There is something about the ending of the old and the beginning of the new year that causes us to pause for a moment and reflect upon our lives and to ask ourselves the all important question, is my life a success? Have I made the right choices and earned the right to call my life a success?
With great in trepidation we pull out the familiar yard stick and measure our lives with those of our friends and neighbors. Fully believing that if we can check all of the right boxes, we can stand among the proud, the few, and declare that we have earned the coveted award of success.
The problem is, that no matter how many boxes we check off, the badge of success seems to elude us. We might have a beautiful home and family, have earned the love and devotion of our dearest loved ones, and for a moment we bubble over with pride, confident that we have reached the coveted mark. But then we turn and look at those around us and realize that while our house is lovely, it is not nearly as nice as so and so, that our furniture is plain and drab when compared to our neighbor, and that our income is a mere pittance when compared with that of our sister or brother.
Suddenly, as we compare ourselves with those around us, the warm glow of delight fades and a cold chill of hopelessness takes hold. As we realize that no matter how hard we strive, no matter how hard we try, we cannot grasp that elusive star called success.
Sadly, as long as our measuring tape is viewing our accomplishments against that of others, as long as we make the keeping up with the Jones our mark of success, we will never be able to look with satisfaction upon our lives. Because no matter how hard we strive, no matter how far we climb, there will always be some corner of our life where we will find that someone is standing taller and walking a few steps ahead.
Unfortunately we have come to believe that success is being the richest, the brightest, the fastest rising member of our circle. But this view is like a pile of fools gold glimmering in the noonday sun. It is full of glamour and glitz, but the pursuit of it will leave you feeling hollow, stressed, empty, and burdened down with disappointment.
Instead of taking out the chart and comparing every corner of our lives with those around us, it would be far more valuable to take out the measuring stick and take a good hard look at ourselves. To study where we have grown, and where we have come up short. To look and see how many times we have fallen hard and gotten up. How many times we have made an embarrassing mistake, and even though we wanted to run away from the discomforting glare of the crowd, stuck it out and determinedly got the job done.
Because as wonderful as it would be to taste the success of landing the dream job that will allow us to buy the life that we desire, it is far more valuable to become a success at knowing when to stand our grown, of gaining the muscles of endurance that will allow us to build a relationship with those we love that can stand the bitterest trials of life, and to fall flat on our face, and pick ourselves up and stand firm and tall.
Long ago in a barn hewn out of rocks a young mother gave birth. There was no doctor or scurrying nurses to attend to her. Only her husband, a carpenter by trade. When here little child was born, there was no soft and warm cradle to lay Him in only a manger full of hay.
To human eyes and hearts it seemed to be the birth of another poor child in an already crowded world. Yet, unseen by any human eye, thousands upon thousands of angels waited breathlessly for this humble birth. Then all heaven rang with glorious songs of praise as the baby boy was gently laid in the pale mother’s arms.
With the tender awe of every new mother, she counted His tiny toes and fingers. Quietly she whispered His name as she laid her precious bundle in a manger to sleep. As the young mother and her husband watched the precious infant sleep, angels kept careful guard. Their hearts filled with awesome wonder of their adored leader who willingly had lowered Himself. Who had left a perfect world, the beauty of never dying flowering meadows, majestic forest, choirs raised in perfect chords, and the glorious throne where He sat next to the Father as countless perfect beings worshiped Him with solemn joy.
That He would leave it all to come to a world laden with sin. A place so dark and dreary full of misery, hate, and death. That He would leave it all to become a lowly human baby, and grow into a man well accustomed with sorrow. Someday to hang on a cross for a race of people who had forfeited the right to life so they might have a way to live.
Love, praise, and adoration filled their hearts as they watched their sleeping King. A little baby sleeping peacefully in a smelly manger as the new parents looked on. Just another baby in an over crowded world, or was He?
Its that time of year when we take a few moments to pause and thank our fathers for all of the things, big and small, that they do for us throughout the year, and to take some time to lovingly recall all the ways that they have sacrificed in order to make our lives better. As this special day of thanks to Father’s draws nears, I want to pause and take a moment to thank not only my Father, but the millions of selfless Father’s who willingly put their dreams on the back burner in an effort to make their children’s dreams come.
