Saturday, December 31, 2011

One more thing... and the thing after that...

One more thing: life is precious. bask in its daily sacredness. celebrate its joys. mourn it sorrows. fight for its continuation. every single day. these last 37 days of the year have been precious to me because i've lived them thoughtfully, honored them deeply, and written something here for each of them. awareness is a gift we give to ourselves and each other.

life is precious. love is even more precious. please be present for your life and for those you love.

me and my beauties on Christmas Day
(if you've never seen the movie, "The Apostle," you should.
robert duvall's character refers to his children as his "beauties" in that movie.) 

The thing after that: thank you for being here with me on this blog this year. thank you for reading my ramblings, for commenting (feel free to comment more), and for encouraging me to keep writing. you mean more to me than you know - whoever you are, wherever you are, however how are.

outside one of the bank buildings here in C-town

happy new year.
be well.
be at peace.

this hangs next the door that connects our kitchen to the garage

One question I am pondering today...

From: Susan Piver 
Topic: Spirituality
Question: Where, how, and with whom have my spiritual values manifested in 2011? Where, how, and with whom do I wish to express/manifest/share them in 2012?
The Dalai Lama has famously said, "My religion is simple. My religion is kindness." There are certain qualities that transcend all belief systems and these can be thought of as spiritual values. For me, gentleness (defined as opening to and accepting yourself from moment to moment, feeling what you feel without judgment or agenda), kindness (feeling, knowing, and acting as if all beings are just like me in that they seek love and happiness), and bravery (inviting my fears, confusion, and personal nuttiness as part of the path) are among those values. How about you? How did 2011 meet or defeat your spiritual journey? Where do you long to go in 2012? Use today's question to lead you further along the path.

These photos are the answer to this question for me, two questions actually... 
and I hope and pray that 2012 brings many more such moments, travels, and questions to ponder.
Happy new year!!!

PS. Please go to the link provided here and at the start of this post 
to check out Patti Digh's many great questions in this final week of the year. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Too much...

Too much sorrow, too much war, too much pain, abuse, greed, famine, drought, neglect, violence, fear, shame, insult, criticism, complaining, illness, death, homelessness, and too much destruction.

Too much color, too much beauty, too much resilience, grace, mercy, forgiveness, joy, laughter, art, friendship, connection, silence, peace, music, and too many heart-filling conversations.

Too many photos taken, too many emails, too many texts, too many late night phone calls, too many facebook comments, and too many blogs to read and write.

Too much torture, too much denial, anger, divorce, foreclosure, despair, depression, loss, debt, bitterness, unemployment, empty politicking, cancer, heart disease, and too much resentment.

Too much laughter, too much patience, too much trust, sunshine, warmth, journaling, prayer, reading, painting, travel, supermarket shopping, cookie baking, soup making, and too much movie watching.

Too many graduations, too many parties, too many long walks, too many cardio funk and zumba classes, too many visits to Good Will and Cheap Joe's, too much yoga, too much weight-lifting, too many sugar binges, too many days without sugar, too many breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and coffee dates.

There was simply too much to list,
too much to smile about,
too many tears to shed,
too many stories to tell,
too many mistakes to correct,
too many hugs to share,
too much love to lavish,
too many moments to cherish this year -

too much to write about here,
too much to write about in my journal,
too much to give thanks for.

Still, I've tried.
Still, I'm amazed.
Still, I am deeply grateful.

Too much.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Three prayers I come back to often...

* Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

* We Your servants give you humble thanks, Almighty God,
for all your gifts and graces to us this day;
For the splendor of the whole creation and beauty of this world;
for the wonder of life and the mystery of love;
for the blessings of family and friends,
and the loving care that surrounds us on every side.

And for this day's work, for the things that demanded our best,
for the things that delighted us,
and for the disappointments and failures that lead us to depend on you truly -
we thank you, O Lord.

