Tag Archives: Faith

An Attitude of Gratitude

20130801_063045

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. Meister Eckhart

I went to a wedding not so long ago and when the thank you note for the gift arrived, it was a picture of the bride and groom holding a sign that said “thank you.” It was nice but there was no personalization, no signature, just the picture. My heart sank a bit as I thought this was yet another symptom of our too busy lives. Were thank you notes becoming a thing of the past?

So it gave my heart a lift when my husband shared this story with me recently. He said, “There are days when it is terrible to be a nurse in the ER. We see some of the same people over and over again, who do nothing different for their own conditions, and yet they expect us to fix it immediately. I get tired and worn out and wonder for what purpose I am here.”

On one particular day Jim headed back to his station and there was a clasp envelope laying on his desk. When he opened it, there were three thank you notes inside. They were from the children of a woman he worked with; they had all come to Jim’s Honey Party and had participated in spinning the combs and witnessing the delicious, sticky honey that had come from that experience.

The notes expressed gratitude and warmed my husband’s heart. He told me, “It was a great moment to realize that I had made a difference in someone’s life.” I am guessing those little notes restored Jim’s faith in himself and the reason he is here on earth.

I have several boxes of pretty thank you cards and I try and remember to thank people who have given me a gift. But I also try and send a thank you for no reason other than to acknowledge someone else’s loving act of kindness. Recently, my aunt and uncle took me to Chicago for a wedding. They came to my doorstep and picked me up. We spent the entire, wonderful weekend together. Afterwards I wrote them a thank you note because not only did I have an amazing time, but I got to know their teen grandchildren a whole lot better and realized what totally beautiful kids they are.

A few years ago when I was beginning my spiritual journey, I decided to keep a gratitude journal. I wrote a few things down each night I was grateful for. It could be something that happened that day, or a quality I had come to recognize in myself or others. After pages and pages of gratitude, a shift in my thinking occurred. I realized the gift of every day life.

I save most all of the thank you notes I receive. There is a shoe box in my closet where I have amassed a collection of notes I’ve received over the years. There are hallmark cards, handwritten notes, some large and some small, but that box serves a purpose. Whenever I am feeling down, I reach for it. I pull out the cards and read them one by one. By the time I am done, my faith in myself is restored.

*The thank you note on the window sill says, “Thank you for giving my shoes back. I liked playing with Jake. A bee is flying.” (sweet!)

Have you ever received a thank you note that you just never forgot? Tell me about it!

Please follow and like us:
998

The Right Place, The Right Time

DSC_0008

There is no right time and right place for love… it can happen any time.

Shahrukh Khan

This week we had some serious storms. Rain, thunder, lightning all made their presence known here in Western Pennsylvania. For the first time ever, my family and I went down to the basement because of a tornado warning.

Thankfully, nothing happened. Just a heavy rain, so much rain in fact that it seems the grass and garden grew inches before our very eyes.

The day after the storm, our already fragile old apple tree gave way and a large branch split off. Already filled with young green apples, it was a sight of tangled twigs and green leaves. Jim and Gavin have begun the slow task of making fire logs and cleaning up the mess.

This morning as I was taking my trusty labrador Jordan out to the field, I caught sight of a baby fawn among those apple tree branches. She or he was just a few yards away from me. I hooked Jordan up to her run and walked slowly down to the felled tree.

The fawn perked its head up and looked at me. She still had her baby white spots. She was absolutely, perfectly beautiful.

I went back in the house and grabbed my coffee cup. I set up a chair in my yard and watched a deer family of four in the amazing morning light, prancing about and eating in my neighbor’s yard across the lane from our house, across from my apple tree. The baby fawn was among the family.

As I sat there sipping coffee and watching the deer family, I reflected. I thought about some key moments I had this week.

