Friday, December 21, 2012

Waiting-to-totally-surrender purgatory

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A January-7 deadline approaches and I noodle notes here and there: on my studio chalkboard, a scrap of paper, my laptop. Can’t find the focused time I need right now to hunker down and write the grant and that seems all right.

Underneath, there’s a sense that things will fall into place as and when they should. There’s time for the busyness, it tells me, later. Right now, I need to sit with the larger question than meeting a deadline. Can I do the projects that align with the funding? Will I have the personal energy, the volunteers and enthusiasm of others? This is clearly not a solitary endeavor, even though it seems so in this moment.

I’m wary of completely giving myself away to projects that will obviously companion and deepen Artsy Fartsy*. I stand at an all-too-familiar crossroads. I have given myself away countless times before. Is this one of those times or is it really where God is leading me? Could my surrender be to let go of the pretense of a livelihood and live my passion sans a paycheck? I struggle here. Earning my own way is so intrinsic to who I have been.

More simply, deeply and profoundly for me is that taking care of myself, independently, is all I’ve known. It’s a locked pattern, trapped in my psyche. Perhaps mistakenly, I’ve thought my task was to ask for help, human help.

I had a wide opening Wednesday during my monthly shamanic-counseling session. Insight into where, why and how I have been wounded. It’s almost too much to discuss yet. Generally, I was hurt and left alone to tend to the wound, then never given the opportunity to talk about it. Alone, alone, alone. That’s where I always seem to be.

Until I remember I’m not. This sucking up that I do whenever there is something that I [think I] have to do myself, which is most of the time, is so wrongfully inherent. I’ve been surrendering to God half-assed. Saying yes, but still feeling responsible and trying to control aspects. Surrendering some aspects is not surrender.

So how do I let this rip, I mean really rip? Like the way I felt a layer melt off Wednesday through breath work. I feel apart right now, like I’m living somewhere in between. Some kind of waiting-to-totally-surrender purgatory because I don’t know the next step.

I keep getting the message to pursue my passion and the paycheck will follow. Not sure what that means, but, I believe, it includes carefully discerning what is mine to do and what is not … not just doing because I have or can.

So through the holidays, the celebration of Jesus’ being in the world and anticipation of the clean slate of a new year, I will wait and see what settles and where I can surrender fully.

• How have I only half surrendered?
• What will it take for me to fully surrender?
• What’s holding me back?
• What patterns must I break?
• What is my prayer right now?

go it alone,

it has

 I crave
the solitude

don’t want
to be crowded
or smothered

and then,
I wonder
why I’m
always the one

to get things

I forget
that I can

to God

my prayer:
please, teach
me how

*an arts-exploration for at-risk kids I offer in my studio and for which I have received a Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment, a Good News Associates grant and one from the Clermont County Mental health and Recovery Board

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas comes early

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Christmas has arrived early. Unannounced, in smallish ways and yet, it's really here in my heart forever.

These gifts are altering my attitude about generosity, abundance and money – greatly. Oddly enough, I think this wave of Spirit began four weeks ago EXACTLY at the Alamo. The floodgates opened and anything is possible. I am proof.

To backtrack a bit, I arrived at the Alamo on a chilly-for-San-Antonio morning to visit the Mission. Yes, though remembered for its bloody battle in American history and the stirrings of Texas' independence, it was first built as a Spanish Catholic Mission – a sacred spot. Many consider it hallowed ground for the violent sacrifices that occurred. I stumbled in as an official gathering was happening and was encouraged to stay. It was an invitation I'll never forget: the presentation of Segways to American veterans of Afghanistan now rendered immobile ... as in missing or non-functioning legs, mostly. At its conclusion, I found myself third in line shaking each soldier's hand, looking him/her square in the eye and saying thank you. Some hung on, most thanked me and a few found the direct contact unsettling. I was just the vessel: a peace-loving, anti-war, gun-shy Quaker thanking soldiers. 

That experience has opened me. Forever, I hope.

To new encounters, new leadings, new openings, new friends, new understanding, new compassion.

Is this the New Kingdom of which Jesus speaks? I want to hope that it is, Heaven on Earth. Early Quakers believed it was in the here and now.

So odd for me to use that language. I'm typically more inclusive, yet it is what's on my heart.

