Thursday, December 13, 2012

who am i?

one of my favorite, if not my number one favorite, musicals is les miserables.  it has everything one could possibly want - action, adventure, romance, tragedy, comedy.  It has it all.  i guess it's hard to go wrong when one starts with a story as well written as les miserables.  although there have been some adaptations of fabulous stories that i could have done without.  but i digress...

because i love the music and i love singing in the car, i keep the cd of les miserables in the car.  whenever i listen to it, i turn it way way up and then sing at the top of my lungs to all the songs.  i sometimes even sing all the parts.  and when i'm stopped at a stop light, i flail my arms around and direct myself, the orchestra and all the other singers.  it's quite the sight, i'm sure!  so this morning, on my way to work, i was singing and flailing to this song that jean valjean sings called "who am i."  the policeman, javert, has seen a man he believes to be jean valjean and valjean realizes that he could finally be free from his past if this man is assumed to be him.  but, he also knows that he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he let this innocent man take his place.  and so, since it is, after all a musical, valjean sings (this is an abridged version)...

who am i?
can i condemn this man to slavery
pretend i do not feel his agony
this innocent who bears my face
who goes to judgement in my place
who am i?
can i conceal myself for evermore?
pretend i'm not the man i was before?
and must my name until i die
be no more than an alibi?
must i lie?
how can i ever face my fellow men?
how can i ever face myself again?
my soul belongs to god, i know
i made that bargain long ago
he gave me hope when hope was gone
he gave me strength to journey on
who am i? who am i?
i am jean valjean!
i love this song!!!!!  i love that valjean keeps asking himself "who am i?"  i love that he struggles to figure out what his identity is in the face of this huge, life-changing decision he must make.  he knows that his answer to this question of who he is will determine not just his earthly fate, but quite possibly his eternal fate as well.  jean valjean ends up choosing to do the right thing.  his answer to the question ends up to be quite simple, really.  he is god's.  and so the choice is made.  

jean valjean asks himself who he is when confronted with a major decision.  but i think it's a question that is just as applicable to the little things as well.  how much would my attitude each day change if, before i got annoyed at that person who cut me off in traffic, i stopped and asked, "who am i?"  how much would my marriage change if, before i got frustrated at my husband for something stupid, i stopped and asked, "who am i?"  how much better would the world be if we all took the time to ask that one simple question before we acted - "who am i?" 

who am i?  i am a wife, a pet mom, a friend, a librarian, a crafter...but most importantly, i am myra hall richards and i am god's.  and that is the answer that should color every choice i make. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


not too long ago, our youngest dog, lucy, found a little kitten in our backyard.  when i called the dogs back in, she came up with this thing in her mouth.  since it had been raining for a couple of days, i assumed she had found a dead mole and was bringing it to me.  i kept telling her to drop it, but she stood there, stubbornly holding on to whatever it was in her mouth.  i finally put my hand out and told her to drop again and she very gently dropped this emaciated, dehydrated, alien looking kitten in my hand.  and when i say alien looking, i mean she had this huge head and this tiny little body that made her look exactly like roger from american dad.  anyway, since it was right around 4th of july, we named her betsy, in honor of betsy ross.  neither ed nor i thought betsy would make it.  she was only around 3 weeks old and so so tiny.  but betsy proved us wrong and has grown into a beautiful kitty.

