“The Empty Rocker”…by Anne Stewart Helton

How many times have you held loving arms in your arms? How many babies’ cries have you heard sighed to sleep? How many eyes have you helped close? And how many waiting hearts have you soothed?
Oh, Empty Rocker of Mine.

In a year when my Mother has died, the empty arms hurt more, especially at this time of year when we honor a Mothers’ love. Yes, it’s the good ‘ol Hallmark branded ads on TV…all the time… just to make you cry and buy time of year….it’s Mothers Day.  So, if you are a Mother give yourself a Break AND if you have or had a Mother, and everyone did, give her a Break!

My Mother, Geraldine A. Stewart, was a loving Mom. She sat in my Rocker many times and even cradled my own grandchildren in it. She had a full heart and alas, it was her heart that failed her but only physically. She always wanted everyone to get along, sometimes to a fault, but that’s how Mothers are wired. We want our families, communities, employees, preachers, politicians and animals to all get along. Also, mothering doesn’t have to always involve having children, it can be a trait, a nurturing of others, a behavior of encouragement, kindness, or loving protection and loyalty for a friend.

For some people, their mothering wasn’t special and loving. But Mothers can’t be blamed, just understood. Not all people or Mothers were mothered correctly, sad choices may have been made and just like babies in the wild, those traits can be passed on. And as a community, we can step up and mother those who are ‘lost in the wild’, but it’s important, particularly for our own hearts, to give Mothers everywhere a break. Especially if we ever find ourselves blaming our Mothers for our own life choices or judging them for their lives.We must try to let go of blaming and judging and look in the mirror….and wish our Mothers thanks, happiness and love.

However it was that you came into the world, you did have a Mom.

She may have carried you for nine months, gone from zero centimeters dilation to ten centimeters with twenty hours of pushing to get you in her arms; or she chose you after years of searching from an adoption agency or foster care; or she stepped up and took over a family members’ role to raise abandoned or orphaned children or she’s was a brave step-parent, blending with a new family or she was a Grandma raising Grandchildren, or she volunteered at a mission or shelter to read to children who needed an extra Mom or maybe she was the fun, crazy, Aunt/Mom.

Whoever….You had a Mom!

Being a Mother is hard; it’s not like rocket science…it’s much harder!  Motherhood provides moments of pure joy and love…smiles and tears at those first steps, silly songs, playground fun, recitals, art work brought home, scholarly accomplishments, first dances, weddings and dinner table holidays but Motherhood also involves sacrifice and down right humiliation, with a smile….from defending a child to a teacher at school but finding out later you were so wrong; to screaming at a baseball game for your child to run faster only to have them turn around and scream “MOOOMMM stop”;  to  cleaning up vomit in a mattress;  to picking out lice from hair follicles; to walking the halls at night in worn pajamas holding the fretting child with 104 degree fever; or to refinancing loans to pay for sports leagues, clothes, cars, camps or college. Being a Mom may involve seeing your child ignore you or roll his or her eyes at a comment you’ve made; or perhaps it involves caring for a special needs child, with no one around who understands, so you cry into your pillow at night; or praying unceasingly for the brave military child not seen in years; or having a chronically ill adult child to care for or walking the streets to find a child in a shelter because of their problems or choices; or having to watch them face hard consequences for those choices and then maybe hearing in later years all the things Mom “did wrong”…some true… but most not so true.

It’s tough, just plain tough being a Mom. We will never know everything our own Mothers went through to have us, keep us, help us, and love us. Maybe our Mothers never felt real love themselves. Maybe they were scared. Maybe they had dreams and hopes that were interrupted. Maybe they gave up everything for us. Maybe Moms don’t have all the answers and just need God to help children know their Moms better, have more empathy and return love to their Moms.

Maybe we should actually thank our Mothers for having the courage to even claim they were our Mothers!!!

The only way to get through the Motherhood thing is with a lot of prayers and humor. My Mother had both and I thank God for that. She had to, she had TEN children, to which her famous line was always: “Someday, I want to talk to the Pope about this.

Oh, what a Mom she was.

So, when I see you Dear Empty Rocker on this Mothers Day, 2017 , I am thankful for my Mothers’ humor, so I keep ‘Minnie Mouse’ in your arms.

I also think about the last time she rocked me.

