Running on Fear

no feeding the fearI’ve been running on fear all week.


It is not the best emotional fuel, but it was propelling me never the less further into panic when the summer temperatures starting rising.

With high 90s looming, I told several folks on Friday I’d probably be curled up in the fetal position in my air conditioned bedroom for the duration of the weekend….Truth be told, that was the fear speaking.

You see, I have Multiple Sclerosis, and heat is NOT my friend.

I got caught off guard this time last year when we had a heat wave, and didn’t get my AC into my bedroom soon enough for the necessary cool, restful nights. Add to that the untimely death of the air-conditioning in my car (which I use throughout each day in my work as a hospice chaplain) and it was the perfect storm for an exacerbation—which is exactly what happened.

And unfortunately my flare up invited all my symptoms to the party: extreme fatigue, balance issues, vertigo, weakness in my legs, speech issues, brain fog, as well as muscle and eye pain. I had to cut my work hours way back for a few weeks and only returned to “normal” a few months later. I’ll be honest…It sucked!

Flash forward a year and Fear is in the driver’s seat. It is so scary to experience a break down of the body at so many levels. I’d been on the verge of tears several times this week frightened of another attack.

But here’s the deal.  I know my thoughts can directly impact my body. And that’s just as bad, if not worse, for me as the heat. I needed to get my head in the game and fast.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.”   Isaiah 43:1


I began ruminating on these words from scripture and “Fear not” quickly became my mantra.

It became my response to all the questions Fear had to ask of me: What if the heat really does restrict you to your bedroom leaving you non-productive all weekend? What if you have another exacerbation? What if you loose more time at work? What if another flare up leaves you worse off?

Fear not. Fear Not. FEAR NOT.


It is Saturday evening as I finish this post.  The temperature did not go as high today as expected for which I am grateful.  I got important stuff done and even spent time outside. Tonight I give thanks to the One who teaches me every day to breathe and trust and surrender.

Today I refused to allow Fear to run my life. I realize now that my faith is bigger than that.  My connection to the Holy is stronger than that. I have come through too much in the past to put Fear in control of my future.

I have been called by name, and I am NOT afraid!



The Dormant Soul

One thing I loved about living in Vermont was witnessing the frozen land burst forth in new life when spring would finally come around. “How is it,” I would marvel each year, “that all these beautiful plants successfully remain dormant through the long frigid winter and reappear in such splendor?

cactus in bloom3
Our neighbor’s cactus in it’s springtime glory.

After four years in the Green Mountain State, my family and I moved to Arizona, the land of eternal sunshine—over 300 days of the year.

Spring did exist and had a unique beauty to it, but it was not the same as the yearly dramatic resurrection of the New England landscape.

I was looking back on a journal entry from my early days in the desert.  I was so desperate to move back to a cooler climate where the landscape’s changes were distinct from season to season.

I was surviving in the Sonoran desert, but not thriving.  I wrote that my very soul had become dormant in that place.


A great word.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means:

(1) :  being in a state of suspended animation (2) :  not actively growing but protected (as by bud scales) from the environment

“Not actively growing but protected from the environment.” That’s exactly how I felt.  A majority of my energy went toward protecting myself from the environment.  I was alive, but not growing in splendor.

As I have learned in my ministry with the dying, one’s soul can be dormant for many different reasons.

We protect ourselves from past traumas, whether consciously or subconsciously, by diminishing or burying the experience. We look past our own transgressions, unwilling to acknowledge the havoc or pain we have wreaked in our own lives or the life of another. We continue to view ourselves negatively as others have defined us, not as God has, beautiful and beloved.

We have no desire or are unable to grow spiritually.

We do not hunger for the transformative experiences where the healing powers of unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness are discovered.

One of my favorite, inspiring quotes is from author Anaïs Nin:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom. 

Perhaps for many, the hunger for inner growth is not powerful enough to demand action.  But for others, it becomes too painful to remain where they are.

The lack of purpose weighs too heavy.  The level of anxiety is no longer acceptable.  The addiction has caused too much destruction. Rage and resentments have become too crippling; the number of broken relationships, too many;  depression, too deep.

Whatever the catalyst, being “tight in a bud” is no longer a viable choice.   The soul can remain dormant no more. The risk to blossom, to heal and grow spiritually, becomes the necessary path.

That was true for me while living in the desert.  My depression was growing with each day I faced.  The longing to move was transitioning into an obsession. By Spring of 2012 it was clear I had to change.

I shared here at Desert Sojourn of my soul’s transformation:

Within the last few months, I have come to terms with my life here in the land of endless summer. I have ceased compulsively striving away from the Now and have accepted that this desert is my home.  I have been able to let go.


That was such a turning point for me.  In fact, I had not noticed until now that in July, that following month, I posted more than ever.  My blossoming soul, no longer dormant, was enjoying a glorious springtime resurrection! Thanks be to God!

And what about you?  Are you experiencing a dormancy of your own soul?  Has it become too painful to remain in that frozen state?

Stay alert.  Rest in prayer and meditation.  And trust that God’s grace will move your very being into a season of healing and new life!

May you take that risk…and blossom!




Laugh WITH Yourself

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

I absolutely relish the ridiculous and often embarrassing things that have happened to me.

