsed by certain published Moms. It was expressed that these authors took too much time for themselves, turned self-care into an excuse to authorize over-indulgence, went back to school at the expense of their family needs, and more. Why do we judge each other? Being a Mom is hard enough without navigating the stormy waters of negativity and criticism. We each have a unique life to be lived and, God-willing, with faith, love and support we will become that “best version of ourselves.” Why seek that version? So that we can live happily ever after? Rather, so that we can make this world a better place by helping others the best we can. In so-doing we find joy.

Part of my “self-care” was happened upon inadvertently. In 2010 I was nursing my youngest baby. I had a cup of tea, Bruce was getting all the bigger ones to bed, and I turned on the television. I saw something on the PBS channel about an Abbey. We lived in a stone house built by Benedictine Monks in the late 19th Century, full of history and stories. I imagined this might be interesting for a few minutes until baby Margaret succumbed to sleep. A few minutes? I was entranced by the art of Julian Fellowes and the world he created. Through the years I have watched and rewatched all six seasons of Downton Abbey and have seen the movie more times than I will admit.

I have never re-watched a show that many times. Not even close. I have always loved period dramas, and I could easily elaborate in a researched essay to prove that Downton Abbey was the finest culmination of its kind, but that is not the point. For some women their favorite escapes are detective mysteries, sci-fi movies, zombie apocalypse shows or “other-world” fantasies. For others, no television is involved. Playing the piano, watching the sunset from the back porch, or taking a long jog could be just what is needed to recharge the batteries of a worn soul.

Susanna and I visited some of the filming locations of the Downton Abbey series and movie. They were beautiful and we learned that some had been used in other films. Highclere Castle was once the filming location of a vampire movie. The village of Lacock, where the movie parade was filmed, was also used in the Harry Potter movies. England is so full of varied and intricate beauty, much like the hidden gems within each woman.

We had a wonderful time and it was surprisingly just what I needed. I feel restored and thankful. Don’t wait thirty years to treat yourself in some way. It may not be as grand as a trip to Europe. Go to a museum, walk in the park, write your story or paint your watercolor. Do it regularly. You are worth it, and those who depend on you need you whole. A psychologist once told me that we often put our cup at the bottom of the fountain, allowing for others to fill first. Yet if we place it just-so in the middle then our cup overflows, filling cups which would otherwise not even reach the waters.

Rediscovery

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I was recently asked to write about a few distinguishing moments in my life. There were indeed a few, but the one that came first to mind was becoming a mother. Perhaps it was because I had wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl. I can articulate the desire better as an adult; our ability to influence others, to inspire, to help and to care is the greatest gift we can give to humanity. Whether biological, adoptive, foster, or spiritual mothers and fathers, it matters not, for it is a generative love.

The early months of pregnancy with my first daughter were some of the happiest in my life, and the day she was born was like no other. I called my own mother, tears welling up, and asked, “Did you really love me this much? Really?” She answered with some surprise, yet affirmatively. Life, for me, was forever changed in the span of one day. I was in love like never before. I asked my mother sincerely, “Then how did you let me grow up?”

At the time, I could not imagine my baby Marie becoming any less important to me. In fact she has not, but she is now nearly the age I called my mother with that incredulous plea. Now I amable to see that one can not hold back the tide of time and of growth. Marie was my world for a while, and that was the way it was supposed to be. She needed me. Her five-and-a-half pounds needed me literally every hour to give her nourishment and strength and protection.

She is off to make an adult life in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I am so proud of her. Her sister Susanna, born two years after her, moved to Baltimore last year. Marie is an artist, and Susanna is a nurse. Susanna is a bit more like me and even resembles me. We are both nurses. In the photo above, I had the pleasure of being her clinical instructor for one day, a few years ago.

Marie and Susanna’s father was my late husband Bob. He was a family practitioner in Maryland. Life changed again in a moment, when he passed away at 42 of a heart attack.

Rediscovery. One reaches deep down and finds strength from the wellspring of creation. Some call it self-will, some call it a life force. I am one of those people who say that it is God.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way believes that we are all creations, and so it follows that the force which created us must imbue us with the ability to create. If he is the great creative force, then his strength is the wellspring which gave life to all, and to which all are connected.

Dr. Ira Progoff developed an intensive journaling method in the latter half of the twentieth century. Like the Redwood forest roots that interconnect with each other in a vast network, he proposed an image of each of us connected to a source, a wellspring of humanity and spiritual strength.

That source got me through tragedy, and on to a new life. A new military life half a continent away in Kansas. I rediscovered myself. I discovered strengths, and joy, and new love. I married Bruce, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and gained two more beautiful, wonderful daughters, Emily and Sharon. I became another kind of mother: a stepmother. Sharon once finished a sentence of mine. I told her that “I first loved her…” and she added, “when you got to know me.” I corrected her. I loved her from the moment I loved her father, because she was a part of him. Who she is, and who Emily is, and have grown to be, have only deepened that love.

Four years and three more children later, we took on an au pair from Brazil. I clearly needed the help. I was host-mother to Renata. Foreign exchange students YeoJoo, Johanna, Bobby, Beto, and another au pair, Stephania, entered our family as the years went on and as three more children were born. Ten children in all, four exchange students and two au pairs stretched and blessed our family in so many ways. Better mothers may have not needed the help. Some husbands would not have allowed for so many people coming to live with us. But this was us, and we were and are blessed.

We lived on a farm in Atchison, Kansas. The Abbey Farm. I wrote a blog about life on a historic one-time monastery. It was built by Benedictine monks in 1890 and it was home to many families. Somehow I knew that we were another family in it’s history; certainly not the last. We had wonderful years there.

And so we rediscover ourselves once again. I wrote a post on The Abbey Farm about seasons of change. Once again, it is proven that the only thing that is unchangeable is change itself. Perhaps one day, when asked about distinguishing moments in life, I will say that moving away from that wonderful home caused me once again to dig down deep, to gain strength for the change. Strength, from the one who is the wellspring of peace and the miraculous.