December 5, 2002
This Guy Is Such a SAINT!
And in this case, literally. This is Saint Jude, aka the apostle Jude, aka "Thaddeus" (and I think some good natured name ribbing might be why he ended up going by Jude). If you ever are in a grocery story in the Hispanic section and see this picture on a glass candle, get it. You may need it one day.
There is a bit of a warning that goes along with this column. I've been trying to write it over the past three days and can never seem to get a double-digit number of minutes strung together at any given time. There is a LOT to catch you up on, but time to write has been nonexistent, so I'm going to try to finish it up before I go to bed tonight and I am wicked tired. Lessee...9:10pm and ticking. So it's going to be one of my most verbose and rambling columns yet. Read it in increments or get a drink and go pee before you start. It's up to you.
I want to talk to you about how miracles really do happen. I know for a fact that they do. They happened to me.
A little background. One of the stereotypes that really is true about us Witchy people is that we use a lot of candles. Just as a person would light a candle for someone when they go into a Catholic church, we use candles in our prayers. Candles are a great way to focus energy and keep the prayers going even when you are distracted with other things. The candle holds vigil. The glass Mexican candles hold vigil for 5-6 days, which is great. They are made in such a way that they can burn independently and safely, so if you focus your personal energy intensely toward what you want while you're holding the candle, then light the candle, the candle becomes a mental connection, spiritual proxy and visual cue to keep your positive focus on what you want to manifest. When you send up a prayer on its own, you pray earnestly, then let it go and think about it from time to time. When you pray earnestly and hold the candle while you do so, the candle becomes a reminder of the prayer and every time you see that candle, you send a little more positive energy and focus to the objective of your prayer.
I've used the Mexican glass candles for years now. At first, I just used the solid colors with no pictures, applying the standard color associations of green for money, red for love, orange for energy, purple for health, etc. Then I started looking at the candles that had pictures on them (in the same section) and reading the novenas on the back. Some were a little intense ("save us from our wretchedness" kind of stuff), but all in all, I thought they were fabulous! Since we also believe in a collective consciousness, which is a kind of plane on which it's thought that all minds join together as one, particularly when they are focused in a common belief or goal, I thought of all of the people who had put their faith into these saints over the centuries. I believe that our ancestors and those who have gone before have the ability and often the desire to help us, so I looked through (this was maybe 10-11 years ago) and found one that seemed to address my situation. It was St Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. When you have nowhere else to turn and don't know what to do, when it looks like all the doors are closed and locked and when there is NO WAY a situation can be fixed, you go to St Jude and he creates the situations and opportunities that will bring things to their best conclusion. St Jude is a stud amongst saints and he has never let me down. The resolutions didn't always manifest the way I expected, but they were invariably for my greatest good.
Candles are my friends. An example of how the candle stuff works is when my friend, Doug, called to tell me of his father's severe heart attack and that he was in pretty bad shape in cardiac ICU. He asked if I would do some healing work for him. I told him that since his father was a Presbyterian minister and unconscious, so therefore unavailable to ask if he wanted a Witch doing work for him, that I would do it by proxy through Doug, then attach the caveat that the energy could be rejected if he would not be comfortable with it. I prayed for him to be healed, if that was what should be, dedicated a purple candle to him and put it on a shelf in my garage that was set up for candle work. It was high enough that I had to use a step stool to set the candle, but low enough to not be a fire hazard. That kept the kiddies out of the mix.
The candle burned well for a couple of days, but then I was going out to the garage to get some laundry and I saw the candle was out. (?!) I knew there were no drafts and that the kids couldn't get to it. Fearing the worst, I called Doug. On the contrary, his father was much better and told Doug to thank me for praying for him and to say that he was returning any further energy, not because it made him uncomfortable, but because he felt he no longer needed it. We marveled on the candle going out before I knew he was better.