Unfortunately we tend to pass by your hard labor and save our words of thanks for this one fleeting day. But though we all to often fail of giving you words of gratitude in due season, I want to take this moment to say, thank you for your love and watch care. And to let my own Father know how much I appreciate his patient love and care.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone! And a very special thank you to my Mother and Grandmother. Sadly I do not have the money to take you out to lunch or buy you flowers, but I would like to show you my appreciation by sharing this little poem thanking you and all the selfless mothers who work so hard throughout the year by giving up many of your own comforts so that our lives will be a little bit better. Thank you so much and may God repay you for all that you have done.
And a very special Mother’s Day to my own Mother. I want to say thank you for the hard work that you do all year to make my life and the life of each member of our family more comfortable and productive than what it would be. May God bless your many tears and prayers on our behalf.
Summer, that great time of year when warm breezes blow and sunny days beckon one and all to roam a vibrant green world as busy birds flutter through the trees singing their merry song of life. Where visions of melodic waves crashing against the shore and refreshing dips in cool ocean waters fill the imagination.
But for me summer is a time of frustration. As the thermostat rises and the humidity climbs so does the deep ache in my bones. Instead of lounging in a chair by the refreshing waters of a crystal clear pool, summer finds me curled up in a tight ball with a steam of tears threatening to run down my pain contorted cheeks. And in sorrow I watch from the sidelines as the days of summer slip away, never to return.
Frustrated I dream of long walks by the ocean, and of typing by the pool as I sip a refreshing glass of ice cold pineapple fruit shake. My hot brow desperate wishing for the chance to cool off in a shady corner of the pool, even though I know that my achy bones would never allow it.
Haunted by images of the life I long for and worn out by the increasingly debilitating ache that sores with the thermometer, disappointment threatens to engulf me. Oh how I long for a normal life, to know the joy of living with strength and purpose instead of tip toeing around my endless discomfort. As I look at my empty platter and think about how empty my life is of the active joy that I long for, a deep depression threatens to take hold.
But it is at this moment that God in His mercy steps in. With tender love He points my throbbing head upward and reminds me that trying as these days of frustration are, this need not be my unhappy end.With love he reminds me of the promise that one day soon I may rise like a mighty eagle unhampered by the chains of pain that currently hold me back.
Slowly, as I take my eyes off my current suffering and by faith behold the glorious days of promise, my frustration gives way to joy. And although pain still racks my body, my heart begins to sing songs of praise. As my imagination is carried past the fleeting dreams of an earthly summer and carried to that which shall stand the test of time. No longer concentrating upon the sorrow of having been born into a world of pain, I look ahead to that precious day when the clouds do part to reveal a vast host of angels whose song makes the world to tremble. And at last my weary burdens I shall be able to put down, as with the freedom of endless youth I bounce, and a heart filled with joy I fall before my Redeemer and pour out my soul in gratitude that my days of pain and heartache He melted away and transformed into the wonder of the dawn of endless, pain free youth!
Only three months into the new year and 2019 has proved to be a hard year of trial and change.2018 had ended with an ominous tone as the last few weeks of the year saw me lose SSI as well as Medicaid, just as an injury put me in a wheel chair and I was hit by two infections in one month. The stress and fear was intense for me and my family as for the first time in years, we started the new year with the intense worry about how we would pay our bills and the fear of my living life as a chronic invalid with no medical care.
But those fears were quickly put on the back burner as one family member after another was hit by health issues. With one member being transferred from an assisted living facility to a nursing home due to a fall only weeks after moving in, meanwhile another was going blind. Before we could even process that news we learned that another relative was in need of surgery and had been unable to work for weeks due to a major infection that had required a pick line to be inserted so he could give himself antibiotics 3 times a day. At the same time we learned that one of my young cousins, barely in her twenties, was at times having to use a wheelchair due thanks to several health issues including Lyme disease. But worse of all, even though none of us wanted to say it, it was becoming clear that my Grandmother’s health was slipping and that her days are in the process of drawing to a close.
Everywhere I turned it seemed like the health and independence of those I love was under attack. And my heart ached as I thought of how quickly life could change. And what a season of change it was as on top of everyone being hit by a sever case of bronchitis that put my Mother in the hospital for a week, we received the news that my sister was now a diabetic. Having lost both of my Grandfather’s and several relatives to that fearful disease, it was very disheartening news to know that I know must worry that my sister had been hit by this cruel ailment so young.