First, I spent an amazing couple of hours on the phone with a west coast blogger I have friended simply through my own blog. She is Sunday’s Child and if you click HERE, you will have a chance to read what she wrote about our phone conversation. It was so much fun! We talked about many things- writing, blogging, food, chickens- and just imagine, all through meeting in the magic of the internet. I feel like I have a new friend to add to my circle of old and dear friends, and I am blessed with her friendship beyond my own imaginable dreams.

Then, my good friend Cathy came over for a blog lesson. Yes another blogger has been born! As soon as she gets her first post up, I’ll share it with you. While she was here, I have to tell you about something awesome she shared with me.

20130708_161813When we were walking out to her car, as she was leaving, a baby hawk that has been flying around and screeching all week made its appearance just for Cathy. This baby loves to perch on a very tall pine tree behind our house. Cathy and I looked up and squinted our eyes in the afternoon sun just to catch a glimpse of baby hawk. I told her I think there are two of them, born recently and they are screeching to either mark their territory or they are calling their mama for lunch!

Cathy told me it is a very powerful spiritual sign to have hawks in your area. (Here’s what I said to this– Really??) So I looked it up on the internet and found she is right, yes, that many believe hawks to be a sign of power and vision. Check out the website I found HERE that gives more information about hawk totems.

Then, last night I was again among friends and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I can get choked up just thinking about it but suffice to say, someone needed a shoulder of caring and God put me in a bathroom at precisely the right time.

So between fawns, hawks and friends I have had an amazing week. I am truly blessed to be walking in this spiritual world and I cannot forget what a beautiful world it truly is.

Thank you to my daughter Michelene for the beautiful lily picture!

Anything amazing happen to you this week? Share please!

Please follow and like us:
998

My Daily Bread

Bread 2

Have you ever found a hidden jewel? An amazing place you just could not keep to yourself? Well I found one recently and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

It’s called Mediterra Bakehouse and I am in love with it! Since I made a recent commitment to eat healthier, I have tried to find new and exciting ways to enjoy good grains. So when a friend told me Mediterra had a local location, that was all I needed to hear.

Bread 4The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the row of Greek Orthodox icons along the wall. When I asked the owner’s daughter about this, she confirmed her father is from the same place in Greece as my mother’s family- the island of Chios. I have to say, I instantly felt at home.

It was difficult to make a decision at Mediterra. I saw kalamata olive loaf, peasant bread, Mt. Athos Fire Bread, and a delicious looking pecan raisin bread. I couldn’t resist the latter and actually tore into it on the way home in the car! (A day later I bought some Tzatziki just to dip it into!) I also chose the chile cheddar loaf, ah! with its chunks of vermont cheddar and petite slices of jalapeno pepper.

I headed back a week later and this time I bought the Sunflower Honey Whole Wheat. I can’t wait to try it with a bit of Jim’s honey.

The trip to Mediterra got me thinking about the similarities between daily bread and spiritual bread. Daily bread nourishes my body but spiritual bread nourishes my heart and soul. I have been trying to start my morning off with a good meditative reading, something that fills me with gratitude and awe for this wonderful life. That is my spiritual bread.

Here’s what I read today: Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. John Muir

Bread 5

May you be blessed today with your favorite daily bread! What’s your favorite loaf or spiritual saying?

Please follow and like us:
998

The Divine Mr. Kibosh

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss


Almost twenty years ago, I began a speciality coffee business. This was when gourmet coffee was just on the cusp of becoming something really big.

From Google.com

Delicious Coffee! Via Pinterest

My little coffeehouse was called “Cappuccino City.” It quickly established itself as the hip place to be and I thoroughly enjoyed being a small business owner. I made friends during that time that I still have to this day.

One of my customers was a stand out. His name was Joe. My nickname is Jo. Catch the catch? He’d come in and say “Hi Jo!” and I’d say “Hi Joe!”. We’d chat a few minutes and then he’d be on his way.

Years later, after I sold the coffee house, I needed some financial work done and I saw his ad in a local publication. I called him and said “Joe, do you remember me?” He said, “Of course!” Turns out his business was right down the road from my house.