That's not even the end of it. I went back into the garage the next day, having left the candle on the shelf. The candle was relit!! I know the candle had gone out the day before because I'd climbed up and taken it down to check it out. It had been cold. I called Doug and sure enough, his father had taken a turn for the worse and was in the process at that moment of a bypass surgery. The candle burned through and when his father came out of surgery, one of the things he told Doug was "tell Katrina thank you." Dad came through the ordeal fine. True story.
So I do believe in the focus of candle work and have used it extensively in the intervening years. That's just one of about a jillion times. Most of you know the challenges that my family and I have experienced this year. It has definitely been a rocky time, but definitely one of great value and needless to say, I've gone through a LOT Of candles.
I am so eager to tell you how it has unfolded, especially since so many of you have written to offer your encouragement and love. That was more valuable than you can imagine and often was what kept me walking when I felt like sitting down and crying.
The main thing I want to share with you is the importance, nay, necessity, of Faith. Prior to this summer, Eric had been laid off before and things had been hard financially, emotionally and within our relationship. When this time came around, it was pretty much just like all the others. When I heard the news, I immediately reflected on how those other times had gone. I remembered all of the tense times, the fights, the pain and the fears and I was definitely bummed at living it again. Since he left the Air Force in Nov of 2000, he has had four different jobs. The first was MCI Worldcom, who laid him off 3 times in the year he worked for them, for anything from a week to a couple of months. Then he went to a company called CablExpress that was installing fiber optic cable in the area to run the famous information super highway. Then the went to a company called Nortel what was installing cell phone site equipment for AT&T. Then he went to work for a place called Nutter Integrated Network. All four of those companies are now defunct or on their last leg with frozen stock. (I told him he should warn his current employers in case they were thinking of laying him off) We've had many layoffs over these two years and each one was very hard and very sudden. As soon as we would get into the black from one layoff (and sometimes just before!) we would be in the ditch again. It definitely took its toll on us emotionally, financially and mentally. It was nearly impossible to feel any degree of security or establish any kind of stable life.
When he was laid off this last time in August, I decided that I would handle this time differently. I just couldn't go down that destructive road again, regardless of what life was handing us. I had just watched Wayne Dyer's "There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem" on PBS and he had spoken about how events that happen to us are neither good nor bad, they are neutral and that it's just our perception that defines them. We can see it as a problem or an opportunity for change. We can freak and use all kinds of energy in fear and panic or we can relax, believe we will be protected and follow the hints of the Universe for how to best avail ourselves to the opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes, it's hard to see the opportunities if we are busy cursing the heavens or screaming in fear. If you remain still and quiet and open, it's easier to focus and see the tiny opportunities that come along that we might otherwise miss. As ludicrous as it sounds, within every problem lies the key to your deliverance from that problem. Sometimes it's a truth we don't want to see and sometimes, it's a truth that we can't see until it's in the rear view mirror. The key to it all is to pay attention, follow the signs (with the understanding that you're going to run into some red herrings) and never lose faith that as humans, we are naturally on a trajectory toward our own greatest good. What usually gets us off course is when we get super busy getting in our own way with the insistence that we have to "do something" when sometimes what we have to do is "the best that we can," then crawl under a rock and wait for the storm to pass. We also have to be very willing to sacrifice and willing to accept alternative situations simply as change rather than something hideous. More on that in a minute.
Anyway, I determined that "my faith will be the rock on which we will stand." I am not telling you this to sound pious or superior. I am telling you so that you will know that it's possible to willfully force yourself to react differently to the things that happen, even if it doesn't feel like you can. If the same situation repeatedly presents itself and you always react the same way, I think you may never be able to progress out of the recurring cycle. It's always a conscious choice how to behave and when you get right down to it, it's a choice how you think and what you feel and how to process events that occur to and around us. I heard a great quote once which was, "You will not be remembered for what happened to you. You will be remembered for how you reacted to what happened."