not long after lucy found betsy, i let the dogs out and immediately they started barking away near our side fence.  they had been barking over on that side of the yard for a couple of days so i figured our neighbors has been doing stuff in their yard, but it was storming and i was fairly certain the neighbors weren't working in the yard in a storm.  i called all the dogs back in, but lucy wouldn't come.  she kept on barking.  so i went outside and there was a cat, back arched, hair standing straight up, tail puffed out as far as it could puff, hissing and charging at lucy.  poor lucy didn't know what to do!  she had never had a cat do that to her before and she was completely bewildered.  i finally got her in the house and went back outside to see about the kitty.  when i walked up to her, i saw three itty bitty newborn kittens.  and all of her posturing with lucy made complete sense.  i went back in the house, made a bed in the guest bath bathtub and went back out to gather everybody up.  sadly, there were a couple of babies who hadn't made it, but there were still the three that had survived.  i settled mommy and babies into the bathtub and hoped for the best.  well, mommy kitty was an excellent mommy and all three kittens survived.  one of them, elbie, was much littler than her siblings so ed and i used what we had learned with betsy and supplemented her nursing with kitten formula.  when they were old enough to be weaned, elbie was still a good bit smaller than the other two so we decided to hold on to her and take mommy and the two bigger kittens to be adopted out.  just like betsy, elbie proved to be a little fighter and she too is growing into a stunning kitty. 

i wanted to tell their stories for a couple of reasons.  one, they are pretty cool stories.  but more than that, betsy and elbie have taught me about perseverance.  they were both so little - betsy, at three weeks, weighed the same as elbie's siblings did at 3 days and elbie was always 3-4 ounces behind her brothers.  but, in spite of being the runts, they tenaciously clung to life and doggedly sought to get their needs met.  betsy would make sure we knew whenever she was hungry by letting out the loudest, most pitiful cry ever.  and she would persist in crying until someone gave her a bottle.  elbie would push her way in between her brothers and refused to let them keep her from nursing.  both she and betsy refused to give up on themselves and refused to let us give up on them either. 

as i said, i learned a lot about perseverance by watching them grow up.  i learned that i need to be persistent in prayer - i need to keep crying until someone answers.  i need to be tenacious in seeking out nourishment and not give up until i am full.  i need to refuse to let others keep me from growing into the person god wants me to be.  i need to persevere even when others think i don't have a chance.  i think the most important thing, i learned, however, is that i need to not give up on myself.  because even when i am at my worst, when i am the scrawniest one in the litter and all the odds are stacked against me, the one who matters the most refuses to give up on me.  and if he refuses to give up and instead insists on persevering with me, who am i to say he is wrong?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


i think i am a little fixated on elijah right now.  :-)  or maybe it's just that i have more to learn from him right now.  sunday, god used elijah to remind me about mindfulness - living in the present, in his presence.  i have to stop dwelling on the past and dreading the future and just be still and let god be god.  yesterday, god reminded me that he knows i am weary, but just like he did for elijah, he will sustain me, if i will only let him.  today, i saw yet another similarity between him and me.  we both feel defeated.

elijah has done all of these incredible things for god and has seen all of these amazing miracles.  but as soon as his life is threatened, he forgets all about those and has a pity party. he tells god that all the other prophets have been killed and so he is the only one left.  and, to top it off, the people who killed the other prophets are trying to kill him now too.  as my friend beth's mom used to say as she patted you on the back, "pity, pity pity."  :-)  i don't know about anyone else, but i think having a good pity party sometimes is exactly what the doctor ordered!  the problem is that when i am having a pity party because i feel the world is beating me up or some metaphorical jezebels are trying to kill me or i'm not getting the (fill in the blank) that i think i deserve, it's not pity i am feeling.  it's defeat.

pity is defined as the act or capacity for sharing the painful feelings of another.  defeat, on the other hand is frustration due to a prevention of success.  pity is directed outwards, towards another.  defeat is focused inward, on myself.  pity gives me the opportunity to grow in compassion, caring and mercy.  it teaches me to look at others and feel the pain they feel and see things through their eyes.  it allows me to be used by god to alleviate the suffering of another.  defeat does none of those.  defeat draws my eyes inward, to focus on my needs and wants.  it makes me blind to those around me and erases my memory of all that i have and all that has been done for me.  whereas pity draws me closer to god, defeat turns me away completely.

how do i overcome defeat?  well, elijah overcame it by telling god why he was hiding in the cave on mt. horab.  and then he let god remind him of his purpose and set him back on the right path.  i think i have to do the same thing.  i need to be mindful and allow god to continually remind me of my purpose.  i need to rely on god to sustain me when i am weary.  and then, i need to tell god why i am hiding in my cave.  if god treats me anything like he did elijah, he won't admonish me for being less than perfect.  but neither will he allow me to wallow in my defeat.  instead, he will remind me of my purpose.  and then he will take me by the hand and lead me back onto and down the right path.  