So we became business acquaintances, but more. Joe was my cheerleader, always encouraging me to ask for more money (!) from my jobs and making me feel so good about myself that I’d leave his office practically on Cloud Nine.

Soon, after years of driving the parkway into Pittsburgh, I grew weary. I was looking for opportunities close to home. I had my eye on Joe, just in case he would need me.

I let him know it at one of my visits. Just an “if you ever need someone, please keep me in mind” pitch. And then one day, when it seemed I couldn’t take another traffic jam, I happened to call him about something. He said his long time admin had left. I asked him if I could interview for the job.

He said to come down and meet with his lead person. She and I went to lunch and the rest is history.

So it was with a heavy heart that I left Joe last month, after barely hitting my two year mark. As you may remember, I needed to spend more time with Mom. But I consider every minute I spent with  Joe worth it. Here are some great bits of wisdom I learned from him:

1. You develop confidence when you figure things out for yourself.

2. Pizza with pepperoni that is baked a little longer tastes really good.

3. When someone puts a stop to something, it’s called a “kibosh”.

4. There is no substitute for personal attention to a client.

5. Don’t get something new until the old one breaks. 🙂

I like to think I taught Joe a few things myself. He loved the Greek word “Fuss-a-ria” which means to cause a big fuss. Once Joe learned this word, it became a part of his dictionary. (and I love the word “Kibosh!”) He loved other things Greek too. I took him to my church during our food festival and introduced him to some great Greek food. Hopefully, I taught him some other wisdom filled lessons; some he needed and some he probably didn’t want – like a crash course on menopausal women! In return, he believed in me and my capabilities. He had confidence in me when sometimes I did not have it myself.

I believe in my heart that even though my time with Joe was short, it had a divine purpose. I learned many new things that could be of great benefit someday. Sometimes even the shortest experiences have the longest impressions.

Have you ever met someone you feel had a divine purpose in your life?

Please follow and like us:
998

Sober Mercies

“Once upon a time, I assumed my Christian faith would make me immune to the kind of gross moral lapse I considered alcoholism to be. The way I saw it, if you were a sincere believer, you would rarely, if ever, drink. And if you did drink, you would be careful not to drink too much. And if you never drank too much, you couldn’t become an alcoholic”. Heather Kopp

Sober-Mercies-198x300So begins Chapter Two of Heather’s book “Sober Mercies”, a book I couldn’t put down and read in a little over a weekend.

I was fascinated by Heather’s story mainly because I personally have the privilege of knowing many members of my local recovery community. I admire those individuals who recognize their drinking has gone awry and make the choice to live sober. Matter of fact, my recovery friends have taught me a great deal about spirituality, faith and living life one day at a time.

But a Christian drunk exposing all of her deepest fears, shortcomings and basically, dirty laundry? Yes. Heather gets right to the point and shares the secret life she led- hiding bottles, discarding used bottles and the constant maintenance of a consistent level of alcohol in her system. And the insanity that brought her to bended knees, finally causing her to admit she had no control over her insatiable desire for alcohol.  And finding out alcoholism is a disease, not a question of self will.

Because, as Heather explains, it is a disease. She hears this in treatment, thinks it’s an excuse, and the counselor blows her out of the water by explaining that “no one would propose lung cancer, directly caused by cigarettes, or diabetes brought on by obesity, are not legitimate disease, even when they arise from or are triggered by an avoidable indulgence.”

Heather analyzes her own Christian faith, realizing that she brought “a finely tuned and biblically supported belief system about God” to recovery. But then she realizes just how much her recovery meetings begin to feel like a close encounter with grace.

The difference? The people in the meetings come in desperation, asking God for help. And they are saved by their surrender and willingness to turn complete control over to the God of their understanding.