Faith is what allows you to rise above the events that occur in our physical world and to work from a place of assurance that we are still moving toward our greatest good, no matter where it seems that life is carrying us. By our very nature, we are creatures that crave that elusive and misunderstood concept of "Greatest Good," meaning that which is most beneficial and ultimately, most satisfying to us despite what we think or want as we are traveling there. Our brains are equipped with delicate little sensors called "opiate receptors" that require a particular degree of stimulation every day. What stimulates these receptors are warm, loving, fun, exciting events. A hug, a shopping spree, a deeply spiritual moment, a good meal, good sex, a win at the poker table, a promotion or raise are all things that can stimulate our opiate receptors. If a person is living in such a way that their opiate receptors are not being adequately stimulated, they will usually begin to show deterioration on one or more levels, causing physical, mental or emotional illness or dis-ease. So you can see that even our physical bodies harbor within them the evidence that humans are predisposed to seeking out happiness and fulfillment. Since our subconscious fully capable of working and analyzing situations on a very rapid and deep level, away from the clutter and chaos of the emotional self, that inner guidance system seeks out our best path toward this state of joyful existence and sends us signals through feelings, reactions, "hunches" or omens, dreams and sometimes even created events to give us clues as to what we should do. Since (provided we do not overtax ourselves with derailing the train to happiness with what we *think* we want or need) we are theoretically (and I believe absolutely) geared toward seeking out and actively manifesting joy, what we are called on to do in times of crisis is to have faith that ultimately, whatever is happening will lead us there in some way.
It doesn't matter whether that's faith in God, The Universe or even just yourself. You just have to believe and to know everything going to be fine. You have to trust that life is cyclic and that when you're down, surely enough the wheel will turn and you'll be on top again eventually. You just have to hold on and wait out the bad times, doing all you can to better things in the meantime and just chilling out and accepting the things you can't. Likewise, when things are great, it's important to understand without dread or fear that it's not always going to be roses and sunshine.
So that's the first part. That is what I was taught during this journey through the valley of the shadow that we took this summer. Now I want to tell all of you how it worked out in practical application.
It wasn't an easy task to totally revamp how I was going to deal with this and I don't want anyone to think it was. It's no easy task to program yourself to actually think and react in a way that is totally foreign to your usual behavior. I'm a Virgo. I must worry. It's what I do. Taking away that worry and fear should seem like it would be a lightening of the load, but in actuality, it was robbing me of the illusion of control that I was thriving on. If I was constantly mulling and worrying and crying and in a panic over what was happening, I was *doing* something and feeling important in the process. To just totally let go and allow the Universe to do its stuff without my objections, cursing of the Heavens or interference was a real challenge. In fact, it was the most difficult thing I've ever done and I've been taken to the wall for some real doosies before. There were a lot of times in those 2 months that I wanted so much to give into the fear and the pain and the anger and just dissolve into tears, but you guys kept me going. Whenever I'd want to do that, one of you would drop me an e-mail or send me a snail mail note and lift me back up again.
Today on his show, Dr Phil told someone that when you are angry, you are at your weakest point because that is where you are acknowledging that you have been victimized. You get angry because you feel that some force, either a person or life or God or whatever has wronged you in some way, so you lash out. That really resonated with me because it validated how the summer had gone. I could be angry about all that happened or I could relax and trust that we would be led out of where we were and into a better place. I won't say I didn't have some really, really tense moments, but overall, it was like breathing through labor contractions one at a time, rising above the pain and fear and waiting for the new life that was to come.
So I think our lowest point was sometime in the middle of October. We were almost to the end of harvest and we could not imagine what possible positive things were coming and were entertaining the possibility that the old harvest had just given us a miss this year. That was OK. We were far too busy with trying to keep ourselves and each other sane as these changes kept washing over us. Every day brought a new challenge. Every phone call or mail delivery brought an angry creditor or more bad news. Eric had just started his new job, but wouldn't be paid for two more weeks. We'd managed to "one miracle at a time" keep the lights on and food in the house. Every day we took stock of the things we had that were essential to life and gave thanks. Every day, we acknowledged the miracles, large and small, that helped us pay for our necessary bills and sustain life.