Stay with us, we pray,
for evening is at hand and the day is done.
Be our light in the darkness and in your great mercy,
defend us from all perils and dangers of this night,
Hear us, O Lord.

(Taken from "Evening Prayer," compiled by Robert Benson in
Daily Prayer: A Little Book for Saying the Daily Office)

* Tomad, Señor, y recibid, toda mi libertad, mi memoria,
mi entendimiento y toda mi voluntad,
todo mi haber y mi poseer.
Vos me lo disteis; a vos, Señor, lo torno.

Todo es Vuestro.
Disponed a toda vuestra voluntad.

Dadme vuestro amor y gracia
que esta me basta.

San Ignacio de Loyola.

(I pray this prayer in Spanish, but for my non-Spanish-speaking readers,
here it is in English -
Take, Lord, and receive all my freedom, my memory,
my understanding and all my will,
all that I have and possess.
You have given all to me.
To you, I return it.

Everything is yours.
Dispose of it entirely according to your will.

Give me your love and grace -
that is sufficient for me.

St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Four special moments from the first half of 2011

An organ concert with Gibbs at the Duke University Chapel on January 30th.

Lunch with Leticia at Le Pain Quotidien, Madrid, Spain, on February 18th.

Two fearless turtles and an alligator in the pond at 
The Shipyard Plantation, Hilton Head, SC, on May 3rd.

Photo/memory album created for Kristiana's graduation from homeschooling,
presented to her on June 17th.

Are there any moments that are more special than those spent with family and loved ones,
listening to music, eating a delicious meal,
enjoying the wonders of nature and 
celebrating achievement, courage, and persistence?
I don't believe there are.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Five Wonder-filled Moments Today...

1. I woke up in my right mind. I stayed in bed, comfy and cozy until nearly 9 am. I had dreamt that heavy rain had broken our house off its foundation.  The kids and I floated down our street on the second floor balcony of our home (we don't have any balconies on our second floor), pointing out our neighbors' houses as we floated past (ours is one of the last houses on the street). In the dream, I wondered how long it would be before the electricity would be restored because I didn't want all the food in the freezer to go bad.

Having dreamt all that, I was grateful to awaken to a house that was intact and still planted firmly in the earth with a refrigerator and freezer connected to a steady stream of electricity. It was raining hard when I woke up - which is probably what prompted the dream.  Oh, the wonder and joy of feeling safe at home.

I love, love, love my bedroom.

2. Kristiana and I went to the library together. We waited (impatiently) for a car to back out of a space so that we could pull in. Turns out the driver of that car was one of our favorite fitness instructors, Andre Hairston. By the time we got out of the minivan and made our way across the driveway of the library, he had driven around the other side of the parking lot and was driving past us. He stopped, we chatted briefly, and wished one another a belated Merry Christmas. I can't wait to do some Cardio Funk with him on Saturday morning.

3. Once in the library, I pulled a book on acrylic painting off the shelf, flipped through it, and found a $1 bill along with a card that said: "Random Act of Kindness. Please enjoy." I used it to pay my library fine for overdue books - which was exactly $1. In addition to that, we ran into the director of music at a church we used to attend. It was great to see him. He had quite the pile of books - I bet he has a nice break coming after all the work he undoubtedly had to do to prepare for all the Christmas events at church.

4. Kristiana and I went to the movies, but not together. She saw, "My Week with Marilyn." I saw, "The Way" for the second time. Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez on El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, from France to Santiago de Compostela, one of my favorite cities in Spain. Being on the way. Alone and with loved ones. A journey towards a city and towards oneself. Recognizing that I also am on The Way. Never alone. Always accompanied. Broken, lost, fearful, joyful, adventurous, excited, and always walking.