My one hope was that after being hit with so many trials in such a short time, the worst of the year must at last be behind us. And I was hopeful that the rest of the year would now prove a time of joy. On this note I turned my attention to my nearing birthday. While the thrill of getting a year old is not what it used to be when I was 9 or 10, I was looking forward to spending a relaxing day with my family playing games and enjoying a day of planned meals that would give me one day off from the seemingly endless misery of combing through my long allergy list to determine what I would eat.
My birthday started on a good note, as for the first time in years at least one meal had successfully been prepared in advance and I was strangely feeling good. While my Mother made my birthday cake, I dreamed of a lazy afternoon playing board games and watching some of our favorite You Tube programs. Lunch was delicious. The homemade collard green lasagna was the perfect treat. But a few bites in a strange feeling began to take hold and by the time I took my first bite of birthday cake an all to familiar feeling of nausea was taking hold. I had not even finished my cake when the feeling became so strong that my shivering form had to pace the floor.
In sorrow my family turned to me, knowing that my day was ruined. Their hearts went out to me as I paced the floor as calmly as I could manage, hoping the increasingly intense misery would soon fade. Unfortunately matters quickly became worse as a strange flushed feeling rose from my chest and the room disappeared. Suspicious of the cause I pulled out my blood pressure cuff to reveal that my pulse was racing at 159 beats per minute.
I quickly took a pill for my heart, and hoped that relief would soon come. Minutes passed and the misery continued to increase. Fearful of where the misery was heading I quietly grabbed my pocket book intending to place it on the table on the rare chance I would have to go to ER. But the moment I walked into the room with my pocket book my Mother and sister immediately reacted with concern asking me if I was going to ER. To my surprise I heard myself answering in the affirmative. Wondering at my odd response, I prepared to head to ER. Worrying all the time my foolishness in declaring that I needed to go even though I had no job or insurance to pay the bill.
The ride to ER quickly allayed my fears as I found myself desperately wishing to be at the destination. My sister from her position behind me, seemed to sense that something was fearfully wrong, as she worriedly asked me if I was still here. I did my best to downplay her fears by reassuring her that I was indeed alive, but her anxiety was still heightened and she urged that I should be taken to the nearest ER instead of the one we were heading to which was 10 miles away. I remained quiet, not wanting to increase the stress, but after another wave of that odd feeling washed over my chest I decided that she was probably right.
Arriving at the ER, it was a struggle to get my shaky legs to make their way inside. When the ER nurse finally called me, I struggled to explain my reason for coming, when I still could not explain why I had said that I wanted to come, instead of waiting to see what would happen as I originally planned. The reason was instantly clear to the triage nurse with one look at my pulse which rose and fell like an unhinged roller coaster. Immediately she called back for an EKG and was surprised when I was sent back to the waiting room a few minutes latter.
At last I was sent to a room where two nurses prepared to give me a medicine to help with my pulse. Still feeling rather ill, I would have looked forward to the relief it would provide, except I could not help why they had to send my family out of the room and loosen then unsnap my gown. My heart had raced before, and my family never had to be sent out of the room and the top of my gown prepped for a shot in my IV.
Instead of calming my fears, this move only heightened them. And instinctively I asked if something else could be done tried first. Fortunately I never had to find out why this unusually precautions were required as a recheck of my pulse revealed that it was down in the low 100’s. An hour of laying in the ER bed with an IV dripping liquids into my arm my pulse and nausea had calmed down so much that I felt rather sheepish for coming. That was until, alone in my room as my parents switched places, the doctor came in and said that the MRI of my chest reveled that I might have a blood clot.
Suddenly my world changed, as I realized how fully my life hung in the balance. Nausea and even tachycardia seemed minor to the realization that for some unknown reason my body was making clots leaving me at risk of having a heart attack or stoke. Before the doctor had finished speaking and once again before calling my Father to let him know that he needed to come back so that he would be there when I told my Mother what was wrong, my prayer for aid and comfort had risen to heaven.
As I sat alone in that strange stillness waiting for their return, quietly pondering how my world had changed, I found myself pondering the real possibility that I might never walk out of that hospital. Though I trusted in God, I had to take an honest look at the risk and recognize the possibility that even though He loved me, He might allow something to happen. In that moment I had to ask myself , how close to the threshold of heaven did I stand? But more importantly I had to ask, if the worst happened and my probation came to a crashing end, would I be ready? If my life ended that day and the next words I heard was God’s call, would I be glad to hear Him call my name, or would I squirm in fear.
