Acceptance · Anxiety · Brokenness · Devotional · Mental Illness · mothering · Parenting adult children · Serenity · Spiritual · Spirituality

The Privilege of Focusing Elsewhere


By Jana Greene

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ and he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” –  Mark 4:35-41

Yesterday as a super weird day. Ever feel ‘off’? Ever feel ‘unhinged?’ That was me yesterday, all day.

I woke up upset about the state of the world – the terrorist attacks in Paris, more specifically.  Then I got more and more upset about how improperly people were responding to it.

People I love dearly, suggesting we all basically sit in a giant circle around the globe and sing Kumbaya until mean people stop being mean. Honestly, that makes no sense to me. You’d think you would catch on to the ineffectiveness of that plan already. It’s not working.

Then I wrote about it on this blog, and poised my finger over the ‘publish’ button on WordPress. It was a stellar piece, really. Full of common sense and righteous indignation, and I really wanted to post it. I wanted to post it and share it so that I could stick some facts and impassioned logic in the faces of people who are just NOT getting it. People who make me wonder where the world would be if we applied tolerance liberally to the Nazi regime. (Spoiler alert: The gentiles among us would all be speaking German and the Jews would all have been murdered years ago….)

I am related to some very dove-ish people, they are hopelessly and unrealistically optimistic. I love them dearly, even in their perceived wrongness.

Finger poised over the ‘publish’ key, I decided to shut down the computer. I was simply too sad to even post it.

Now, although I reserve the right to publish it later (and probably WILL at some point) God had other plans for my spirit yesterday, plans put into motion by My Beloved. That man is a saint in sinner’s clothing, I’m absolutely convinced of it.

“Lets take a ride,” he suggests. Understand that I am alternately glowering and crying, slamming things around. I don’t feel like a ride. I feel like crying, and can you not plainly SEE this? But I know the plans he (my husband) has for me, and they are entirely good, always. So I ride along.

While we are driving down to Southport, a quaint little harbor town nearly an hour away, I am on my phone texting madly with my adult daughters. They are not upset enough at the right people my liking about the whole Paris thing, and I am going to MAKE THEM SEE the light. I am also having an internal conversation with God, who keeps insisting that maybe it’s time to trust Him with my daughters (and, um….everything else.)

But when a woman is high on anxiety and low on estrogen, there is no reasoning with her. In a group text, I reminded my kids about 9/11 and how dangerous it can be to try to reason with terrorists, worse even then reasoning with their hormone-depleted mother. They took offense, naturally, but I could not stop. I was going to make my point, dammit, for their own good.

It went abysmally, the whole exchange. They reminded me that they are adults and have their own opinions. I sometimes forget that.

MEANWHILE, as I’m furiously texting 90 words per minute, I am SOBBING. Absolutely just losing it. My poor husband.

Why is everything so SAD? Why don’t my kids GET IT? By the time we got to Southport, I’ve blown through an entire box of Puffs Plus. Little balls of snotty tissue littered the lovely leather interior of the car.

My Beloved pulls the car over at a little ice cream stand and insists I eat some ice cream. I look like a frog from crying hysterically and you think I want ICE CREAM?

Okay, I do want ice cream. So we sit out on the patio and I eat Mint Chocolate chip whilst crying. The kid at the counter looked so confused. I fought the urge to remind him to call his mother and be nice to her.

After the treat, My Beloved drove down to the water, and when we got out of the car, this happened:

sunset 3

It took my breath away, the calmness. I didn’t welcome it at first. I still wanted to hold on to my hysteria because the world is upside down (as if that HELPS turn it right side up?)

But then I just rested my eyes on the whole scene in front of me. You would never know that the world is on fire, if you were sitting at this little spot by the sea. And then came peace.

You have to LOOK for the calmness, it won’t come to you first.

The truth is that while I am very upset about terrorism, I am also upset about everything else changing in my world. From job loss to depression to major surgery to empty nest syndrome to becoming a grandparent….things are weird and different and I’m scared of all the change.

It’s chaos, if I’m looking around me.

Today I told God that I was SO over this planet and everyone on it. And what is the DEAL with humanity being so freaking hateful and disregarding human life and Lord God, do you even SEE what is going on here!?

“Teacher, do you not CARE that we are perishing!?”

And then this happened. In the midst of being so OVER everything, because that’s where He shows up. Smack dab in the middle.

sunset1And this happened too.


And then I say, “Okay, God. Now you’re just showing off.” But I’m not crying anymore.

My Heavenly Papa spoke to me.

“Hey you,” He said. “Get over yourself and look at this! Isn’t it incredible? I’m here, never left. Stop flailing about in worried hysteria. I’m still Me. This is to remind you where your eyes belong.”

I just love Him so much.