Why read this book? Maybe you are a member of a recovery community yourself, or maybe you know someone who drinks a little too much. Regardless, you will find an education within the pages of  “Sober Mercies.” An education not only on alcoholism, the twelve steps, faith and God, but also the enlightenment that comes with going deeper. Heather inspires us not to settle for the comfortable (or uncomfortable) spot in life, but to look beyond and inside ourselves for answers and the real meaning of why we do the things we do.

I hope you will take the time to read this beautiful book.

And, of course, here is my disclosure. The book was given to me free of charge and I am not compensated for my review. This is my own opinion of “Sober Mercies” by Heather Kopp.

Please follow and like us:
998

Kisses for God

Candles 2

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Phillippians 8-9

Being a Greek Orthodox Christian, this is my Holy Week and this past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It felt wonderful to be in church early to read the epistle (the above passage). My sister Mary has thankfully come to stay with Mom a whole week leading up to Greek Easter. Though I have loved spending time with my mother, I am loving the nice bit of freedom I will have this week. (Thank you Mary!)

Church filled up fast on Sunday. Many people came; lots of beautiful children and babies (which I just love). Father E. read the gospel about the last days of Jesus and the oil that smelled so good. Palms were handed out at the end of the service, molded into the shape of a cross. There was a fish dinner afterwards and Mom was able to see many of her friends that she has missed for months. It was a good day.

One of the most touching sights in church was the candles, lit by practically everyone who entered. It was amazing to see them ablaze, lighting the back wall of Narthex. Even one of my fellow council friends remarked on the specialness of them. I thought of them as kisses for God, as if every one of us was sending kisses to heaven and perhaps to loved ones who have passed on.

I have to tell you about the feeling I had being back in church. After many months of devotion to mom, I felt a peace, a gratitude to God for all the blessings in my life. My mom is recovering, I have a new life (minus my job!). Some things are different, some things are the same. Some things feel really good and my relationship to God feels another level deeper.

Maybe you have a special form of prayer or something you do which gives you this same feeling? Maybe it’s your church or a walk in the woods that does it for you. Maybe you feel that feeling of connection when you ride a gentle horse, run or walk on the beach. Perhaps you feel it when you kiss your baby or do the poses of yoga. You name it; maybe this provides the same feeling for you as my church does for me. What would you do without it? Would things feel the same?

I am grateful I have my church to go to. It is there I can connect and feel even closer to God.

What is your favorite form of spiritual connection? What moves you deep inside?

Please follow and like us:
998

Love Is Like A Rock

I’ve been staying at my mom’s on and off during her recovery. Recently, we watched the movie “Hope Springs” together. Have you seen it? The movie stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in a marriage gone stale. It was quite the interesting story if you ask me.

Without giving too much away, Meryl Streep decides after 31 years of marriage (and separate bedrooms), she wants more. Tired of no intimacy and the same routine day in and day out, she decides to challenge the status quo and sign up for a marriage enrichment program in a town called Hope Springs. Her husband says he is not going, blah blah blah, but (much to Meryl’s delight) he shows up for the plane departure.

Husband Tommy has plenty of money but they stay at the EconoLodge. He sleeps on the pull out couch while Meryl sleeps in the bed. The poor psychologist has his work cut out for himself as Tommy flings verbal hatred at him. But I know what’s really going on. Poor ol’ Tommy is in deep seated fear. Fear of change. Fear of feeling real love.

I know there are many troubled marriages and relationships in the world. I’m sure this movie caused some people to squirm in their seats. I am one of the lucky ones. I felt no uncomfortable-ness. I “hoped” for them and the repair of their marriage.

My Favorite Picture of Jim and I! Taken by my sister, Cally Jamis Vennare

My Favorite Picture of Jim and Me! Taken by my sister, Cally Jamis Vennare

Jim and I certainly do not have the perfect relationship. We are only human and only God is perfect. We do however, have the “tools in our toolbox” to work most issues out. And we have had some big issues in the nearly 33 years of being together.

