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December 2016 - looking out into waterNote: If this is your first time you are stepping into my Elul Reflections 5777, please read the Introduction to this series at http://wp.me/pthnB-2NA)

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This weekend has been wild. Seriously wild. Our family had to do so much to prepare for a short term guest that had the capacity to destroy our sacred space. I am sure you have had guests like that.

Anyway, our visitor is/was none other than Hurricane Harvey.

We had to do so much to prep for his visit. We had to purchase the perfect foods, sandbag our garage so that it wouldn’t flood as it normally does when the rain comes pouring down on Houston. We also had to gather our most important documents and collect things upstairs that we wanted to keep safe.

The stress was tremendous because car trouble had taken my excess money. Money is always tight, but natural disasters, health challenges, and car trouble are three things that remind me of how difficult it is to navigate life’s expenses. And my sons and I have had all three – again and again – over the last few months. Regardless of how much we struggle financially, we still had to prepare for our guest. His timing may have not been the best, but he was expecting to make landfall on Shabbat whether we wanted him or not.

To say, I was overwhelmed is an understatement. AND yet, I was also acutely mindful of how fortunate I am. We have a home, important documents, and what we need. And when I was deciding whether my sons and I would stay or go, I had friends offering me money, hotel points, their homes, and wisdom/insight. I even had a friend let me know that she has a basement that she is willing to open up to my sons and I on a more permanent basis if needed. I had this amazing village that lifted me up and created a safe container.

As a side note, it was the love that was flowing from old friends, new friends, and even social media friends that sustained me when despondency threatened to take over. As someone who doesn’t remember a lot of love as a child, I sometimes have a horrible default mode that leaves me spiritually untethered and feeling alone. But waking up to a sweet text from a beautiful childhood friend helped me re-focus the despondency; she offered to send me $500 so that my family would seek higher/safer ground. Wow.

We decided to stay home, but the offers of help continue to come. I am awed by the love that continues to flow. AND I am keenly aware that even when I become overwhelmed, I have friends that are there to be program managers, supporters, and listeners.

Maddie out backAnd since before the rain started to fall, we have barely gone an hour without a call, a text, a Facebook message asking if  we were doing ok. How beautiful is that?!?!?! And on a bit of a silly note, when I went on Facebook requesting “the best rain and water songs”, I received nearly 60 responses with suggested songs in a couple of hours . 🙂

Over the coming days, I will add more insight that I have received from this experience, but for now I want to take note of what it means to be a beloved friend. My family is truly surrounded by extraordinary souls.

During this time of Elul, I am charged with remembering to be loving and full of light like the village that surrounds me. I wouldn’t be the woman I am if it weren’t for the love that flows so freely within my world.

Sending love, light, and insight,
Chava

 

 

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Have you ever had a false start? You know those days when you have prepared to start a diet, take on a new hobby, or create new life practices.

At first you are really excited. You have made a decision on how you want to live your life and now all you have to do is start. The first hour may seem easy, and maybe the second hour, but by the end of Day 1 or maybe Week 1, reality sets in and you realize that whatever you are working on has a mind of it’s own. 🙂

False starts are frustrating; so is falling off the wagon. I have done both and it never feels good. And yet, I believe that these realities are part of life (at least my life). In order to be the best me, I need to face reality; I stumble sometimes. Just because I revert back to old ways, doesn’t mean I should never try again. Although it may mean that. Mostly it means that I need to get up, figure out the best way to maneuver to a better place, and then do what I have to do to get to where I want to go. Simply put, I need to refocus and do the holy work of putting my puzzle pieces

In ‘Sweet Darkness’, David Whyte says it best:

 anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

With this poem and specifically this verse as my guide, I am going to do what I have to do. I am going to take better care of myself. Anyone that has read my blog knows that I thrive on walking consciously in the world; I also need to write as I take each step of the journey.

Life does have a few too many storms; my nature is to see the rain as cleansing instead of the alternative. So, even if I have to dry a few tears, take time for moving in healthier directions, and creating time to write – I am EXACTLY where I need to be. I am living consciously and embracing  the aliveness that is who I am.

With love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS – Keep your eyes open for my next blog series, Dance of Emergence: Amazon Woman is Born.

Raining Day - Time to Refocus - David Cooper March 6, 2016

Berkeley on a rainy day; Photo Courtesy of Rabbi David Cooper

 

 

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“It’s an ethical obligation to look for hope; it’s an ethical obligation not to despair.  If you look, there is always a possibility of finding a place where action can change the course of things. ” ~Tony Kushner

While I might be one of the most intense and introspective people I know, I am also someone who believes that life is worth living and light will prevail regardless of how dark life feels.  I believe in the future even as thunderbolts are within striking distance.  After each and every storm, a new light dawns.

Within life there are many potential gifts and challenges that touch our lives at any given moment.  Our world is surrounded with both external and internal factors that empower us to embrace life and all she offers.  For me, embracing life is not an option.  The question is finding the actions in life that will allow me to do my part to repair the world  and to honor my soul with each step.

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Sometimes it is hard to trust that light and rainbows come after the falling rain, but they do.  Most of us find a way to embrace life even after devastation; it isn’t easy.  It doesn’t happen quickly, but it can happen.  Minutes turn into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. . . .  One day, without knowing, a story makes you smile; you find comfort in a sweet thought, and maybe laughter can emerge from your heart again. On another day, you might be able to start taking steps to live outside of your darkness.  It might start when you hold open the door for someone in the grocery store and than find yourself smiling because even though they are in obvious discomfort, they are smiling at you and thanking you for your help.

Life has thrown me a few hardballs that knocked me down.  I have faced intense loss and intense physical/emotional pain; I have also wanted to curl up into a ball and ignore the world around me.  Regardless of how covered in muck I have become, I have ultimately been able to find joy in the face of strangers and friends alike.  Animals and nature remind me that when I can’t deal with people, there is a whole other world that craves my attention.  With each hardball that I experience, I am awed my the possibilities that often follow.

With each step I take, I know that there is a huge world out there that is calling my name.  I always have a choice about how I walk through the mud or the hard, dry sand alike; the choice is always mine.  Sometimes I need to lick my wounds and other times I need get up and save the world.  Years ago, I saw the following words on the front of a Yoga Journal magazine:

Connect with yourself; Connect with the Community; Connect with the World

This one motto is a great reminder of how I want and need to walk through the world.  There is time for me to take care of myself, time for me to do my part within the community, and there are times that I need to be remembering that I am part of a larger world.  When I remember these realities, I can also remember that hope surrounds me as long as I actively live in the world.  Giving up is not optional; believing in hope is!

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