Somehow as I thought o my personal fears and trials along with the intense unexpected and downward swing of those I loved, I found myself thinking less of my own worries and fears. My thoughts were drawn not to the ugly possibilities of what a stroke could do, but to the promised hope of that land faraway. In that moment oh how precious the promise of Jesus return seemed, as I asked myself how close to the threshold of heaven do I stand?
I hope that as you read this poem, that you will be inspired by this question that has become so close to my heart. And that you will pause from your hectic schedule to make certain that your heart is right with God, because we never know when in an unexpected moment our lives will be turned upside down, and our probation will forever be closed.
How close to the Threshold of Heaven do I Stand?
By Katherine B. Parilli
Where do I stand in the scope of time?
How close am I to crossing over the border?
When will the cup of earth’s iniquity be full?
And when will the door of mercy forever close?
I have grown weary of this world.
My eyes are tired of beholding sin.
My ears do throb from the shouts of vile rabble.
The cries of the widow ascend without ceasing.
And the fears of the oppressed weigh down upon my soul.
When will the trumpet sound?
When will the shout of victory ring though out eternity?
When will the power of the merciless be cut short?
Oh how long till the ugly day of sin come to its final close?
The wicked gather in the streets to mock Thy people.
They exult at the suffering poverty of their prey.
Pushing the poor from their shanty dwellings to make room for their jewel decked mansions.
Demanding an ever-increasing wealth to feed theses sharks of the land.
They hear not the father’s please of mercy for his children’s empty bellies,
Or a mother’s prayer for the protection of her sick child.
How long till the heavens be rolled back?
How long till the sign of the Son of Man appear?
How long till the kingdom of the devil is destroyed?
How long till justice one more fills the land?
Works of wickedness grow bolder each day.
They have no thought of pity for young or old.
Their ears are stopped to the painful moans of the ill or injured.
Their only thoughts are of evil and how to increase their vicious power.
Should not that day be drawing near?
Is not that hour upon us?
Is not the host of Heaven gathering the last sheaves before the harvest?
Is not this increasing of sorrows a sign of Your sure return?
Are You drawing near the door?
The earth is growing weary.
Storms are brewing at every turn.
Pounding land and sea with frightful furry.
The earth rolls and rises as if convulsing.
Like a feverish patient it reels and stumbles
Mercilessly seeking comfort.
Spewing its troubled contents,
Waiting for its day of healing.
Yes the day must be near.
The hour must be drawing close.
For Thou art a God of justice.
Only mercy and love are hidden within Thy wings.
As a loving father seeks the good of his children,
Thou has waited patiently for our return.
Yet Thy justice demands an end to sin.
Thy mercy must vanquish the cruel foe,
and bring an end to human suffering.
The army of the devil shall tremble.
For their fate they will weep.
And the righteous shall rejoice
As their deliverance draws nigh.
Then in that hour I shall be comforted.
My burden of sin licked up by the flames.
No longer my eyes to behold sorrow,
Or my ears the rude jest of a maddened throng.
Hunger, pain, poverty, all burred in the ashes.
Greed, illness, the grave wiped out in the cleansing flames.
Tired, Tired, I Feel so Tired is a poem that I wrote during one of the flare ups of my chronic anemia in an attempt to express the deep fatigue that was robbing me of the freedom to live life to the fullest.
Worn, sadly this poem is the perfect summary of the past few weeks. Tired and worn before the day even begins, all I can think of is the delight of crawling into bed and taking a very long nap. My mind full of task pushes and prods me to work, reminding me of all the things that must be done, but like a car with a drained battery, it is all that I can do to sputter to life for a few moments and crawl a few feet before limping to the side.
I thought that since my iron deficiency anemia has once again raised its ugly head, draining my energy, causing my heart to race, and leaving me in a mental fog, that I would share this little poem inspired by my battle with chronic health issues.
Tired, Tired, I Feel so Tired
Tired so tired!
My body feels so tired.
Like a weary shorn out rag I walk around in a worn out daze.
My hallow body feels ancient and weighted down from some unseen place deep within;
As if an indivisible foe is sucking the energy from deep within.
I struggle to stay focused.
I desperately push on,
But my endurance is gone.
