Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Available nowhere else

This faith business is an act of courage, one I can not do alone. Thankfully, it's a twosome when Spirit is involved; I just have to be reminded. Again and again.

My hopes are high that this Easter season is personally transforming, but in the midst of that transformation, it is hard to see beyond the chaos. And yet Spirit does throw me crumbs.

1. TRUST SPIRIT:  The traveling minister who spoke Sunday at worship was one beacon. Margaret's daughter was murdered four years ago and she prays the murderer be restored to wholeness. That probably was not her initial request, but she did understand that anything short of reconciliation would pull her into the dark hole of no return. "God's justice is greater than my petty imaginings," she told herself. The pain of that loss and the hope of reconciliation led her to confront herself and her ingrained ability "to hold a grudge with the best of them. It was the hardest habit to surrender."

That confession was pivotal for me. Made me look at the Mother of Grudges I have been holding: resentment for living with fibromyalgia. When I had explained to my shaman last week that I was seeing a wonderful Episcopal pastor, now my new spiritual director, and how meaningful Lent had become this season, he asked, "So, what are you giving up?" I had no answer. Sunday, I knew. I have been spending so much time and energy being angry about my circumstance even as I have practiced blessings and gratitude. Lent has dredged up that anger and brought it to the surface. So that I was ready to see it as Margaret spoke. I quietly scribbled in my journal: "Trust Spirit to deal with the injustice of my accident."

2. I AM WORTH IT: I admit that I left worship before it was finished, something I never do. Except this week. I had an engagement with about 40 kids at Washington Park. A newish Quaker from the meeting had e-mailed me a few weeks earlier asking if I'd be interested in assisting. She attached her themes, which touched my heart. After all of the Artsy Fartsy launching, grant writing and continual organizing, assisting seemed just fine. It was a beautiful afternoon. Afterward, Sarah texted me: "... driving home worn out and  happy and covered in glitter, I now understand: you are far more important to me than any materials ..." She was working to fulfill my budget request. I am worth it, she was telling me because that's often not what I tell myself. I AM worth it.

3. MY LIFE IS RICH: I hadn't hosted book club in many months and Monday, it was my turn. Quarter past seven and no one was here, not even my mother. "Are they coming?" my concerned 13-year-old asked. "They will," I responded. Soon, in they streamed, one of the most wonderful groups of women Spirit could assemble (read more about them here http://salonforthesoul.blogspot.com/2013/07/riot-of-rainbow-colors.html ). It was mother's first appearance since her late-October heart surgery, a mighty tough one. And we inquired about Yvonne's dying father. She's traveling this week to visit, probably for the last time. In February, she attended her annual letter-writing retreat on Lake Erie. I asked about that. "You know, it was really different because I wanted to write my father a letter and I had to do that one first." It took her all day and then some. She was eased by the help of companion writers (they have all gathered annually for 7 years), two of whom are Hospice trained. They encouraged her to write about "The Four Things That Matter Most*:"
• "Please forgive me."
• "I forgive you."
• "Thank you."
• "I love you."
They helped her write a letter that brought her dad to tears for days, according to Yvonne's stepmother. Interesting how Spirit works, we all noted, clearing the way for a deep visit this time now that the forgiveness has given way to love and goodbye.

Of course, this discussion turned to Karen's dad
, who had died just three weeks ago. Yvonne took her hand and, holding back tears, said "I understand" and we all knew that she did. I looked at my mother with a prayer of gratitude that she had survived an almost unsurvivable surgery. Wasn't long 'til we were onto the lucky infant Bev and her husband are fostering. Their daughters are all grown and their house was feeling empty. The extreme preemie requires lots of work and periphenalia. Fortunately, many neighbors have responded, including Carol, one of our longtime club members who has changed housing locations, but not her place in our hearts. Carol had picked up dear Margaret en route. She, in her gentleness, feistiness, deep faith and challenging life has been my longtime role model. Seems several of us will be attending the Easter vigil together – how much richer we all will be for coming together in a formally spiritual venue. And, yes, eventually, we did get to discussing the book. But this microcosm of life seared me with the reminder that I am part of something special. Really special, really rich and of Spirit.

4. PAIN IS A GIFT OF TRANSFORMATION: My spiritual friend Char sent one of her peppy, cheerleading e-mails this week. How does she always know when I am struggling? Apparently, we're celebrating our 10th year of friendship and she wanted to let me know how much growth in developing my gifts and clarity about myself and purpose she has witnessed. "And I know that much of this has come though the unwanted 'gift' of pain." I am beginning to understand how very right she is. She attached a New York Times column "What suffering does" by David Brooks. He says suffering is counter to the cultural goal of happiness. He writes that it drags you deeper into yourself, where you must confront your limitations and the fact you can not control the pain or grief. These comments especially speak to me about the transformation of pain:
The right response to this sort of pain is not pleasure. It’s holiness. I don’t even mean that in a purely religious sense. It means seeing life as a moral drama, placing the hard experiences in a moral context and trying to redeem something bad by turning it into something sacred.
5. I AM NOT BROKEN: I hobbled off to the gym somewhat late, but determined to get in my 88 laps. About #82 as I was slowing my pace,  I looked across the pool and thought I spotted Chris, whom I got to know during 5:45 a.m. water aerobics. Her husband died just as we met, then she moved away to build their dream house as planned. One courageous lady. Wasn't entirely sure squinting through scratchy goggles, so I hollered and she joined me in my lane as we tread the deep. We caught up on each other's families and what was going on in  life. I always seems an even exchange, one with a deeply spiritual bent. We haven't talked in a year, but she made sure to ask how my youngest was doing. She always reminds me that God is present and can mend broken lives ... although she never appeared broken to me, even in the wake of her husband's early and unexpected death. Come to think of it, I don't think she considers me broken, either

6. GOD ANSWERS PRAYER: I visited my family physician yesterday, somewhat fearful he'd force me on former meds that increase my pain and give me a lecture for leaving them behind. Instead, he said let's see what the test results bring. Thanks to Jamie, a yoga friend who has lived with fibromyalgia 30 years, I asked about an old, generic drug that really helps her sleep. "That's a good idea," my doc said. "Not only will it help you sleep, but it will relax your muscles." And that's EXACTLY what it did last night. I can hardly believe it. Yesterday, as I entered my studio, tired and in great pain, I asked God for help ... and it came.

Strewn together, those crumbs suggest that, no matter what, Spirit is at work in our lives transforming us with her complete love.

• What does my current dance of faith look like?
• What crumbs has God sent me?
• Where do I see transformation?
• What gift(s) in my life am I not claiming?
• How us Spirit teaching me to trust?

death and pain,
complicated birth
and lengthy surgery

God is present,
teaching us
to believe, that
prayer is answered,
we are wrapped in love,
rooted to one another
and worthy of every
ounce of that pure 
and precious

nowhere else

*The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living by Ira Byock, M.D.

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