A pastor and her flock

Choosing a can of kippered herring as a quick, on-the-go lunch then proceeding to eat it in my car, for instance, wasn’t the brightest of ideas.  I realized this only after the oily, fish juices came pouring out of the half eaten can when I made a sudden stop.  What a horrendous, smelly mess that was!

Or what about the time I was trying to comfort a woman who was actively dying after months of being on our hospice program?

Although she was facing the wall, I tried my best to comfort her through song and prayer. She continued to be restless despite my best efforts and seemed to be trying to speak.

Assuming it might be important last words or a final request, I squeezed my way between her bed and the wall. Finally. I could see her face and hear her words more clearly.

And that I did.  With no hesitation she clearly told me, “Get…OUT!”

Ah yes.  That wasn’t the first or last time I would miss the mark as a chaplain.

Honestly, I treasure these moments.  They remind me to not take life so seriously.*

And now your Spiritual Prescription:

Laugh with yourself. 


Note—I did not say “Laugh at yourself.”  This is not about belittling yourself.

It is about celebrating life and remembering to lighten up.

It’s about remembering that, like it or not, you are not perfect.  In fact, no one is!

Words to consider from Proverbs 15:15…

A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song. (The Message)


So laugh with yourself and let your heart be ever cheerful.


* Last night I was horrified to discover I had accidentally posted this Spiritual Prescription weeks ago unfinished.  Heaven forbid! I was certainly NOT laughing at first, but I’m getting there!

Do You Know Your Way Home?

homeIt is a common occurrence among those with dementia.

Typically in the early stages, especially when the individual is still mobile, he or she has this strong urge to go home, even when they are already in their own house.

I witnessed this twice today while visiting with a hospice patient in a memory care facility. The first person was a lovely, adorable woman in her late 80’s.  Her white hair was beautifully set and her outfit, stylish as she walked swiftly despite her hunched back.  Upon passing by she graciously greeted me by saying, “I am going home…as soon as I rest for a while.”  The woman announced this to others gathered around and, after sitting in a chair a moment or two, proceeded outside.  There in the gated garden she made her way safely down the path and eventually back inside by another door.  As far as anyone else was concerned, she was home, once again.

The second individual was an elderly man waiting at the gate to the parking lot.  It was unclear at first if he was a family member, unsure of how to exit, or a resident hoping to slip out with a departing visitor.  To ensure that I did not let a resident escape (God forbid!) I engaged him in conversation before punching in the access code.

With a shaving kit securely in hand, he told me, “I’ve got to get home to Eugene!”  Though I knew better, I assured him he was already in Eugene. “Yes,” he replied, “but did you know that there are two Eugenes?”  Of course there are.  Eugene, where he once lived, couldn’t possibly be the place where he was now, lost in a world of dementia.  He was clearly NOT home.

So what does it mean,” I  considered on the ride home, “to be home?

Barring any memory troubles, when do we know we are finally home?

While living in the Netherlands in my youth, I found the word “gezellig” difficult to translate into a single English equivalent. It can mean cozy, homey, convivial [new word for me meaning (of an atmosphere or event) friendly, lively, and enjoyable], sociable, and snug to list a few definitions.  “Gezellig” seemed to be used most often when describing someone’s home…or at least that’s when I used it.  In my mind it described a place where I was welcomed and could most be myself.

And for me, that’s what it means to “be home,” to be in a place where I am welcomed for who I am.

Home is where my body, mind, and spirit are secure and at rest.  It’s a space that is often found in unexpected places: in a truly welcoming place of worship, on a secluded beach, in an Aspen grove, beside a brook, at a gathering of dear friends.

As I age, I am learning that the deeper I go spiritually, the better I am at uncovering those hidden, “gezellig” places where I feel most at home.  And even more than that, as my faith matures, I realize that ultimately home really IS where the heart is…right inside of me.   If I can be secure and at rest in my own skin, this temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), I just might find home to be around every corner.

Working in hospice, it’s inevitable that you will develop a fear of at least one terminal illness. Dementia, especially Alzheimer’s Disease, is mine.

Should that disease be the path I must walk, I pray that I will somehow always find my way home.

May you  find your way home, too!




Opportunity Missed

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

maple cotton candy It was all MINE!

At the county fair in Vermont where we lived, I purchased my first and only batch of maple cotton candy.   Made only with cane and maple sugars, it tasted heavenly!

I ate it slowly and, not wanting to share my glorious, sugary delight with my husband or kids, I hid it in our pantry when we got home.

Ironically…I forgot about it.  It was discovered a long time later—a shrunken brick of simple carbohydrates.

Truly devastating!  My miserly action led to my own loss in the end.

With this tragic tale, I offer today’s Spiritual Prescription:

Be Generous!

Resist the urge to horde or be miserly.

Don’t pass up an opportunity to share or to give.

It may be painful at first or feel unnatural.

Perhaps it’ll even feel like you are being taken advantage of.

That’s how I felt that day at the fair.  I didn’t share my delectable cotton candy because each family member had already devoured his or her own treat.  Why should I share mine, right?

But now, looking back, how wonderful it would have been to pull out my sugary treat a few days later to celebrate the fair all over again with my family .  It was an opportunity missed.

Proverbs 11:24 advises, “Sometimes you can become rich by being generous or poor by being greedy” (Contemporary English Version).

So be generous today and see if you don’t feel a bit richer as a result!