Friday, January 30, 2015

A Cinderella story

The faded look in Crystal's eyes, signaling that she was almost invisible, nudged me to offer her mother a ride home. I must confess that when I heard her mother from the back of  the restaurant ask to borrow someone's cell, I ignored it, thinking it was a scam.

When personally solicited, the older woman behind me said she really didn't understand, dismissing, I think, the hispanic accent. It was clear what the woman wanted. I pulled my phone out and walked over. She looked eternally grateful and explained that she had no ride, a dead cell phone and no access to any of the phone numbers of people who could help, except one. She called twice from mine and received no answer.

That's when she deposited the weary, but wise-looking five-year-old with me so she could run next door to the phone store and buy a cord. Though she was quick, I connected with Crystal, showed her pictures of my daughters and learned she had been hospitalized for asthma. She reached for the "Childrens' Hospital" bag stuffed with breathing treatments.

Her mother had no luck finding the right cord, so I asked where she lived. "Mason," came the reply. "I'm heading to Milford," I said, almost dismissing this chance. Almost. I quickly reconsidered and estimated I had at least an hour before I was expected anywhere. "I can take you home," I finally volunteered and was almost met with tears. Almost. Those would come later.

As the woman who would not become involved and another listened, I understood they were ready as well. We learned that the mother and daughter had spent four days in the hospital and been left after the mother and her ex argued.

Crystal was fading fast and needed to be home. So did mom; she'd taken her daughter to a hospital satellite near home, but both were transported via ambulance to Children's because the attack was severe. Neither expected to be gone from home that long. As we prepared to leave, I asked the mother's name. "Cinderella," she whispered. I repeated it, making certain I heard correctly.

Saying the name silently to myself made me smile. I'm taking Cinderelle home. Who will believe it?

When I told my youngest, she responded: "So, what was she wearing?" 14-year-old code meaning "I don't believe you, mother." My 17-year-old said: "Weren't you afraid?" No, I replied, but I don't think I would have offered had you been in the car. I did look in my rearview mirror once to make certain the ex wasn't behind.

During the 15-minute drive, which really was not that much out of my way, I got more of the story. Someone had phoned the father and he turned up at the hospital. Crystal had asked her mother when he would come home. Through beautiful wet eyelashes, Cinderella fell apart. We both knew the father shouldn't come home. But Crystal was too young to understand. Really, what father would leave his ex and daughter as they were just returning from the hospital?

The odd things is, he lives in my suburb and works at one of the local Mexican restaurants. She gave me a pretty good description. "If I ever see him," I told Cinderella, "I will give him a piece of my mind."

Soon we turned into a neat, little trailer park and I pulled up to a neat little lot with a cute, pint-sized home and they got out. The grandmother had been tending the three-year-old. "Thank you," Cinderella said, unloading Crystal, her stuffed animal and bag of treatments. That's all they had with them. 

Thank you, I said to God, for allowing me to help in this small way.

On my way home, my phone hummed with an unrecognizable number. I answered and soon understood from the accent that it was whomever Cinderella had called. He apologized for not answering, but was working construction and this was the first chance he'd had to check his phone. I too easily told him Cinderella and Crystal were safe at home ... as if they belonged to me. He thanked me.

This Cinderella story touched something very deep within me.

• When has an experience grabbed my heart?
• How did I respond?
• How do I know when its a nudging from Spirit?
• When have I resisted?
• Whats it feel like to do something good with no expectation?

This Cinderella,
too, had been
left behind

by someone 
very much less
than Prince

and, instead
of magical
slippers, she
possessed a
magical child,

one in whose
eyes I saw that
of God and

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The giver of music

Just before before jumping into the shower, I set my phone to the Pandora bossa nova station, letting the cool rhythms overtake my psyche and body. I want my life to be a samba, I thought.

With that on my lips, I arrived in worship, a bit late, lingering too long to the slower rhythm of the music. Our minister's message was about how things get in our way, crowding out God.
I grew up with this album, allowing it to transport me somewhere special

I want my life to be a samba, I heard again, then shared in worship.

I want my life to be a samba. Smooth, rich, full of grace and a deep contentment impervious to the giddiness of individual events and momentary accumulation of stuff.

Let me flow and glide by guidance, I silently asked Spirit.

I had spotted a wonderful young neighbor friend in our midst that morning. Seeing her draped in a colorful pashmina, she looked as if she'd always worshipped with us. "I wanted quiet this morning," she confessed. We retreated to fellowship afterward, sharing coffee, snacks and conversation with a table of women. It was easy and full of grace.

I slid on over for my free Starbucks and a few minutes of reading and initiating a marketing plan for my husband. I didn't have to do it now, but I wanted to. So many wonderful ideas floating around, I risked losing them if not captured in the moment. When they were sufficiently lassoed into the Word file, I unplugged my laptop, noticing it was exactly time to leave for my appointment with my spiritual director.

We hadn't met since June and I had felt the need for balanced advice on discerning my current direction in life. At a crossroads with my non-profit work, the need for helping fund my daughters' college, a second job interview and discovering, then applying for a dream job, I sought guidance. My own faith community is too close and tied to my ministry and the new minister in my life has already said he will do whatever it takes to keep encouraging me in my ministry. "You shine here and it's your passion," he has said.

I needed that affirmation and what he says is true. Yet not ALL parts of the ministry are my passion, particularly right now as the building I inhabit is closer to abandonment and demolition and with that, a gloomy shadow, as well as the arduousness of forming a legal non-profit that overwhelms me to the point I have been dragging me feet for months.

So I e-mailed Mary and she said she could see me Sunday afternoon. Perfect timing.

I arrived on the dot of 2:30 and, while she heated water for tea, fingered the wonderful assortment of books on her shelves. Many I have or would want to have. She arrived with steaming cups, we sat and I spilled my heart. My biggest concern is that I follow what God wants for me. Her response, "Well, then, follow the energy. Pay attention to what gives you energy and what robs you." She recommended the Ignatian Examen, also a traditional Quaker practice of reflecting each evening on where God was visible during the day, where there was grace and where there wasn't.

How could she know I was looking for a tool? I hadn't, even. We spoke more and I blurted out things not yet articulated: fears, joys, concerns, dreams, goals, threats. All of it.

She noted my enthusiasm for a job posting. "But I've just applied and don't even have an interview," I protested. She was noticing the energy around the idea of the job. "Pay attention," she prodded.

In 60 minutes, I had poured everything possible out, been heard, affirmed and given an exercise to help me identify the energy.

"I am so very sorry to have bothered you on a Sunday," I said on the way out her door. "Absolutely now worries," she gently commanded, "Sunday is MY work day."

We agreed to touch base in a month and I was deliciously grateful for the sound advice and the (re) discovery of a tool to help me decipher where the energy is in my life.

I ambled home to a family re-assembling from multiple destinations. I received a glimpse of gratitude, recognizing there won't be too many more re-gathering Sundays as my high schoolers begin to make their own paths and ways in life. Today had been seamless and smooth. All part of the samba.

Sunday is my husband's dinner duty, so I had time to reflect on my spiritual-direction session and begin this blog. After dinner, I sank into a warm couch with my oldest for an episode of Downton Abbey, then tiptoed off to bed and a rare, sound sleep dreaming of the Girl from Ipanema and ...

"When she walks, she's like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gently"

• When is my life like a samba?
• What makes it so?
• What is my desired rhythm?
• How is it also Spirit's rhythm?
• Where do I see the grace and energy in my life?

music is
the tonic
of change

its rhythm
draws in
the soul, 

whatever is

lifts spirits
into the

where the
giver of music

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