Even my hunger is diminished,
As my empty stomach trembles at the wearisome
and draining thought of food.
Oh who would believe that an invisible bug could cut a grown being down so completely?
Could bring them crawling to their knees.
That a microscopic organism could invade a body composed of billions of cells,
And bring it halting to the ground.
Robbing the body of its vital fluid and nutrition,
Stealing the vibrant glowing spring from its once happy free flowing step,
And freezing the elastic stretch that gives life and freedom to the body.
Such a miniscule molecule,
But the power to debilitate is locked so cunningly and curiously within.
The power to slow down expansion,
The power to make humanity so ill,
The power to destroy instead of uplift,
The power to devastate and destroy nations,
The power to kill both big and small.
What a little molecule,
What a little virus.
So insignificantly microscopic,
Yet it can hold the fate of many under its whimsical rollercoaster control.
So the sad story goes with sin.
It is just a miniscule microscopic sin.
It is just a wee small fraction of a dot to hold onto.
It cannot possibly kill or maim.
It is too small to do any real harm.
You cannot possibly compare it to any of the real killers like stroke and heart disease.
Mine is just a small unnoticeable little cherished blot that it cannot possibly lay down roots and smother my heart.
Why I have it so well stuffed and tamed that it cannot go anywhere.
It is so confined into that back corner that it cannot possibly reproduce and do anyone or anybody any harm.
How can you claim that one little sin such as mine is so wrong?
How can one little miniscule germ kill hundreds,
How can one virus bring one metropolis halting with heart pounding fear to its knees?
One little sin,
One little stain,
One little stubborn willfully cherished corner,
And some day the day may come when just like an out of control mutant toxic virus it will flourish and spread,
Overflowing and choking out the fresh healthy cells that stand between it and sunshine,
Killing off all the noble and pure desires of the heart.
Destroying your longings to live a pure and righteous life.
But even if that day should never come.
One longingly cherished sin,
What is the price?
What is the cost?
At whose ultimate expense will the price be paid?
How many will see and walk away?
How many will see and stumble?
How many will see and follow your example?
When the day of reckoning comes will you want to turn and walk away?
Will you finally want to part company with it then?
If you have not begun the struggle now,
Will you suddenly be ready just because Jesus has shown up in the clouds of glory?
Or will you find that you have paid the ultimate price for living with and flittering with a deadly virus?
For many the question of what one’s legacy will be seems odd, even uncomfortable. For some the idea of a legacy is something to be bothered with only by the rich or the very old. Maybe it was being sick and spending days bedridden on the sofa, or the thought that one day soon my life’s record would be brought be for God, but for me I could not help but wonder what type of legacy I was leaving. I often found myself asking if this were my last day, how would I be remembered? If something were to happen and my life were to flash before my eyes, would I blush with shame or smile with joy?
As I pondered the answers to those questions, I realized that as discomforting as it is, there is reason for us to ask this question while we have time to consider the answer and make a change. Because it would be a sad thing to wait until most of our golden opportunities to do good, our best chance to bring joy to the hearts of those we love have slipped away, to reflect upon our actions and realize that it is a record of neglect and wasted days. That by our actions big and small, by our neglect of little cares and duties, we have created a past full of broken relationships, hurt words, and missed opportunities.
As I sat in my curled up ball of pain, I could not help but wonder how sad it would be to reach my last day and look back upon my life and realize that the world was no better off for my existence. And that neither friend nor family would feel the need to shed a tear by my grave, but would instead feel a sense of relief that I was gone. That was not the kind of life record that I wanted to meet.
The more I pondered this troubling question, the more I realized that taking some time here and there to reflect upon the course of our life is necessary. It is good to take a few minutes here and there to consider the vast quantity of words that spill so easily from our racing tongues to see if they are of a nature that uplifts those around us, or the type that rips apart the tender hearts of those we love.
That it is important to routinely look at the road of life to determine if it is the right road. Or else how will I know if I am traveling a path that will make me as useful as I can be or one that is tending to a cold selfishness that has no concern for anything but self-gratification?
It is from these thoughts and questions, as I asked myself where was I going, what type of character was I building, that this simple poem was inspired. I hope that you not only enjoy this humble poem, but that it is inspires you to take a few minutes to examine your life to determine if you are creating the legacy of life that will bring a smile to your face or one that will cause you to shed tears of sorrow.