On this day in October, we went into a local restaurant for iced tea and a moment to think together without kids everywhere. It was such a luxury. His new job was going to pay well, even more than we expected. He loved the job. It was finally a permanent hire instead of contract work, but the pay was still quite good. He worked with good people. That part of his life had come together beautifully. I'd applied and interviewed for a job at Safeway decorating cakes. Out of about 20 applications, they were the only ones who called me for an interview. Not having any work experience for 5 years and having 20 years of previous work experience on Air Forces bases (most of them now closed) and no work references to contact subsequently does not look very appealing. We were on our very last day of our Pay or Quit notice for rent. We were well and truly going to be evicted because at one hour to go, we were still a few hundred short of the rent. We sat in the restaurant and planned our future. We tried to think of a place to park our 1969 Volkswagen bus where the children could possibly still go to the same school. It's where we'd have to live. We'd take some of the money that was not now going to be rent, get a storage facility for what little possessions we'd keep and then live in the bus until we got together enough to rent a place to live, provided we could do so with a not-very-good chance at a reference from our current property managers. We couldn't leave the area. Sacramento is bordered on all sides by mountain ranges and the bus couldn't make it over the mountains. So we planned. This was slightly less than two months ago. We were a little fearful, but we knew we still had each other and the kids and vowed that nothing would rock us from the joy of at least having that.
On the way home, resolute, but not exactly joyful over what was to come (what was most disturbing was the process of cleaning out my garage...yuk), I had a thought and it was to call our property managers again. Since we'd been following hunches all along, Eric did so when we got home. Out of the blue, they suddenly were willing to stop the eviction if we could pay within a week. Since Eric would be paid from his job in less time than that, it was more than sufficient. We were keeping the house!
The car was another story. We couldn't afford that car under the best of circumstances and should never have gotten it in the first place. We knew we'd have to let it go back, which was unfortunate, because we'd had it just over a year and owed some ridiculous amount like $20,000 on it. We may get hit with a substantial bill for the balance on that loan, but there was no way we could keep the car. Eric managed, by literally working almost every night on the truck, the bus and the Maverick (My son, Joe's car), to have a vehicle of some form or another to get to and from work. None of the three had been operative before. I've never seen a man invest so much car repair energy in my life.
Slowly, but surely, we climbed out of the hole. Friends helped us out a great deal. One brought groceries. Another (and I still don't know who it was) sent Pizza Hut coupons. Some sent money that never failed to arrive at just the perfect moment when it looked like we were truly going to meet some tragic end otherwise. One step at a time, one situation at a time, one challenge at a time, we got through. We paid utility bills that were two and three months cumulative. We got help from the Energy Assistance Program with our electric bill, which had climbed to a nose-bleeding $800. We learned to pinch pennies in some really incredible ways. We pawned. We sold. We bartered.
December, this month, was to be our last really difficult month. We were tremendously occupied with getting as many bills as possible caught up and although I had a bit put aside for Christmas, it looked grim. To us, we'd already gotten our gifts. We'd lived through a monumentally challenging time and had emerged closer as a couple and more spiritually in tune than ever. I was worried about the kids. I've always invested a lot (on many levels) into making sure my kids have a good Christmas and this year, I just didn't think we would hit the mark. I did what I always do. I prayed about it and talked to St Jude. We'd come so far and I could tell we were almost there. I didn't want to lose hope and it was such a little thing after all that had happened. Really, Christmas was just another day of the year and any emotions attached to it were not about things, but about love and togetherness. I was fairly sure I could piece together enough small stuff with what I had to give the illusion that there was more there than appeared. The big boys would more than understand and the little kids would be satisfied. Jude told me to let it go, give it up to The Universe and he'd handle it. I took a few deep breaths, feeling better, and went outside. I love California. It's December and while the rest of the nation is encased in ice, I can walk out onto my porch in a sun dress and feel Ra's touch on my face. There's a crisp morning and a cold night and a warm day without fail for well into the winter. Now take a picture and hold that thought.
