Friday, September 28, 2012

Ten years ago this week...

I arrived in Charlotte from Connecticut with my mother and my two children after a ridiculously long drive in the minivan.

I was pleasantly surprised by how modern Charlotte was. I'm not sure what I expected, but I certainly didn't expect Dean and DeLuca, The Fresh Market, and so many brand new shopping complexes.

I was shocked to find our new home on the first morning of looking for houses.

During our 21 years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in one apartment and three homes. The apartment was a third floor, one-bedroom walk up provided by The Taft School, the boarding school where I worked for the first two years of our marriage. During the winter of my second year there, I got pregnant with Kristiana. At the end of that academic year, I left paid full-time employment - and have yet to return.

Before we packed our meager belongings at Taft, Steve was already working in Stamford, Connecticut. He began to look at townhomes with a travel agent in that area. During spring break of that year, I joined the two of them on their house hunting journey. Steve told me, "I've found a townhouse that I really like, but I'm not going to tell you which one it is. I want to see if you will feel the same way." Off we went. Up and down staircases. Into and out of developments and parking lots.

In the townhouse on Hope Street, as I walked up the stairs from the first floor to the second, tears filled my eyes and my heart began to beat faster. This was the one. I knew it. I looked at Steve and said, "This is the one, isn't it?" He laughed and nodded. We lived happily in that townhouse for four years, so happily that we made another kid and invited him to join the party on Hope Street. We also attended Hope Church at the time... I can't believe I am making that connection for the first time now as I write this.

Before Daniel's first birthday, Steve and I started to talk about moving into a home of our own with our own yard and not so close to such a busy street. Once again, Steve started the house search on his own. This time, he began looking at houses online and then going out with an agent to see the ones he liked best. The same thing happened - one morning, we looked at a few houses together with the real estate agent and within moments of entering the white raised ranch at the corner of Grey Hollow Road and North Seir Hill Road in the area of Norwalk known as Silvermine, I knew, I knew, I knew.

Five years later, Steve accepted a job with a bank here in Charlotte and began his tenure in September, 2002. On Wednesday morning ten years ago this week, when I went out looking for houses alone with the real estate agent here in Charlotte, Steve hadn't yet found a house that he thought would be our next home. We had talked about buying a McMansion. We knew we could afford one because the housing market is far less expensive down here than it was in Connecticut. So the agent took me to a few - soaring entry ways, double staircases from the front foyer, sprawling homes with large kitchens, high ceilings, and master bedroom suites with marble bathtubs. I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be. Not even close.

By the time we met Steve for lunch at McAlister's, and the three of us looked at houses together in the afternoon, I had found The One. It was my turn to tell him that I'd found a house that I loved and I wanted him to see if he could figure out which one it was. For the third time, we both knew which house the other had chosen for our family.

After we moved in and while I was still going through boxes, I discovered a dream journal I had put together a year or so earlier. I didn't have any idea that we'd be moving, but I had a lot of fun tearing pages out of magazines and fantasizing about the ideal house, the house I would build if I ever had that opportunity. In that black and white composition notebook, I'd been tucking and pasting photos, lists, ideas, and hopes for "my dream house." One of those lists was of 20 things I had to have in my dream house. Upon rediscovering that journal here in Charlotte and reading that list, I laughed out loud and then cried, of course, when I realized that this house has 17 of those 20 things.

Ten years later, I still love this house.


All of these home-finding and homecoming tales bring me back to my church journey... 

Ten years ago this week, on the last Sunday in September, I didn't expect to find a church with black pastors, white pastors, and even a Brazilian pastor working harmoniously together. I didn't expect to find a church with English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and Korean-speaking congregations meeting in the same building at the same time. I didn't know that such churches existed. 

As the multiracial choir stood to sing, as the black music minister led us in singing, as the white pastor preached, my tense shoulders relaxed, my pulse slowed, and I knew, I knew, I knew - I was at home. I didn't know it was possible to love a church as much as I loved our new church. 

It pained me to get back into the minivan after the service and begin the long drive back to Connecticut. But I had a house to pack up, good-byes to say, a daughter's ninth birthday to celebrate, and our last Halloween in Connecticut to celebrate. 

On Friday, November 1st, 2002, we began the drive from Norwalk, Connecticut, to Charlotte, North Carolina. On Saturday, November 2nd, after spending the night at a hotel someplace in Virginia, we stopped in High Point, NC, to order furniture for our new home and then spent the night on blow up mattresses in our mostly empty, deeply loved new abode. On Sunday, November 3rd, we returned to Calvary Church, Charlotte's famous "big pink church," also known as "The Mary Kay Cathedral," and attended membership class. We were here and ready to get involved.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Enough already

I read every day.
I journal every day.
I clean something in my house every day.
I talk to my children and my husband every day.
I watch ESPN with my son every day.
I walk and talk, laugh and share political conversation with my daughter every day.
I drive somebody someplace every day.
I exercise nearly every day.
I call someone, text someone, write to someone nearly every day.

And there's a whole lot more I do every day or nearly every day.

I don't write this list to boast.
That's not the point.
The point is that I do a lot of things every day... and yet it never feels like enough.

Here's what happens in my head.

"I know I journal every day. I give thanks for things every day. I laugh at squirrels and my dog and my kids and my nutty husband every single day. But do I journal enough? And when I journal, am I pouring out my soul deeply enough? Am I grateful enough? Do I love my kids enough? Is my house clean enough? Do I pray enough?"

It's an endless litany of self-criticism and angst-building that sometimes erodes the deep joy that I do experience in my life.

(Here it goes again: Am I joyful enough? Do I notice my life enough? Am I soulful enough?)