5. Sitting in my bed right now, computer in my lap, dog by my side, after another day of post-Christmas shopping, journaling, learning about watercolor and acrylic painting, reading, spending time wandering around Charlotte with my daughter (Steve and Daniel are away at a tennis tournament, surprise, surprise!), planning for a day of delight at the lake with one of my very best friends in the whole world tomorrow (Gibbs, you ROCK!!!), I am filled with joy, gratitude, peace, and wonder. Indeed.

What special things are you doing to commemorate these final days of the year?
Have you looked back at 2011, reflecting on the most uplifting and most challenging times of the year?
What were the best books you read and movies you saw in 2011?
What were some of the most memorable times you spent with friends and loved ones?
What have you lost this year? What have you found?
Who do you love as this year comes to a close?
To whom have you had to say good-bye?
What do you hope to leave behind as 2011 ends?
What do you hope to embrace in the new year?

What will be your "word of the year" for 2012? 
What are your dreams and goals, hopes and desires?
Whose life will you impact next year?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Before and after...

high school senior picture

current "senior" picture 

 my parents in the mid 1950s

my parents in the mid 1990s
(I sure do miss my dad!) 

 the Henderson crew in the 1970s
(notice my far off gaze... what/who was I looking for?
I still have that same question for myself today...)

the same motley crew in 1997 
(other than standing beside my father's deathbed 
at King's County Hospital in March of 2001,
this was our last time together as an entire family.)

Christmas photo in 2001 or 2002
(how bad is it that I don't know which year it was?) 

Christmas 2011

What fun the kids and I had last night, looking at old photos at my Mom's place.
We have sure come a long way. 

Please pardon the glare and fuzziness of these photos of other photos - taken with my cell phone.

PS. Only five days left in 2011. 
So much to look back on. 
So much to look forward to.
So very much for which to give thanks. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

So, this is Christmas...

Gifts opened. Oohs and aahs expressed.
Brunch eaten. Dinner eaten. Dishes washed.
I took blurry photos of our Christmas tree and our family.
We went to see the movie, "New Year's Eve."
Absolutely none of it was perfect.

Last night, the pastor said that if Christmas Eve or Christmas day were ever perfect, then it would be phony. After all, on that holy night long ago, the Savior was born in the backyard, wrapped in torn cloths, and placed in a feeding trough because there was no cradle in the stable. Nothing perfect about that.

The pastor told stories of cracked and broken people and how those stories are the true stories of Christmas. Stories of mental illness, suicide, and two pastors falling during the candle lighting during a Christmas Eve service many years ago. One fell while coming down the stairs with the candle in her hand, and the other tripped over the first pew in the darkness before the congregation's candles were lit. That was in the same service - two pastors fell. Nothing perfect about that.

Those are the imperfect stories of imperfect people, the very imperfect people that were the reason that precious baby stretched his scrawny arms for the first time in the stable in a backyard more than 2000 years ago, stretched his arms out and died on the cross thirty-three years later, and now stretches his arms - through our outstretched arms - and embraces the world to this very day, offering food, water, medical assistance, crisis management help, mercy, love, forgiveness, restoration, reconciliation, and grace to us and through us.

Today I found out that my Spanish mother is in the hospital.
The sound system in the house is not working at the moment.
One bulb in a security light outside the house is burned out.
Most of my Christmas texts and emails have gone unanswered.
I tried to reach my favorite priest for a Christmas blessing, but he didn't answer his cell phone.

It has been a perfectly imperfect Christmas Day.
Awe and gratitude are still very much in effect.

So, this is Christmas?
Yes, this is Christmas.

Joy to the world -
the Lord is come!

PS. Here is another GEM of a piece about Mary, the Mother of our Lord. Among other things, the author wonders: is it possible that several other young women said "no, thanks" to the angel before Mary said "yes"? Now that is a question that has never, ever occurred to me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oh, holy night.

This morning, I listened to the prayer for Christmas offered at this wonderful website. If you are a Spanish speaker, please check it out. Listen to the prayers. Be swept into the gentle quietness of preparation for this most holy night and then return daily for music, prayer, and Scripture to "pray as you go." For those of you who do not speak or understand Spanish, I offer this crude translation of part of this morning's prayer, which is truly an invitation into Christmas itself.