My lilies have been cantankerous since the spring of 2001 when Eric doused them with weed killer. For the record, they hate that. I didn't know the big patch of elephant eared greenery by my front door was a patch of lilies until they bloomed around March or so. They were just lovely. Eric wasn't happy with the weeds that were trying to encroach on the lilies, so he used weed killer on them. The lilies took a 3/4 turn header and fell over in a dead faint, ne'er to rise again, at least that year. I turned the soil and planted some morning glories and moon flowers, as well as a good hank of rosemary, in the Lily Graveyard. I'd like to note that usually, Eric is exceptionally smart, but his comment of "It's 'weed killer,' not 'lily killer'" didn't exactly win him any awards in that shining moment.
This spring (which for us is about February), the lilies came back up again (?!) but never bloomed. I figured they needed a good season or two before they would bloom again and had checked them out the day before when I was deciding whether or not to put the front yard to sleep for the winter. Decided against it because this one stubborn little humming bird is still using the Mexican sage for his playground.
Talked to Jude and walked outside, thinking that well, if Jude said it was OK, after the year I'd had, that was enough for me. On the porch, I took some good breaths of "real air," felt the sun and looked down. This is what I saw:
A lily was blooming. It's well past harvest. The lawn and herb and flower gardens are getting ready to sleep and... a lily was blooming. The picture isn't all that because my digital camera is a freebie from Earthlink and sucks, but you get the idea. If you look closely, there is an unopened bloom directly behind it. Hey, I'm a Witchy Woman. I watch the signs. Jude was promising me two miracles were coming.
An hour later, the mail came. In it was something I was always excited to see: a note from an online friend. Snail mail just has a special feel to it as opposed to e-mails and I'm always pleased to hear from this particular friend because we tend to think the same ways about a lot of things and she ALWAYS has an uplifting word and manages to without fail say something that give me a great new perspective on things. She's very wise, generous and loving and I'm honored to have her as my friend. I also know she wants to be anonymous, which is why I'm just talking about her around the barn, so to speak. In this letter, there wasn't just the note, but a very, very generous amount of money that she identified as being for Christmas and for any bill that wasn't quite getting paid. I was astounded. it was just enough to supplement what I had on hand for the balance of that wicked electric bill (which was due AGAIN) and to get the kids the other half of Christmas that I was prepared to let go just a couple of hours before.
I immediately called Eric and he was so excited. I guess I hadn't realized that the finances were a heavy load on him as well. He doesn't do the budget, doesn't ask questions and had seemed so fixated on the vehicles that I figured he wasn't even thinking about it. I thought he was going to cry. He may have.
That night, he came home and took his place under the bus (the latest in the rotation) and came inside with the very grim news. A thrown rod = new engine or no bus. A new engine is $700. That means that the bus was dead. The truck had been out of circulation since the vandals hit it the week before he was laid off. He'd worked long and hard to get it to start, but still, something is off. The Maverick had been unregistered for 2 years and sitting for just as long. He cranked it over and it started, but oh, the issues it has! For the next 3 days, he drove it to work, but again, every night he had to work on it. He replaced shocks, replaced some steering thingie, did a tune up and lots of other car things. The transmission was going out. We sat together on the bed and talked about how wonderful everything was. How we'd come so far in such a short amount of time and how quickly life can turn around. We talked about how lucky we were that when things were down, we hadn't turned on one another. The only fly in the ointment was the stupid vehicle situation. I told him that since he was the one putting so much effort into the rebuilding of the cars, that he should do the praying and spellwork to get a working vehicle we could afford. He agreed and meditated on it, then lit a candle for it. Simultaneously, I thanked St Jude for his help before and asked that he give us another bit of attention. I thought about his unopened lily.