And sadly, but with Heavenly joy, I think about the last time I tried to rock her before she was swept up to be rocked by HIM.   Happy Mothers Day Mom!    I love you!

 

 

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“AWAKE and AWARE: Get Your Easter On”….by Anne Stewart Helton

As children, my family loved Holy Week. Not only did it signal the holiest time of the Christian religion, especially in the Catholic Church, but it also meant the end to whatever we had “given up” for Lent. Our sacrifices usually meant giving up candy or Television in my era. We took it very seriously, probably too seriously but it did build self-discipline, which meant a lot in those pre-’60’s years.

As I contemplate this Holy Thursday evening of Holy Week, as well as Passover of 2017 for my Jewish friends, I reflect on the years I thought that I was totally connected to God. I practiced all the required and embedded religious practices and went along side my Parents for all the traditional ceremonies. I loved the smell of the candles, the sounds of the bells and symbols of Christ. They helped me to visually connect with God.

They. Brought. Stability. Tradition.

Washing the Priests’ feet on Holy Thursday was always a special portion of Jesus’ Last Supper, especially the delivery of the message of humility as HE washed his followers feet, even The One who would betray him. How in the world was HE able to follow through on that message of forgiveness!

With eyes wide open, and I do mean wide open, I realized a few years ago I had not been awake and aware enough over many years of religion, even to the point of judging others who talked about a special relationship with Jesus and HIS walk on Earth. I especially realize the importance now as I want only real relationships with others just as Jesus demonstrated to us. Maybe like you, most of my enlightenment or denouement moments have come during difficult, painful storms of life. Just like a Holy Week. That’s when we learn to grow.

About a decade ago, I found myself in one of those dark times as I was away from my life mate and alone. It had a happy ending but it was exactly where God wanted me at the time as the only thing I could do was reach up to HIM, so I did. Sometimes that’s how HE reaches us. I desperately wanted to know that someone really cared about me and would carry me through the pain I was feeling. This often happens during a health crisis or death of a loved one. I bought many inspirational books to read and I went to every Church in town! I would find prayers to say from my computer, all the while crying on the keyboard.

I had never believed that I could actually talk personally with Jesus.

It seemed that it was at night-time, especially about 4 am, that was always the worse for me. It was probably like that in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have heard others in pain say the same about that time of the morning. Once, while praying for solace, I asked God to show me he was there. Now don’t judge me, but deep down inside I heard these two words: “I AM”

I sat straight up in bed and looked around. I was still alone.

Still trying to learn more about the Bible then, I had no idea what the words meant. I called my brother-in-law Dr. Mark, an Old and New Testament Scholar, the next day and he explained how in Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you”

My brother-in-law was floored about what I heard in my heart also and then he humbly asked me, “What did God sound like??”  I loved this because it made it even more real to me.

“Well”, I said, “HE sounded like…well,…HE sounded like God!!”

It was then that I knew, that I knew, that I knew that God was real and he was with me.

(art work by Baron & Barbara Bissett)

I knew HE must have a plan for the pit I was in, I just didn’t know yet how I would get out or what the plan would or could possibly be!! BUT.GOD.DID. And he does for You.

In the storms of your life, whether its’ health, relationships, addictions, sin, finances, loneliness or whatever…Get Your Easter On. It may feel like a sad, somber Friday but Sunday is coming. You will be stronger after your life storms and find great purpose from them.

And You will be AWAKE and AWARE!

 

Happy Jesus Nurse: Heart Lessons – Book Page

 

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“Begorah St. Pat” by Anne Stewart Helton

Shamrocks, Parades and Green hats…oh my! You have no idea what you did St. Patrick!!