The world was still crazy when we drove back home. Real messed up. I tried not to watch the news at all. I was still hormonal and unhinged, but a little less weepy. I texted my children to ask them to please forgive my harsh tone and my expectation that they think like me. It’s unrealistic. If you’ve never asked your children to forgive you after a blow-up, it’s very humbling.

And they texted back that they love their mom and forgive her, just as they always do when I mess up. Just like I always do for them when they mess up. We try really hard not to let the sun set on our anger, no matter what. And this day, the sunset was absolutely spectacular (literally and figuratively.)

“Peace!” Jesus says. “Be still!'”

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Here’s a little insight: You cannot control a SINGLE act or reaction that another person exhibits. Not even a little bit. Don’t say I never taught you anything here at The Beggar’s Bakery.

But you can refocus your eyes. Even when it feels like God is sleeping.

Although pretty sunsets and ice cream don’t ‘fix’ what’s wrong, they can be a catalyst to changing your thinking, even for a while.

You have the right to look for calm in the midst of a crazy chaotic world. You have the right to use up a whole box of tissues in one sobbing sitting if you need to, but God gives us the privilege of refocusing on Him.

It’s a privilege.

Teacher, help us to be still.



Never Forget – Where were you on 9/11/01?

Sculpture that originally stood very near the Twin Towers. Relocated now closer to the Staton Island Ferry, you can see the holes made by falling debris on 9-11, melted metal and twisted pieces.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I just happened to be watching the news while having my coffee at 9 a.m. The reporters on the morning show said that there was breaking news from the World Trade Center in New York City.  An airliner had run into the North Tower. What a horrible accident! What a strange accident.

The pilots and co-pilots must have lost control of the plane, or had heart attacks simultaneously – or some other freak incident that made it impossible to avoid hitting the building.  I was listening to the commentator suggesting that it may have been aircraft trouble when I walked into the kitchen to get a bagel. It may have even been the angle of the sun, he was saying.

Then another commercial airplane hit the South Tower.

By the following cup of coffee, I would live in a different nation.

We all would.

The flames of the first tower hit  licked upward through the massive cavernous hole with tragedy.  After the second plane hit,  the giant plumes of black smoke burned with evil.

With the attack on the second tower, the news reporters knew. The people on the streets of New York City, all gazing upward into the endlessly blue September sky? They then  knew, too.

Watching the towers burn,  I stood with my hand over my mouth, not daring to breathe; the air too thick with denial and then dread to inhale. I am not seeing this…I cannot be seeing this.

And then…I am seeing it. But before I could process it, another breaking news report…

The Pentagon! Another airplane has crashed into the Pentagon!

This was not random. This was not an accident.

I ran into the next room to wake my brother, who was visiting my family at the time. The Pentagon! I yelled at him, until he opened his eyes. The twin towers and the Pentagon!

My brother and I, like so many Americans, watched the news all day. We smoked one cigarette after another, even though I didn’t allow smoking in the house, because it didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Our hearts heavy, we watched and cried and touched each other on the shoulder from time to time to make sure that we were real.

We saw people jumping out of buildings and delicate papers flutter from the same floors, watched rescue workers walk into towers that would soon collapse.

Like millions upon millions the world over, we tuned in find city blocks in ruin, the security command of our nation burning,  and a giant hole in a Pennsylvania field made by an airplane that hit the ground so hard that it nearly vaporized.

Terrorist attack. Our country – the greatest nation in the world – was under deliberate and devastating attack.

When I had taken my children to school that morning, they were careless first and third graders. When I picked them up that afternoon and they excitedly handed me their finger-paint artwork and spelling work from the day, it hit me: My beloved daughters would never know a world in which America was fireproof, bulletproof. As they were small, we tried keeping them from news coverage, but the climate of the world had changed.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, the world was justifiably obsessed with the events from that day.

On the morning of September 12, 2001, I bought a copy of the New York Times from a newsstand and pored over every page. For months, every magazine featured stories of the innocent victims, heroic responders, and of course, the mass murderers of terror.

And then – even as those in the nations that sponsored the terror joyfully partied in the streets – neighborhoods across America became a sea of waving red, white and blue.

Political parties? What differences? It was in our similarities that we banded together. We were Americans. I could not imagine how soon all would be forgotten (and even defended) by so many.

And each year, on September 11th, there is grieving, as there should be. There is remembrance, because there needs to be.  I know that people move on because they have to – that horrors like the Holocaust and 9/11 cannot be fixated upon to the detriment of moving forward.  I understand that.

But neither should they fade from consciousness, lest a new generation lack compassion for the events and victims’ families for whom “moving on” has meant permanent loss.  It was not a freak accident or the angle of the sun that altered our history on 9/11 – but evil, pure and simple.

Never forget.