My heart is so full right now – with only good, about to crowd out the doubt and worry fed by an attachment to the secular world.*

Thursday, I went to an interview with a wonderful BIG arts organization to see if my at-risk kids' arts exploration, Artsy Fartsy , was a match. Normally, I would have over-prepped and stressed. I wasn't nervous. I did my homework the day before (because that's all the time I had) and waltzed in joyful to find the interviewer easy. It was just a conversation. One in which I was affirmed in this work and encouraged to apply for a grant next month. I even expressed my philosophy that this project is about depth, not breadth and he agreed that was the right path.

Wow, I'm still pinching myself. I may get some new programming funded. Of course, I am still battling the idea that I can't yet fund myself ... but I am learning to trust that will come, just as everything else has aligned.

Today, I felt compelled to return a long overdue call ... I am almost ashamed to admit it took me so long because it was a reminder that something awaited me. Just before that life-altering trip to San Antonio, someone I respect from our days together mending the local racial divide said she had a bunch of stuff left over from the local Obama headquarters for Artsy Fartsy (AF) if I wanted it. "Yes," I said sight unseen.

Well out of sight and mind, I had forgotten until her gentle reminder call. So, today, I toddled on over the hill to her wonderful home and came back loaded with six boxes of binder clips, paper clips, pens, markers, highlighters, flashlights, hand warmers, hand sanitizer, paper towels, napkins, plastic cups, paper plates, sticky tack, tacks, clipboards, paint sponges, post-its, staplers, staples, staple-removers, giant flip charts, balloons and reams of printer paper. Unpacking it all was better than Christmas morning. All the ideas of how AF can use these flowed through my head. Can't you just imagine using twine and binder clips to hang a show of the kids' work? Let them create shadows with the flashlights ... maybe give them a ghost tour of Milford Main? Load them with school supplies when they run low or can't afford them? Make them feel important writing on clip boards?

And then I came across a plain, unmarked box. I gingerly lifted the lid to discover a stash of manilla file folders. Exactly what I had needed to get all of my forms, lesson plans, agendas, meeting notes and locker assignments organized. I'd been too busy and, perhaps, too cheap to purchase a box. God really had taken care of my needs! The room, especially the car, looked like Staples had exploded.

I am so thrilled that one AF kid's family for whom I am collecting to purchase a computer, printer and, hopefully, internet, has an almost-eternal supply of paper!!!

Christmas has come early and I hope its spirit stays forever ... in my heart and being.

• What happens when I let Spirit in?
• How does it alter my thinking?
• My way of being in the world?
• How am I opened?
• How do I express that opening?

wafting in and out
on this wave

of Spirit

a seemingly

that claims

and I
learn to
claim it

the impossible

the daunting,

a new vision,
a new order

grows within
strength and

to believe

* I wrote this Friday, turning off the radio when I heard there was going to be bad news and not yet knowing what it was. I was better able to handle it Saturday and Sunday, with my faith community.

You can read more about my experience at the Alamo:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spirit moving

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I was wired in Meeting for Worship Sunday from the wonderfully wild drumming of the day before with my Artsy Fartsy kids. I tried to settle in, but it just wasn't happening. I was fully attentive to the minister's message on giving. She and I had had a conversation a few days earlier on the subject. I mentioned I was tired of an idea I had that kept meeting with conditions and restrictions. So I decided to sit with it awhile. My choice. 

I couldn't handle it Sunday, especially after her message. I fought it, pushed it out of my head and heart. Re-focused, yet it kept returning, making my heart churn faster and faster. In the Quaker tradition that usually means you have a vocal message you're meant to share in worship. So, up I stood. Struggling, even telling other worshippers I didn't want to do this.

I talked about Dorrian's family of seven. Mom, dad and five kids ages four to 6th grade. They live in a teeny house between a church and my best friend, just down the block from me. The kids are always outside playing ... no room inside, it seems. Lately, I've been seeing Dorrian and his younger brother on bikes all over the neighborhood probably getting off on their own. Often dad's with the younger ones. He's the caregiver.

