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I have had this hammock for years. I picked it up back in the early ’90s when I was in Nicaragua. Sadly I kept it tucked away until such a time when I had the “perfect” place (meaning perfectly spaced trees in a yard) to hang it. The years dragged on and I never found the “perfect” yard for it. Finally, when we purchased our present home, it occurred to me that if I waited for “perfection” before I started enjoying life, I would have a pretty miserable life! So I perused the catalogues and garden nurseries and found a simple frame on which to attach my hammock and voila! Perfection! It took years, but I am finally enjoying the hammock. There is nothing so relaxing, and spiritually edifying, as resting in the hammock, gazing at the clouds–or stars–in the sky, listening to the cacophony of a multitude of birds of various species, and being mindful of the present moment. It is in moments such as this that the cares of the world recede and I connect with a larger, higher, more elevated presence. Of course, one does not need a hammock to do this. But, hammocks help. ūüėČ I am grateful that I finally hung the hammock and can enjoy the peace and contentment elicited by the mere sight of it!

The Sabbath peace. ¬†Shabbat Shalom. ¬†In the upheaval of relocating and trying to find things in the mess that begs for order, I am a frazzled, short-tempered mess myself. ¬†At sunset today however, a peace will descend on us as I light the candles and usher in the Sabbath. One of the first things I do with every move is dig out our Shabbat candelabra and get the buffet set ¬†up so that when Shabbat arrives, we have at least one place in our big mess that is what we call “Shabbasdic,” a place that when the candles are lit, there is beauty and peace. ¬†I will not lie; there are times when it is difficult to shut off all the voices and perceived demands that must be met. ¬†I squirm when I feel that I “must” busily unpack more boxes or finish a paper to meet a deadline. In all honesty, Shabbat is not for the faint of heart. ¬†Having made Shabbat a regular part of my life for the past 13 or 14 years however, I would not give it up. ¬†It is that time of the week when we retreat from this world to¬†a place that is holy, a place where we relax, reflect, and recoup. ¬†Shabbat energizes our spirits and feeds our souls. ¬†We sleep. We pray. We eat. We visit with friends. We learn Torah. Someone described Shabbat as an island in time, an appropriate analogy if ever there was one. This week I need for Shabbat to arrive. As much as there is to do to prepare for Shabbat, and as much as I have to do for my class before sunset, I admittedly feel some angst. ¬†But whatever happens, where ever I am in my “planned agenda,” when Shabbat arrives, I stop what I’m doing and light the candles. ¬†When that happens, peace and calm descends on our home. Every time. ¬†So today I am extremely grateful for the Sabbath and for Shabbat Shalom that will soon arrive.

Today I woke up feeling anxious. ¬†Coursework from last week (the week I was in residence) has to be completed and an assignment written. ¬†This week’s coursework, too, must be done. ¬†I am not as far along as I expected with the packing but this week is it! ¬†I must pack everything that is not nailed in place. ¬†Richard is far away and I miss him. ¬†The list goes on and on. ¬†Yet, as I look at my “chaotic” list, I think of how fortunate that this is my chaos. ¬†Richard has been gone for a matter of weeks. ¬†I have friends whose husbands, wives, and significant others are gone for months or years, to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. ¬†I have to pack up all my things to move to another place where there will be space for us with a roof over our heads. ¬†I know folks who worked hard, paid their bills, but because of shady banking practices they lost their home and their possessions and must now rely on friends and family to sustain them as they try to get back on their feet. ¬†I complain of the aches and pains of aging, but I’ve lost friends and family to cancer, heart disease, and AIDS. ¬†All of them would have welcomed the signs of aging and growing older. ¬†Instead their lives were cut short. ¬†Even though I have friends who have endured the worst kinds of chaos and loss, each seemed to find a place of quiet calm in the midst of their storms. I learn from my friends. ¬†I’ve learned that regardless of the “mess” we are in, there are places of retreat that calm our nerves, sustain our spirits, and¬†rejuvenate¬†our bodies and souls. ¬†This is a spiritual thing. This is a place where we connect with the Divine and all that is holy. ¬†This is a place deep within us where we discover our true priorities. ¬†This is a place of peace and assurance that regardless of what is happening around us or what is happening to us, all is ultimately for the good. ¬†We must trust that, put one foot in front of the other, and choose life and holiness as best we know it. ¬†My chaos at the moment is not as drastic as all that, but it is chaos none-the-less. ¬†And when I pause for a few minutes to center myself, I realize that I am grateful for the calm amidst the storm.

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