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Those of us who are of Irish descent, and those who claim to be, go crazy this time of year. March 17 is our day to celebrate you, St. Patrick, and we do it up big. We have Parades, we wear green, or get pinched, we put a little brogue in our speech and we think lovely, magical, leprechaun, gnome, thoughts. You bring out the Spring in us, you bring out some family heritage, you cause us to remember our ancestors who struggled to come to an exciting America and you even bring out some spiritual sayings and family rosaries. You cause us to long for our roots, our home, our Baile. You help us remember the importance of our connections and friendships with one another, our Cara. Perhaps that is why everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s day. We long for that friendship.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot…you bring out many a pint in the pubs for those who want an excuse to toast! Unfortunately that aspect has perpetuated many a stereotype…o’ those Irish! We are wistful, romantic, feisty and brave people and we love our words, toasts and stories. One of our favorites is: “May you be in heaven a full half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.” We hold strong to traditions and legends, even when we know they maaaay not be true! But, of course, we know there are no real leprechauns but, oh my, don’t ask us not to tell the stories of the wee-ones to sleepy bed heads of children. And, of course we know that you didn’t drive the snakes out of Ireland as there were no snakes in Ireland but you know what??… that devil can be a snake and you sure stood up to him!! We know you weren’t actually born in Ireland but most of us claiming to be Irish weren’t either! Also, we know there are no pots o’ Gold at the end of a rainbow but, you know what??… many a beautiful field or home is at the end of a Rainbow.

For a Saint, who wasn’t even officially canonized by Rome, you sure caused a lot of commotion.

There was so much more to you, St. Patrick, than all the green fun we have on March 17th. You have become a cracked mirror for how we would like to live. Perhaps it’s because you lived an adventurous, spiritual life but with great purpose and legacy. Being born in Britain and then captured by Irish Pirates as a Teenager, you would hold up to any Johnny Depp movie, especially as you ended up as a slave, herding sheep in a land of pagans! Perhaps it’s because you knew what it was like to be held down or held back but you continued to fight the good fight between good and evil, paying attention to a dream from God, escaping from the Irish slaveholders and going back to your homeland. But, perhaps it is mostly because even after much adversity you remained humble and followed the vision of returning to Ireland as you heard the voices crying from the people: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”  You sought to focus on God, to go and help the people of Ireland, using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, and arriving back in Ireland in 433. Some say you were smart politically in your methods however you lived a humble life converting Ireland as you built Churches and taught others to do the same.

Flowering Esperanza – HOPE

We thank you, oh mighty spiritual patron Saint of Ireland for giving our ancestors Hope and for still being around for all of us in this day of cynicism. For our protection, faith and trust in God, help us to always keep the poem attributed to you, “The Breastplate”,  in our hearts and homes.

“….Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friends and stranger….”

And then join with us in spirit St. Pat, on our silly, fun-loving day of March 17th as we wear green, lest we get pinched, and we smile a little bigger with the luck o’ the Irish on our side! We Irish still have sayings for everything. So, then at midnight on March 17th, I’m sure if my Gaelic speaking Grandmother, Mary Catherine O’Gallagher,  from County Mayo, Ireland was still alive, she would give thanks to God and to you and say something like :

Mol an latha math mu oidhche”….“Praise the good day at the close of it”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Oh What a Tangled Web…” by Anne Stewart Helton

we weave. When first we practice to deceive!“…such a powerful quote from the Walter Scott poem Marmion (1808). And such a powerful message for this crazy Halloween day of 2016, which is full of scary times and deception.

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Halloween, as many of our other holidays, has an origin full of mystery, superstition and celebration. It has one foot in life and one foot in death, with a wide crevice in-between. In some ways a description of our times. In the ancient Celtic days, the new year was celebrated on November 1st, at the end of Summer and the beginning of Harvest time. It was full of festivals and bonfires, it was especially aligned with the festival Samhain and people would dress up in costumes to ward off roaming spirits perceived to be plentiful this time of year. The ghosts of the dead were thought to roam the earth and cause havoc and with winter approaching for these struggling folks, the fear of lost crops and darker days prevailed. Then in the 8th Century, Catholic Pope Gregory III officially merged Samhain with a spiritual message and designated November 1st as All Saints Day. The Church brought a spiritual anchor to the season, which allowed for a focus on the positive, that is, a day to honor good Saints or loved ones who had died. And the evening before November 1st became All Hallows Eve and later Halloween, eventually losing much of its original reverence for dead souls. Through the years as Halloween came to America, along with the immigrants, Halloween became more of a time of fun for children and adults through door to door trick or treating for candy, a time for neighborhood parties and adults acting out fantasies and fun. Sometimes it is celebrated by taking sweet ghosty flowers or candy to neighbors or seniors to brighten their night with memories. It is more of a community event now.