I'd never seen mom until last Thursday, when I made a personal visit to ensure Dorrian got to Artsy Fartsy Saturday. There was a mix up last month and he'd forgotten. Mom opened the door and warmly welcomed me inside. She hugged me and thanked me for taking an interest in her oldest. "He forgot and went off to play last month," she confessed. "When he got back, he cried because he'd missed it. You know he has such beautiful writing, this will be so good for him. So does my son Dalton." Dalton pretends to be mad at me when I see him with Dorrian. It's because he's too young for Artsy Fartsy and keeps trying to charm his way in. I tell him he has to wait, but each smile he flashes chips away at my resolve.

Then mom pointed to another son, playing games and confided that he's on an IEP (individualized-education plan) at school for learning disabilities. She's battled leukemia for 13 years and through all the pregnancies. The only one she struggled with was his. I think she blames the chemo. She whispered so as not to get his attention. Then she looked me square in the eye, though her tone was conversational and casual, and said "we really need a computer. It would make such a difference for him."

I immediately recognized this as God speaking to me through this woman. Getting this family a computer has been on my heart two years. It gained momentum when I reconnected through Dorrian, a great kid with loads of potential.

I'd recommended this family to my Quaker Meeting as needing financial help this Christmas, though I really wanted to get them a computer. Over the years, when I have vocalized this concern, I am often kindly reminded that refurbished or used computers are easy to find.

My hearts silently screams: "But why can't they have new, like everybody else? Why does this family with very little and only what the mother's assistance check can supply, have to get castoffs?

All weekend, I plotted in my head what I wanted for them: a new iMac, two years of internet (because, frankly, what's the use of a computer these days without it?), printer, cache of ink and technical assistance. About three grand, I figured. 

I didn't share my financial noodling with my Meeting when I spoke. I wasn't asking for anything, just releasing what had a tight grip on me and requesting prayer. Unlike anything I have ever experienced in Quaker worship before, someone tossed cash in the collection plate and it made the rounds, landing at me. I could barely bring myself to touch the wooden bowl overflowing with money ... let alone count it. Someone else did and, in a matter of minutes, about 20-some people donated $500. Noting short of amazing.

Yesterday, a neighbor brought me a $100 Best Buy gift card. There's a printer, I thought.

Just as I wanted others to release their idea of used goods for this family, I am releasing mine of the perfect scenario. I have a feeling I will know when the collecting is finished (I'm not putting a Christmas deadline on it) and am confident there will be enough to purchase whatever this family is supposed to have.

Spirit is moving and I best get myself out of the way!

• When has Spirit pushed me to speak or act?
• What happened when I resisted?
• When I surrendered?
• How was the result better than I ever could have imagined?
• What have I learned as a result?

Friday, December 7, 2012

My heart's calendar

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The second Thursday, late afternoon, of every month is reserved. Without question. Not even marked on my calendar. That's when I dutifully pull out my log of Artsy Fartsy kids' names and phone numbers and begin the round of reminder calls.

The first time, I was a bit nervous. I hadn't yet met many of these parents. What if they have no idea what I am calling about? What if they hang up on me? Yell at me? Don't answer?

Get a grip, I told myself then. You were, afterall, a reporter and called strangers ALL of the time. Not just strangers, but important, intimidating people and you always more than ambled through those calls. You often had friendly conversations. Remember when your husband overheard once and asked how long you'd known the person on the other end? A half hour, you replied. Instant phone rapport: one of your gifts. Why should this be any different? Because this matters more; this isn't a job, it's a calling. So get CALLING!

That's pretty much how it began. It never hurts that I start in the order in which the kids came to Artsy Fartsy. Always, Layla and Justice, sisters, first. I remember the drive up the hill from my house, into the Oakbrook parking lot. How I pulled out the beautifully printed yard signs announcing this new program and art-filled afternoon of registration. Layla was right there, reading the sign, bobbing up and down with excitement. "When? When? When?" she asked.

She, her dad, and sister, were the FIRST in line (as if there were a line, more of a slow trickle throughout the afternoon), Right on the dot at one o'clock.

So I start with Brandon first. I consistently catch him live on the phone. "Oh, yes, they will be there!" He's one  caring dad, ensuring his girls make the most of their opportunities. He never fails to thank me for the program. Even wished out loud that he could volunteer to drive, but, at the time, his car wasn't running and he couldn't afford to get it fixed.