As any couple in a long term relationship will tell you, it is not about who is squeezing the toothpaste tube from the bottom or who makes the bed better. A couple who has been together for a while knows how to pick their battles. The real secret to relationship happiness, I’ve come to believe, is not to lose yourself in the process.

Though my marriage has been through many ups and downs over the years, there was a period about seven years ago when I finally became comfortable with who I was. At that point, my unreasonable expectations of Jim fell away. I was responsible for myself and he was stuck loving me the way I was. Thankfully, he loves me as I am. And I love him for who he is.

I believe this unconditional love is the secret to happiness…in anything. Point my finger, tell you how to do it better and I make you miserable. Focus on myself and what my needs are and my life becomes my responsibility. Focusing on what my husband may or may not be doing is not the answer. Loving him for who he realistically is….this is the secret to a happy marriage.

When my mom was ill in the hospital this past winter, Jim was my rock. He endured my tears, fears, tantrums and joys. He was there every step of the way. I called him My Rock on numerous occasions and I still believe this. Without him to lean on, I would have been lost.

On May 10, Jim and I were married 32 years. May you be blessed to have (or to have had) someone in your life, spouse or likewise, who means as much to you. I believe in my heart we are all worthy of unconditional love, not only from others but especially from the God of our own understanding.

Welcome Daily Prompt Readers! Is there someone in your life who is your rock? It doesn’t have to be a spouse! Who can you be yourself with but yet lean on in times of stress?

Please follow and like us:
998

The Beautiful People

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

DSC_0031

My friend Amy has been through the wringer and back. She is currently recuperating from shoulder surgery and is laid up for at least six weeks.

I’ve written about Amy before. She has three grandchildren already (at age 55) and two of them are to her daughter Mandy, who passed away suddenly three years ago.

What do you do when someone close to you loses someone very dear? I’ll tell you what I used to do. Uncomfortable with my own feelings, I would go to the funeral home, make polite sympathies and leave. Then months would go by before I would say “How are you?” to the friend or family person, lacing my greeting with an apology for not being in touch sooner.

I was never comfortable around sick, dying, or ill people. Preferring the land of the living and healthy, it never occurred to me to look deeper into someone’s heart and soul. To align myself with how they might be feeling. To have EMPATHY instead of detachment.

When my mom was in the hospital, I made an effort to smile at strangers all day. I struck up conversations with people in elevators and the cafeteria line. I would glance into rooms and smile at the recovering people inside. I wanted to bring a smidgen of joy to someone’s day…including my own by connecting with others in a similar situation.

I had an idea that there should be a “Smile Wagon” at the hospital. It could be manned by a very cheery person who had a “wagon” of sorts filled with all kinds of happiness stuff. Smiley stickers, mylar balloons, whoopie cushions, etc. The cart could go around, cheering up the patients and brightening their day. Especially the patients who did not have loved ones that lived close. What do you think about this idea? (Should I write to the hospital?)

Back to Amy. When she lost her daughter, I made a conscious decision to keep in touch. I worked in town and her house was 20 minutes from my work place. When she would pop into my head, I would stop by after work, usually unannounced. I trusted that God would let me know when she might be need a sympathetic ear. Once, after she had back surgery (only within a year or two after Mandy had passed), I laid on Amy’s bed with her and we hung out for hours.

During these many times of being with Amy, I did nothing miraculous. Mostly, I just tried to listen and be there.

I was with Amy this week and I asked her about friendship and grief. She told me people fear loss as being contagious (this blew my mind) and of course, many avoided her because they just didn’t know what to say. I’ve heard of others who try and manage the life of someone with such loss, thinking that is the answer. For me, that is too much control, unless the friend really asks for such help.

My favorite author, Anne Lamott, talks about loss often in many of her faith books. I remember she has said something like All you can really do sometimes, is just show up. It is true. By just showing up, I do what hopefully God wishes of me- to just be there for those beautiful people.

Photo taken at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA. by my lovely daughter, Michelene.