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Sometimes Halloween discussions become a battle between people worried about the obsession on evil and death versus the focus on good or heavenly matters. It is also clear from movies and TV that people “like” to be scared and overcome fears through movies and stories. But also we witness that some people more readily believe in evil, in zombies, in ghosts and vampires rather than in the goodness of God, Love, Angels, and Saints. This observation predominantly points out that we do need to watch how much of the culture of death we allow into our lives!  But mostly Halloween is just a fun night of sharing and hoping everyone has a safe experience. However, even my dog Sheila is wary of the neighborhood decorations!

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There are scary visuals everywhere in our neighborhood to celebrate “trick or treat”; or the dia de muertos and they are reminders of trickery and deception. But after walking through the neighborhood today and then watching the news of political intrigue over the last several weeks, nothing could be scarier than the tangled web of deception that has been woven over all of our heads during the 2016 presidential election. It feels like what must happen in the brain when Alzheimer plaques get sticky and grow, blocking our thinking and logic. It is common lately to hear people saying the phrases “my head is spinning” or “these lies and the spin are driving me crazy”. Again, a reminder of the Walter Scott epic poem; as we watch the webs be woven around words of deception.

When, oh when, will any of us learn that it’s not the lie that gets us but usually the cover-up! We saw this roll out politically during the Watergate investigation years ago as we watched a President resign due to covering up evidence. Of course, Watergate seems like a playground now as we deal with secret computers, hidden e-mails, disrespectful verbal behavior, sexting…UGH!…and pay to play allegations! Which used to mean if you give me some of your candy, you can be on my kick-ball team!

Most of us grew up being told by our Parents, “just tell me the truth and you won’t get in trouble”. It was hard to believe and harder to do as Parents ourselves. Everyone makes mistakes, but it does seem that now it is more about “just get away with whatever you can and the truth be damned”. Obviously truth can be perceived or rationalized by the beholder however it seems pretty clear that in most things, certain behaviors either happened or they didn’t. Sadly, in the natural world, it seems people will more readily say anything to win, even in an argument or an agenda and that people do often choose evil over good. This does leave us wondering how very tangled and choking the webs of deception can be, especially when we weave them ourselves with our own behaviors and words.

So, what should we do during scary times?? Well, 1 Peter 5:8 tells us: Stay Alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour”. 

Now, that IS really s.c.a.r.y!!

So, perhaps Halloween can be a special one this year and we can read Ephesians 6:13 and put on a protective costume that will serve us at all times of the year, no matter what.  “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

And….let’s teach the kid’s, even on Halloween that they can stand their ground too…Happy Halloween to all but also Happy All Saints Day!

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“ALL WHO ARE WEARY….” by Anne Stewart Helton

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

He seemed always weary back then. He worked so hard and out of necessity he mostly had a middle of the night, sometimes in dangerous neighborhoods, sometimes freezing cold or rainy, newspaper route!!

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So many men and women work and labor at several jobs just to make ends meet. My man did and still does at times. I think God must love the Worker. Every Man. Every Woman. There are many references to work throughout the Bible. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians, 3:23. We easily forget those words of Wisdom sometimes. I remember the Nuns would tell us in Catholic School when we had some hard work to do “offer it up to God”Yea….right Sister! We would think. But, you know what? It is true.

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It’s Labor Day weekend and when I watched my hubby taking a well deserved nap yesterday, at almost 72 years old now, I couldn’t help but remember the years and years he fell asleep for short spurts after his middle of the night paper routes or long shifts of loading trucks or studying homework in night school or worrying about keeping his appraisal business going for those who depended on him. He was never hesitant to work and would help people complete a task or buy something for them without being asked. He never complained about it, he just did it. Just as his Father had done, his Grandfather had done and on and on back to his Cherokee roots. Just like all good workers, I see his determination to finish a job well done and I see it now in our own children’s bloodline and now our grandchildren. Even in their play, creative endeavors, or parenting, they do their work well and completely. My son-in-law Larry even “works” on Fathers Day cooking barbecue for Priests to show appreciation to them for working as earthly spiritual Fathers!

While out walking this Sunday morning, the day before Labor Day, I stopped to talk to this smiling worker. He was getting his job done before the day heated up. We laughed about the weather and then he asked if I knew anyone who needed their yards mowed. Oh, how my Dad would have loved that!