This week, I didn't catch Marilyn, Emijah's grandmother. We had quite a talk, getting acquainted over two of her granddaughters on that August registration afternoon. She's called me just to chat and I've bumped into her at Kroger's. Or Anjela's mom. A recording said the phone was no longer in use. This has happened before when parents can not afford the minutes. So, I asked another mom to check for me, though I may have to see for myself.

A few hours after I made my calls, this time disappointed to reach mostly voice mail, I answer my vibrating phone, unable to quickly recollect the familiar voice. "Did you call this number? she asks. "Oh, I made a bunch of calls for Artsy Fartsy a few hours ago and I'm sure I called you. "Oh, Miss Cathy, is that you?" "Yes, Nia, just reminding you about Saturday. You know your daughter was sassy this last time. I mean sassy as in fun. She's not so shy anymore." "Yeah, it takes her awhile to open up. And, yes, she knows it's this week."

I understand it's hard for the kids that it's once a month. It can seem like an eternity, even to me. That's one reason, midway through, I write them each a personal postcard. Parents usually mention on the reminder calls that the sons and daughters loved getting the mail. I feel it's a good way of nurturing the child by remarking on the exceptional project they completed last time, the way they helped another child or how much I enjoy their energy. When I have made similar comments to the parents about their child, I see that it buoys them as well.

This chore has really become prayerful and so filling for me. Plus, it builds the anticipation in my heart as I look forward to seeing these amazing creatures in two days. Sometimes I can hardly stand it ... waiting. Fortunately, there are a myriad of tasks to complete before they bounce off the van, up the stairs and into Artsy Fartsy every second Saturday afternoon.

But, always, two days before, the date – Thursday, late afternoon – is permanently etched on my heart's calendar.

• When has an ordinary task taken on a prayerful dimension?
• How have I witnessed that transformation?
• How does that influence other areas of my life?
• How do I own it?
• How does it connect me more deeply to others and also Spirit?

yes, a
to-do list

each time

not even a
direct connection

a device between
me and the other

at times, I
leave a message

but the
absolute best,
is when I reach
a live heart
on the
other end

with something
as simple
as a reminder

a mundane

that opens
my heart
as wide
as can

and leaves

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Strangers who haunt us

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Last week, I wrote about serendipitously meeting Rebecca at Whole Foods. Today, I believe that wave of Spirit put me in the path of Amanda and Scott, again, two strangers I encountered while having tea. 

I'd taken my younger daughter to Starbucks enroute to picking up her sister from band practice. I had to be fair, not necessarily by my accounting, since I'd schlepped the older one out earlier in the week for refreshment.

Hadn't but just sat down, when, the man sitting across from me noticed my keycard was the same as his wife's. He wondered if we worked at the same place. No, we just had the same brand of key cards. The conversation got deep very fast as I learned they have 5 sons, one of whom died in his mother's arms, was revived and, later, survived a heart surgery. There were two miscarriages. Amanda, who was also present,though more quietly so, was a stay-at-home mom until Scott found himself out of work. Their roles are reversed. They used to live close to me in Milford, but moved six years ago when busing was cut and they could no longer afford it here.

Once again, death entered the equation. But so did religion, spirituality and faith. We talked about so much distraction in the world when I mentioned I was Quaker and, for the most part, we wait in silence listening for God. That captivated Scott. He is an informal student of religion and open to new ideas. Scott and Amanda actually met at church. He spotted her all in black, beautifully playing the trumpet, when they were both pretty young.

It was a very even exchange of listening and being listened to: a rare gift, especially in the care of complete strangers. But then, were they – really? Scott didn't think so. Upon parting, which we were disinclined to do, he said he had felt not only blessed by the encounter, but certain we were supposed to meet. "Usually, we just get our coffee and go," he said. "But something told me to comment on your keycard; not what I'd normally do."

They both looked me back straight in the eye, which I liked. I think you get soul-to-soul that way. In the same manner I'd get naked-to-naked, skin-to-skin with my kids when they were babies. It's a way I like to connect and the manner in which I recently greeted wounded American soldiers back from Afghanistan. Mostly amputees and those with limited mobility that I think rarely get seen as whole. (link) Looking someone square in the eyes helps me witness their essence, their wholeness.