Monday, December 10, 2012


yesterday, i wrote about how like elijah I have been – dwelling on the past and worrying about the future – instead of living in the present.  when i re-read that story, i realized that elijah and i have something else in common – weariness.  after jezebel sends her servant to threaten elijah, he runs and hides in the desert, fearing for his life, and there he tells god that he has had enough.  oh my goodness!  i can’t count the number of times i have told god that i have had enough, that i am too tired to go on, that i just want a break, that i am weary.   in his weariness, elijah only saw his fears and he wanted to walk away from everything and just give up.  instead of granting elijah his desire that god take his life, however, god twice sends an angel to elijah with bread and water.  on the second visit, the angel says to elijah, “get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”   instead of letting elijah die in the desert, god recognized elijah’s weariness and provided him the sustenance he needed to continue on his journey.  god never gave up on elijah, even when elijah had seemingly given up on god.   

not too long ago, the powers that be changed the radio station I used to listen to into a sports talk station.  so, I changed the buttons on the radio to npr and the all news station for my commutes.  this morning, however, in an effort to continue my quest for mindfulness, I put in a cd – city on a hill.  as I listened to one of the songs, I was struck by how appropriate it was for how I have been feeling.

and i can hear your voice inviting:
i'm here,
i'll never leave your side
my stubborn weary child
i am still here
please let me lead you on
your race is already won
i am your god
(sixpence none the richer - i'm here)

i am definitely feeling stubborn and weary.  but even when, in my stubborn weariness, i have seemingly given up on god, he is right there by my side, just like he was for elijah, waiting for me to lean on him and let him sustain me.  more than that, however, he is there reminding me that my race is won and that all i have to do is let him lead me to the finish line.  god knows that i will get weary.  he knows that the journey will sometimes, oftentimes, all the time, be too much for me.  but it doesn't matter how slow i go or how many breaks i may take or how many times i may stop and have to restart.  the end result will always be the same.  he has already run the race for me and clocked his time as mine.  christ's winning time is also mine.  all i have to do is eventually cross the finish line. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012


i have been struggling a lot lately with different things and i couldn't figure out why life was seeming so hard.  i am a member of a team on etsy and i read a post on the team forum the other day that started me thinking about my life and why i may be feeling the way i am. i posted about it on the forum and there was a response from a very wise woman about living mindfully and that made me think even more.  mindfulness -  the idea of enjoying each moment for what it is and not dwelling or anticipating - sometimes seems to me like this elusive state that i will never attain.
one of my favorite bible characters is elijah. he was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and alone.   instead of seeing all that god had provided for him to keep him safe and sound, he saw the past with its fears and failures and the future with its fears and uncertainty.  so god told elijah to stand on the mountain and wait for him to pass by.  so elijah waited and there was a huge wind, but god wasn't in the wind. then there was an earthquake, but god wasn't in the earthquake. then there was a fire, but god wasn't in the fire. after the fire, there was a gentle whisper. and there was god.

god had to show elijah that he needed to stop dwelling on the past and worrying about the future and just be in god's presence.  he needed to ignore all the winds, earthquakes and fires and listen for the whisper.  i think sometimes i am just like elijah.  i am so busy focusing on the winds, earthquakes and fires in my life that i miss the gentle whispers. and when i miss the gentle whisper, when i forget to be mindful and focused on the present and his presence, the past and the future overwhelm me with their failures, fears and uncertainty.

how many of us take time to just be? do we ever make time to be quiet, breathe and listen to the gentle whisper of the lord? i wonder if the first step to mindfulness is to escape from the busyness and noise for a few minutes each day and just be still - be still and know that he is god and he is waiting for us to enjoy his presence in the present.