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My husbands’ own Father would “work” while reading the morning paper. He would make notes about what needed to be done for the day or plan projects. I remember when little “Baby Jessica” fell into a well over 20 years ago and my father-in-law read the story in the Houston Chronicle. He was so upset and then designed an entire method, with drawings, on how to retrieve the little one from the well. He “worked” in spirit right alongside those rescuers. He beamed with pride too, cried and cheered when they retrieved her life filled body. My Mother always worked in the home like many Moms and she raised ten children. I remember that she always had one toddler on her hip while pouring milk into a baby bottle with her other hand. That’s how MY Mom got tennis elbow!!

It’s not to say that some people don’t work hard now but the respect for labor, for work, seems different. It’s probably just the normal changes of time but somehow it seems to be tied more to the money involved or the fame or recognition achieved. Somehow the web of need and appreciation for all types of workers has lost it’s luster and the desire to be recognized has surpassed the desire to just do a good job. Can some jobs just be done right, just for the good of doing them right? My Dad always said if we didn’t have any work to do or we were finished with our work, then “pick up a broom and quietly sweep the floor”…and we did! WE didn’t expect a Blue Ribbon for just doing our job!

One of our favorite Worker men in our area is Luis. We get our newspaper from him sometimes but mostly we just visit. Even with an obvious right-sided mobility issue, he works hard on his extra job mainly for his family, he is there in all kinds of weather only to then catch the bus to his full-time job at a grocery store. He always proclaims gratefulness and something positive about the day. We are blessed when our stop light allows us to visit with Luis.

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When I walk our neighborhood I often watch the rough work of yard men or utility workers, the constable patrol police officers, the mothers gathering their children and the Teachers getting to class on time. I marvel at all of their consistency and planning. They always have the right cars, backpacks, tools, water jugs, lunches, hats and gloves for protection and they pace themselves. Smart workers! But I am always especially indebted to the Mail Carriers. I really love the mail carriers…I bake them cookies, I give them ice tea, I talk life with them.

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Being a Community Health Nurse I recognize the importance of the mail carriers as it seems to me they are the last vestige of real community workers who knit neighborhoods together. They always know what’s going on, they know who is moving, divorcing, multiplying, hurting, indebted, struggling or rejoicing. They do welfare checks on people without being heroic or videoing themselves for social media and they watch for “bad guys” circling our streets. I love the mail men and my husband was even one for a while years ago. Mail carriers take daily long walks and have to watch their backs for dogs but my smart hubby mailman carried dog biscuits with him to make friends with any errant Fidos. Such a great idea! But one day a huge, sneaky, bully German shepherd jumped over the top of a fence and bit him in the back, with blood pouring down his back, he chased him down but then couldn’t hurt him, realizing he was just doing his job too. But you know what?…that dog never bothered him again!!

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I especially think and say a prayer for the hard workers when I hear a Police or Fire siren in the middle of the night, and then I think about the Physician, Preacher or Rabbi who will be called into action after that siren, often saying a little prayer for them too. I try to give a little smile of thanks when I see the workers gathering shopping baskets left afar in grocery store parking lots, to the wait staff in restaurants cleaning up after messy eaters in restaurants, to nursing attendants pushing gurneys of suffering people in hospitals, to shopping mall sales people trying to smile at the complaining customer, to brave people driving heavy trucks around goofy texting drivers and I pray for those skilled pilots flying planes overhead full of anxious travelers. I feel thankful that we still have workers who want to do a good job and get us all through our everyday lives, especially those who work 24/7 and don’t have Labor Day off. It’s the everyday people, going to work, everyday, doing their job without earthly glory who keep our society healthy. Work is tied to our self-esteem and our purpose in life and without purpose it is difficult to have good self-esteem. It’s really pretty simple!

So, when you drink your coffee and read your newspaper this Labor Day, realize that Labor Day is more than the political season or Labor Day Sales thus, ….

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….tip your hat to the Worker at all levels of labor. Tip your hat to yourself. We are all in this together folks. We should all have each others backs. So, let’s do our work and labor as Sister taught years ago and “offer it all up to God“. Then at the end of a very long day, we will hear, as is described in the amplified Bible: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’ “ Mathew 25:21.

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