How have you dealt with another’s loss or illness? Are you comfortable with lending an ear?

Please follow and like us:
998

The Big Picture

I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose. When you connect with that love and that compassion, that’s when everything unfolds. Ellen DeGeneres

DSC_0139

This is the last week of my job. I feel somewhat in limbo, somewhat emotionally stressed. Soon my life is going to change. Heck, it is changing already.

I have always identified myself by the work I’ve done. Whether I’ve been a business owner, events coordinator, project manager or administrative assistant, my work becomes my persona. It is an extension of me and who I am. Maybe my ego gets tied up in it. I’m sure it does.

DSC_0145Now as I go forward, I leave another job behind me. I put on a different cloak. It identifies me as caretaker to my mom. It feels good to be able to say this. I am leaving to spend time with my mom. This is enough of a purpose for now….though I have a feeling there will be more to come.

Interestingly enough, I have been thinking a lot about ego lately. Quotes have been coming into my view that cause me to think twice. This one caught my eye today- “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. ” (Matthew 6:24)

So true. I am leaving my job for time with my mother. I am also taking time for myself. As I grow closer to God, material things matter less. Money matters less. So far, all that I need has been provided to me. Strangely enough, I am requiring less and less to feel fulfilled. This must be the enormous gift of walking a spiritual path.

Thank you again to my daughter, Michelene for these beautiful pictures of California flowers.

DSC_0163

Do you feel your spiritual purpose? Tell me about it!

Please follow and like us:
998

Spring and Renewal

DSC_0040

“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Here in the Northeast USA, it is hard to tell it is Spring.

It has snowed every day this week- an amazing feat for Pittsburgh in late March. I can’t remember when it’s snowed so much, especially since the first day of spring has already passed.

I have been thinking about buds, new life and renewal. When spring arrives, we all have a chance to dust ourselves off, change up to more color and start anew. I’m feeling like a living testament to change…to spring….to new life.

DSC_0045Everything I have laid in place over the last two years is going to shift….again. My mother’s illness has been the catalyst. I am reminded of M. Scott Peck‘s ideals, documented in his famous book “The Road Less Traveled”. In it, he describes how we all have internal “maps” of where we go and what we do. Well, my “map” is about to change. I’m choosing a new path on my road of life.

Here’s the first change. I’ve put notice in at my job and am leaving in two weeks. Yes, I am trading my comfortable, secure, full time job for more time. Time I wish to spend with my mom, my family, friends and myself.

Change number two. I need some source of income so I signed up to be an independent sales consultant with a company that looks very…faithful. I am going to shamelessly self promote myself just this once. Check out www.faithco.net/joannecain to see my latest venture. (PS. That is not me at the bottom of the website!)

So whew! So much change. What inspired all this? Well, in addition to my mother’s long illness, time played a major factor in bringing me around . You have a lot of time to think when your loved one is in the hospital for an extended period. You have nothing to do but sit there, think, fill up glasses with ice water, think, watch mom sleep, think. It is life changing really; the shift that occurs in your thought process when you realize how precious, fragile and short life really is.

In all my pondering and all these precious blocks of time I’ve had lately, I’ve been wondering if God sometimes hits me over the head to get my attention. “What does it take” I imagine him saying, “to push you to your next level, to get on with it, for goodness sakes?”

Because I confess…I had been thinking for months about how to spend more time with my family and on the things I am passionate about (writing, non profit work). I had some ideas but I was holding back. I was hesitant to let go of the security within my life; a life comfortable and fulfilling, just not as deeply spiritual as I yearned it to be.

What does God have planned for me? Truly, I don’t know. My one friend likes to say, “God has a plan for us, but we are not on the planning committee.” If I am willing to turn my life over to a power greater than myself, I’m sure my purpose going forth will present itself to me.

DSC_0036Photos of “Snowdrops” by my daughter, Michelene Cain

Tell me…..Have you ever given something over completely to faith? What happened?

Please follow and like us:
998