The next day, Eric went car shopping. He was looking for something we could put a tiny down payment on and finance the rest, maybe something that was just a couple thousand dollars. No luck. The payments were more than we could afford or they needed a much larger down payment. We refueled the request.
The next day, which was...lemme count...Tuesday, December 3rd, I was walking the kids to school and I noticed a car for sale in a driveway about a half block from our house. I called Eric and he said he'd check it out on the way home. I looked at it again when I went to pick up the kids from school. I wrote in the dust on the hood in places you couldn't see. "Jude, is it you?"
The man was selling it for his father's girlfriend. It had been sitting in his driveway for a year. He was not only willing to knock a substantial amount off the asking price, but would also take payments while we took possession of the vehicle. The payment arrangements were ones we could easily afford. After sitting for a year, what did the car need as far as maintenance? A battery. Just a battery. It runs like a dream. It's magnificent. It will soon need a front end alignment, which is no big deal.
Now, my friends, we get to the whole gist of the story. You've been with me through all this time of challenge. You've walked the path with me by clicking on a little link and leaping through a window into my world. I know some people on the net aren't what they say they are, but I can give you references that will tell you that every word of my journal is the truth as I know it to be at the time I write it. It's all real.
I want to tell all of you that you don't have to worry about me any more. We're going to be just fine. I had to be willing to give up my home and live in a bus to have the home that I love. I had to be willing to go to work to be able to remain a stay at home mom. I had to be willing to give up my husband and see him labor night after night over cars that were creating more problems than he was solving.
If things are difficult for you right now, please, I beg you, hold your cool, heed the signs and wait for the wheel to turn. Have faith that you are on a rapidly flowing course toward your own greatest good because...
The woman that you have walked these miles with has her bills paid up, has food in the kitchen, got to stay home with her children and have more time to prattle on and on in her columns on this site and now, not even two months after facing homelessness, drives a 1988 Cadillac Seville in near perfect condition.
If it can happen to me, it can happen to you. I want to thank all of you who so much as wished me well, even if it was in your head without even writing a word to me! I could hear you out there and I could feel the warm, positive energy you sent to me. I received encouragement and support from so many people on so many levels and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to all of you. You kept me standing when I wanted to fall. I'm on the other side now and the Goddess and God have blessed me in ways I could not have imagined before I went through this time. My appreciation of the simplest things is so much more intense and I am so grateful for all of the blessings in my life. Each and every one of you reading this falls into that category. I am convinced that when we experience big, big fear and adversity, that it is simply cutting a hole in our life to be filled with even more joy and happiness when it comes.
I can honestly say, for the first time in my LIFE, that all is well and dammit, I just don't have one thing to complain about. (I'll find something tomorrow - smile).
Thanks for hanging with me for this long, verbose (that word keeps getting applied to me lately), rambling post. I just had to share with all of you how my life has gone and how quickly it can all turn around. Even if you aren't feeling the shift, there can be plenty of change going on beneath the surface, just waiting for the opportunity to blossom. Don't be afraid. Just wait it out and move on those hunches!!
Additionally, here' s something to consider. Read over the lyrics to the song "Amazing Grace" that had a PROFOUND effect on me when it was used in a show's montage as all this was going on in my life. I had always thought of it in terms of God's grace, but read it over with the slant of a person working to have grace through adversity:
Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.
When we've been here a thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
After my experience, I really do believe that the whole purpose of the challenging and scary things that happen in our life is to teach us Faith and Grace and that those gifts truly do make all the difference in the world. I'm am now positive that they saved a wretch like me. I was blind, but now I see that Faith simply means that there really is nothing to fear.
second lily still hasn't opened! I've lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks, so maybe
that's a miracle that's still in the works!! Good old Atkins!
Please click on Uncle Sam or the smiley globe if you've already read Uncle Sam!!
Oh Look! There's More!
|Dec 1, 2002|
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