"It is time to remember with gratitude a story that is both ancient and new, a story that evokes another time, another place, and another era - but that also speaks of today, of here, and of now. 

I invite you to contemplate, to come near, as if you were present at that birth, to the story of an eternal God who made himself a fragile baby, to the surprise of The Almighty who made himself weak, to the grandness and graciousness of Love made flesh, and to the truth of a God who is now a human word - a word of affection, of mercy, of love, a word that today is spoken to me. 

I invite you to sing with me, with the Shepherds of yesterday, and the men and women who today continue to seek Him, with all those who live on the margins in this world, those who have no lodging, nor many certainties, but who rest in God. 

I invite you to sing and be excited about God.

I sing peace for those who have fallen mute because they feel the lateness and absence of peace, those who suffer having lost patience, and those who are silent because hope has been taken captive.

I ask for peace for the many who cannot obtain it because there is no food for their table, because their bodies have forgotten what hugs are, because silence has taken up residence in their homes. 

I speak peace, announce, and sing the baby, the Word, the Flesh, and the Eternal God - who sets fire to the darkness with tenderness, who gives light and shelter in deep winter. 

I speak of peace, sing songs of Christmas, and tell of the mystery that converts a night into a Holy Night. 

I pray for peace. I look at the world and promise to sing peace for those who do not." 

Isaiah 9:6 - For unto us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Matthew 1:22-23 - All this took place to fulfill what the Lord
had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child
and will give birth to a son, and they will call him
Immanuel - which means, "God with us."

I wish you deep peace on this holy night
and a most merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Long Journey

from here,

to here,




and eventually out through the dark tomb into the light...

the celebration of the first day of the long, life journey of our Lord Jesus is in two days.

Sweet Mother Mary was in the final days of her pregnancy.
God swimming around in her womb.
Head down, ready to be born.
From eternity into time - while retaining eternity.
From omnipotence into infancy - while retaining omnipotence.
From glory to humanity - while retaining glory.
From love to deeper love.

The mystery of it is beyond explanation.
And yet, we celebrate it. We sing about it. We rejoice over it. We bask in it.
We give our lives, our hearts, our whole selves to that mystery.
We give thanks.

Come, Lord Jesus.
Be born in us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If only we knew...

There have been many years of my life and many situations in my life in which I didn't realize I was a slave and that freedom was an option for me. There have also been times in which I was addicted to something or someone, when I was voluntarily imprisoned by some vice or belief system - and even though I knew freedom was an option, I chose enslavement over liberty.

I am glad and grateful that my eyes, ears, and heart are being opened more and more so that I can see the chains, remove them, and step out into my best life.

Reminds me of that famous quote by Nova Knutson: "Hint: the cage is not locked."

like peace,
like joy,
like contentment,
like forgiveness,
is both a gift and a choice.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I almost didn't write it...

Yesterday as I poured out my angst, my sadness, my frustration, my wishing for a different life into the blog post, I almost deleted it. I almost changed it into another list of things I was grateful for and ways in which Sweet Mother Mary sets the example of true servanthood and helps me take my mind off of myself when I'm having One of Those Days.

I almost sugar-coated my lonely anger.

I almost denied my bone-weariness.

I almost substituted holiness for honesty.

I thought about some of  the people who (I think might) read the blog and thought, "What will she think when she reads that I'm not always thrilled to be homescholing?" "What will he think when he discovers that I'm not always glad to be married?" "Won't her feelings be hurt when she finds out that parenting isn't always a joy-a-minute?"

I almost didn't tell the truth. (It wasn't the whole truth, but who ever tells the whole truth in their blogs???)

The truth is that I'm not always excited about doing laundry, cooking, dusting, sweeping, driving my kids from place to place, and figuring out which books my son needs to read before he graduates from our homeschool.