Scott's eyes told me more than his words. At some point in the conversation, I mentioned how wise they seemed for their ages, mid 30s. That blew Scott away. "Just today, I was praying for wisdom and right here, right now, you just gave me my answer."

How often do we experience this? Perhaps more than we recognize.

Well, they had to be on their way and we soon had to be on ours. We vowed to meet again at Starbucks because we just knew we would. They left ahead of us and as I was packing up, I used the last $10 in my wallet to buy a gift card for them next time they visited. A random act of kindness? A thank you for such instantly deep community? A desire to see them again? Who knows? Only Spirit. 

• When have I felt on a wave of Spirit?
• What was it like?
• What were my experiences?
• Who or what came into my path?
• How did I express gratitude? 

whisking in,
in tow

a quick
coffee break
before retrieving
the older one
from band practice 

about to settle
in on a nice,
hot chai,
when an energetic
stranger asks
me a question

the answer leads
to conversation
and a knowingness
by both parties

that we were not

we, reluctantly,
part company

I return to my drink 

 ... and it is still hot* 

 *homage to my favorite book, the last line, from Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Spirit's little shoves

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She's still out there, somewhere, on her own, tending to her mother's death, trying to find like-minded community for the few weeks she's visiting. She's still tugging at my heart though.

I met Rebecca earlier this week as I was writing the last post, as a matter of fact. My oldest had been off sick and I gathered her up mid afternoon and took her for tea and a homework session at Whole Foods. I had some supplements to purchase and a blog to write. I like the energy in the communal cafe.

Funny thing is I was writing about feeling disconnected from meaningful community as I overheard a conversation happening next to me. One sided, clearly a woman was finalizing insurance and cremation details after her mother's death. She was so matter of fact and clear. Unlike someone lost or stumbling. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to say something.

"Not that I was really eavesdropping, but I happened to hear that your mother just died. I am sorry," fell from my lips almost before I could really think too much and shut off my heart.

Unsure as to what the response would be, I braced myself a bit. The brown eyes penetrated mine and she said something like "Thank you. Yes, she did and I'm the only one left and have to handle everything."

All else melted away and we merged into a very engaging connection that covered diverse topics from her reiki work to my fibromyalgia, her home in Hawaii and schooling at SCPA*, my amazing shaman and how she's been her mother's therapist since she was two and that this death, welcomed by her mother, was, somehow, freeing, for Rebecca. 

She admitted that she doesn't connect easily and was struggling to find some deep community in Cincinnati while she's here for three weeks. As we parted, she thanked me for reaching out.

I went back to my daughter and blogging, but I wasn't finished with her. As she was packing up, I stopped her and hastily jotted down my phone number. I selfishly prefaced it, handing it to her with "I'm not always so available with kids and all, but if you'd need to call me or need someone here's my number."

I'm not very proud that I didn't do this right off and that I had to set some boundary. That may be experience speaking. I have the kind of face that complete strangers spill their life story to, entangling me in something before I even realize. She had mentioned that she didn't have a car and if I was going to see the shaman, maybe I could give her a ride. I knew I wasn't while she was in town, so I didn't offer. Besides, how inconvenient would it be to drive from Milford to Hyde Park to take her to Goshen and then get her back -- all when I didn't even have a shamanic session scheduled?

How utterly selfish. I am kicking myself a bit and secretly hoping she'll call.

She's not like that, I believe now. And I also understand that I did act on some spiritual leading and now I have to let the rest go. I did give her an opening; albeit a narrow one, but an opening nonetheless.

• When have I unexpectedly encountered a stranger?
• How did I open myself?
• Did I fully trust Spirit's leading?
• How do I let go of my response and not judge it?
• What has a Rebecca-like experience tapped in me?

immersed in words,
yet grooving on
the peopled energy


writing on one
level, paying
attention to
my surroundings
on another

feeling the
nudge build
I can no
longer contain it

and I act

without thinking

that's as
Spirit would have it

otherwise, I'd
never respond
to those
little shoves

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Phantom fannies and pockets of community

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After experiencing the intensity of a gathering of caricature artists secondhand during my husband's recent convention, I returned home a little deflated. Jealous even. Missing something. Not feeling connected. To the point of posting so on Facebook.