I'm not always thrilled to be cleaning up messes I didn't make, turning off lights I didn't turn on, and tossing things into the garbage or recycling bins - things that get left on the counter even though everyone who lives in this house knows where those things belong when they are empty.

I'm not always excited about looking at stuff on the internet that somebody wants me to buy or hearing stories about television shows I don't follow.

Changing sheets and towels, taking out the garbage, taking the car for its oil changes, cleaning mirrors, scrubbing tubs, vacuuming, walking the dog... the list of things that don't excite me is long.

I almost didn't write the blog yesterday. But those days of frustration and self-pity, the demands and annoyances of daily living, the longing to escape for a few days, those are as much a part of my life as the gratitude, the prayer, the faith, the friendship, the poetry, the painting, the journaling, the good books, the long phone calls, the engaging email exchanges, and the mugs of tea and coffee in the morning.

In fact, days like yesterday, the sad days, the seemingly meaningless, most mundane of days, make the mugs of coffee, the early morning quietness in front of the Christmas tree, the chime of my blackberry when a text message arrives, the perfect turn of phrase in a book of the prayer, the smiling face of a friend entering the coffee shop, and the long, wrist-wringing therapy sessions with my journal so much sweeter.

I almost didn't write it, but I had to. It was the only thing I could say about yesterday. And, just as I'd hoped and prayed, I feel better today. I think I'm gonna go make myself a cup of tea and sit in front of the tree for a while - before the kids wake up and ask if they can show me something on the computer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today is so NOT "thankful Thursday"

Today is testy Tuesday, teed-off Tuesday, tucking-my-passport-into-my-purse-Tuesday so I can tiptoe out of here and find a flight to anywhere but here.

It's one of those days when everything and everyone around me makes me wish I had nothing and no one around me.

One of those days when I want to scream obscenities, kick a hole in a wall, and throw rocks at large plate glass windows.

One of those days when marriage, parenting, housekeeping, homeschooling - nearly everything I've dedicated the last twenty years of my life to - seem like nothing but wasted time, money, and energy.  One of those days when it feels like these past two decades was time poorly invested.

One of those days when I want to eat white cheddar popcorn and homemade chocolate chip cookies, drink gin and tonics, and watch a marathon of Law and Order: Criminal Intent with Vincent Donofrio, followed by The Real Housewives of Atlanta, especially the episodes when they are arguing with each other about who has the most money and who is the least classy, a dessert cook-off onTop Chef, and then check out the new show, "Who the (bleep) did I marry?" 

{Did you know there is a show on television with that title? There is. I know quite a few folks who are asking themselves that very question these days; to each of you, I offer no wise answer, but rather my deepest love and support as you figure out if there is a reasonable answer to that question.} 

One of those days when I don't want to be grateful, kind, patient, loving, cheerful, Godly, forgiving, or attentive to anyone but the bartender mixing the aforementioned gin and tonics.

Today is so NOT "thankful Thursday."
Today is toxic Tuesday.

The best thing about today is the fact that it will end in less than nine hours. Then I get a new day, a chance to get back into the Christmas spirit, rediscover peace, and recapture my deepest sense of self, of meaning, of faith, and of joy on a wonder-filled Wednesday.

The second best thing about today is that in less than three hours I will be in the company of seven or eight soul-sisters whose mere presence will lift my sagging spirits, whose cooking will make my tummy smile, whose stories will make my heart sing, and whose prayers will make my soul soar.

Photos, from top to bottom.
1- Rome's Fiumicino Airport, January 2008
2. the beautiful children of Nicaragua, August 2008
3. Spain, September 2009
4. An airplane wing, September 2009

All four photos bring back great memories of love, laughter, discovery, and adventure.
I need another deep draught of the intoxicating liquor of travel.
"Calgon - somebody, anybody - take me away."