The first response came from a young adult, whose wisdom I have learned to trust. Remember "awesome Quakerness," she responded. Oh, yeah, my Quaker Meeting, the one I have attended regularly for 14 years, served on numerous committees, loved and been annoyed with, but mostly loved. The place I feel accepted for who I am, but, sometimes, also unseen. The one I've disengaged from a bit to go out into the real world and complete the work to which God calls. That one.

So I journeyed there Sunday with those thoughts in my head and heart. I wanted someone to reach out to me. Little did I know it would start with my 15-year-old being tempted to worship with a bookstore trip after. As I headed into worship, I left her and my younger daughter behind to debate whether to attend First Day School or hang, silently, with the adults. The younger went one way and the older, another. When she brushed up against me on the pew, my being fluttered. It took me Somewhere Else. To the first time I held her hand, we pushed through the glass-and-wood doors and took our seats on the satiny benches polished by 50 years of phantom fannies.  She was a toddler and I, a young(er) mother seeking relief from the pain of an auto accident. When my favorite song, the Shaker "Simple Gifts," lulled out of the piano, I knew I was home. Before any worship had officially begun.

How many stories had I heard of people seeking the right faith community for, well,  years? I merely went where my mother and daughter told me to. My mom had known I was struggling and searching and encouraged me to try the Quakers. "I think you'll like the simplicity," she said. Didn't hurt that my favorite Methodist pastor from childhood was the interim. Shortly before that, one morning my daughter greeted me, unprompted, with "Mommy, I know Jesus." Yes you do, I thought, and it's time to find a spiritual home.

That home has been Cincinnati Friends Meeting, through thick and thin. Sunday, the minister's message focused on getting young Quakers back to meeting. Like Autumn and baby Carter, who came with his dad (the first person to ever give Autumn, gum and I reminded him) and mom, granddad, who grew up in the meeting, and great-grandparents. They have been rocks of this meeting. In fact, Papa Paul was the first to speak to me that initial visit with Autumn. We bonded over his Cincinnati Mortuary School shirt because I had worked in the funeral industry.

After a few months, back when Autumn and I first attended and when a permanent minister was hired, Quakers asked if I would leave as well. No way, I invariably answered because I remembered Paul and his kindness to a stranger. He reminisced about how he'd get down on the playroom floor with both of my girls, just like he now does with Carter.

It all was a warm reminder that I do, indeed, have more than pockets of community.

• Where do I experience community?
• How do I experience it?
• What's my role in building that community?
• When it seems lacking, how do I fill that need?
• How has Spirit filled it for me?

after witnessing this
intense crush of
gung-ho artists,
working, socializing

I was, no doubt,

envious that I
lacked this
closeness of
like others

I felt I
only had
of community

but was
by a young
and wise

that it
was no farther
than my
oldest daughter,
my faith community,
my family,
my neighborhood

my heart

Friday, November 23, 2012

Through God's touch

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It was a smaller affair, which may have sharpened the lens of perspective. So often, we tumbled out of the house, food in hand, kids in tow and arrived a few minutes late for Thanksgiving at my parents'. This year, we were ahead of schedule with the exception of my husband driving back a half hour later to pick up our 15-year-old after her outfit was out of the dryer.

Mine were the only children: my nieces grown up and onto their own lives, my out-of-town sister making the trip at Christmas.

And yet, my mother had polished the silver, laid out the family china, cooked a turkey, made two kinds of dressing (one gluten free just for me), boiled the potatoes and arranged appetizers ... all the while on oxygen. She struggled with the long, green snake trailing her for 50 feet as she flowed between the dining room and kitchen. She was most concerned someone else would trip.

Just last week, as I was out of town on a trip planned for months, she, my father and twin sister traipsed to the Cleveland Clinic to get more definitive answers on what, specifically, could be done for her two weakened heart valves. Essentially, she was told they'd have to get her lung pressure down before they could do anything invasive, hence the full-time oxygen. I remember when she came home from a long hospital stay this summer and talked her primary-care doc out of the full-time air. He made her take a healthy walk without and agreed she could cut the day-time cord. I also remember her, two days home, green snake in hand, riding her stationery bicycle: I want to get in as good a shape as I can, she said at the time. She was sick of having been in a hospital bed for 10 days.

Wednesday evening as my mother and I were making last-minute food decisions, we talked about her cardiologist appointment earlier in the day. She said that doc calculated she'd be having her heart surgery in a few months. How's that? I asked because it didn't seem to square with what she heard in Cleveland. Oh, she said, we misinterpreted the surgery risk. What we'd thought was risk of survival, which looked pretty low, was risk of failure!

When I discussed this yesterday with my sister, she had not misunderstood the risk as we had, but it wasn't good enough yet for Cleveland.

If anybody can beat those odds I know it's my mom. She never ceases to amaze me with her positive attitude, hard-work ethic, sense of humor and deep faith that she is where God wants her.

We've had some pretty amazing talks about death lately, a subject that I welcome because it is so little spoken about. Hasn't hurt that I worked in the funeral industry a few years. Turns out neither of us, my mother or me, is afraid of what comes after life. It occurs to me that we have been heavily influenced by my mom's baby sister who died of breast cancer, but with such a rare and glowing grace that you could palpably feel God's touch. You just knew she wasn't alone.

That comforts me as I know my mom's time is limited here, as it is for all of us.

• Who have been my examples of faith?
• What lessons have those encounters imparted?
• What are my feelings about death?
• In general? For someone I love? For myself?
• How can I witness God's presence even in death?

flurrying about,
from the fridge to the
dining-room table

only aware of
the shiny green
tail lest it trip
up someone else

gracious in her
hospitable way
of welcoming
us into her
home and heart

where we we
always remain

and she in ours,

this day a fond
memory in
distant times

when we feel
her through
God's touch

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Glue of God

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I have a broken body though you can't see it. I hide it pretty well. Unfortunately, years of chronic pain have twisted my mind toward the negative. I am working on reversing that trend and I see rays of hope.  This invisible cloak, however, isn't always so easy to wear. Take, for example, the time I was desperate and visited a new physician begging for help. "Well, you don't look sick," he said. I told him looks could be deceiving.

But then, last week, I witnessed my predicament in reverse. Overtly wounded veterans looking tall as they strode in – braces, canes and prosthetics in place – on Segways in a ceremony giving them the gift of mobility in return for their courage and loss. It all transpired at the Alamo.

It broke my heart. Broke. 

At the conclusion, we were invited to meet these veterans of Afghanistan. Staring into their young faces startled me. My instinct was to grab their hands and hold on for dear life, theirs and mine. I detected anguish and uncertainty in those brave eyes. I think they were soldier expressions for the most part. And not used to being looked at so directly since the loss of wholeness. But the touch, that was revealing. Some was tentative, but some was fierce, accompanied by a constant round of thank you Mams after I thanked them. I felt they were reaching for connection in this new state. Perhaps thanking me for noticing they were still human, if bionicly so. No complaints, no whining, simply a demeanor of acceptance and a preparedness for what comes next.

What a lesson for me! I have never experienced being seen as unwhole in the way I suspect these injured soldiers have.

Stilled awed, I stumbled away, caught off guard by a city ambassador with whom I struck up a conversation. I related what I had just witnessed at the Alamo. He was riveted and mentioned a fellow guide was struggling from the ravages of war silently, mentally and alone. He was angry at how this invisible wound is not recognized. We talked a bit more and he said a WWII veteran told him once, "There are no atheists in the fox holes."

I believe that means we're not alone, ever ... in the good stuff or the bad. It's mostly that we don't notice during the hopeful times.

All of this brokeness can be overwhelming until I am reminded of healing and that mending often makes the wound stronger. Knitting together injured parts creates a new bond, one that had not previously existed and one tougher than the original. It's that liminal place where two or three come together to create a newness. The wounded, Spirit and healing.

Our brokenness makes us stronger, if only we could recognize and acknowledge that in each other, then thank God.

• In what ways have I been broken?
• How have I experienced that in others?
• How do I respond to brokenness?
• What has it taught me?
• Where do I see God in the brokenness?

each time a ceramic
broke, I'd collect the debris,
saving it for some
colorful, new creation

something old and broken
made new in a

the adhesive holding
the smaller pieces,
binding them
ever more tightly

the glue
of God can
do similarly
in our minds,
spirits and

if we
open ourselves