I read other people's blogs. I read their stories about their faith journey, their parenting journey, and I marvel at how they can work outside the home, raise amazing kids, cook gourmet meals, have a fantastic and ongoing love affair with their handsome and fit husbands after 18 years of blissful marriage.

Even in real life, not in the virtual world, I listen to my friends talk about their homes, their cars, their children's academic and athletic accomplishments, their new purchases, their fitness and weight loss goals being reached, and their vibrant social lives.

I drool. I'm jealous. And I wonder - am I doing enough to measure up to what they're doing?

Am I as deep as she is?
Am I as truthful as he is?
Do I travel as much as he does?
Are we as loving as they are?
Is our family as united and happy as hers?

Am I funny enough?
Am I spiritual enough?
Do I care enough?
Do I volunteer enough?
Do I teach enough?
Do I pray enough?
Do I blog enough?

It's exhausting.
It's never-ending.
Well, not really.

I'm learning to hear myself when I am beginning to slide down that slope towards "not good enough." I ask myself, "What is enough and who measures it?" "Who is enough and who measures enough-ness anyway?"

When I feel myself pulling out the measuring stick in my heart and mind, I am learning to stop those thoughts, to lay down the weapons of comparison, and let myself rest. I am learning to stop the comparisons. To relax the standards that no one knows about or attempts to live up to but me. In fact, I'm learning to drop my standards, to release them altogether.

I am loved as I am, accepted as I am, welcomed as I am.

Because I am enough already.
You are enough already.
We are all, we are each enough already.
Enough... already.

Now I'd better go downstairs and grab a newly sanitized sponge.
I'm not sure the kitchen is clean enough.
Just kidding...

Saturday, September 22, 2012


* The screen saver on my computer consists of a slide show of photos I have taken and downloaded to my computer over the years. Sometimes I sit and quietly watch that slide show. With each photo, I smile or groan, giggle or shudder when I recall where I was when the photo was taken. Almost without exception, I remember immediately where I was, what I was thinking, and what the circumstances were when the photo was taken.

Without exception, I am awed by the fact that I have been enormously blessed in my life, in my travels, in my home, with family, with friends, with people who are not yet friends, and with great food. Even in the worst of circumstances, hospital visits and funerals (yes, I have been known to snap a few photos in somber clandestinely), I am grateful that I was never the patient in the hospital or the one whose funeral service I attended. My time will come, for sure, but not yet. Not yet.

* Yesterday, I found out that our therapist passed away recently. We've known Jim for more than five years; he is the only therapist my husband and I have ever worked with, individually and as a couple. His wisdom, his humor, and his Irish accent will stay with us for years to come. May he rest in peace, and may his family and friends find peace in remembering him. Also I am grateful to the one who informed me of his passing and sent along her condolences. Peace be with you and those you love, Mary Anna. Thanks again for writing to me.

* I stepped into my garage last night to go out and walk the dog - and what should I be greeted by but a snake??? In my garage!!! Needless to say, I screamed at the top of my lungs and slammed the door shut. Kristiana came running. Maya started barking. Steve and Daniel did nothing - because they are away at a tennis tournament. 

My enormously brave daughter, to whom I daily bow in honor and respect for her courage in so many areas of her life, took the dog for her walk and calmly reentered the house through the garage. I slammed the door behind her (there was a lot of door slamming last night) and put a towel at the bottom of the door to prevent any overnight entrances by that slippery intruder.

I wish that snake peace and rest and traveling mercies. Now, please leave the premises. Please!!!

* Today is my son's 16th birthday. To say that I love that boy is a grievous understatement, but there aren't any stronger words for what I feel for him, at least not in English. Sixteen years ago today, he emerged from my swollen underbelly into a tub of warm water  - it was an unplanned water birth, but he had places to go and people to see so he didn't wait until I got out of the tub. From that first underwater sighting, I have been madly in love with this water baby of mine.

He is off representing the Great State of North Carolina at a regional tennis tournament in another southern state at the moment, too far away for me to hug and kiss him today. But I've got some serious loving waiting for him upon his return tomorrow.

* Today is the last day of summer, the first day of autumn in this part of the world. Time to begin the journey inward, dropping those things that we no longer need to hold onto, to take up habits that will keep us warm and hold us close as we enter the cooler months of the year, the cooler seasons of our lives. Time for reflection on and gratitude for the heat of summer, the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables, and the ease of light and breezy clothing. It's time for hot tea, sweaters, long socks, and scarves. Time for soups, stews, blankets, and more snuggling.

* Today provides us with more opportunities to be aware, grateful, kind, loving, caring, and forgiving - not only to others, but also to ourselves, to myself.

May this day provide you with
untitled, uncategorized, unexpected,
and undeniable blessings and surprises,
reasons for laughter and gratitude,
and deep, deep joy for your journey.

* As that modern-day guru of fitness, Billy Blanks, says, "Every day above ground is a blessed day." So celebrate; you are above ground; you are blessed indeed!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fear Set In

This is part three of a series I'm writing about my history with church, my history at church, and the story I'm still writing about my relationship with church.

Here is Part One, Oh, how I love Jesus.
This is Part Two, What I Remember.


We left Sixth Avenue Baptist Church and soon thereafter began to attend Calvary Church on West 57th Street in Manhattan. Forty five minutes from home by car, Calvary was tucked between a hotel and an expensive apartment building across four lanes of traffic and two lanes of parked cars from Carnegie Hall. I loved wandering around the streets of midtown between the 11am Sunday morning service and the 6pm evening service. We spent all day every Sunday at or near the church. 

Sunday School.
Worship Service.
Walk about.
Evening Service.
The long drive - or subway ride - home.

Truthfully, I loved spending my Sundays that way. Three of my four best church friends were sisters who lived in Greenwich Village. They didn't stay for the Sunday evening service, so my fourth friend, Emilia (I've changed her name), and I would walk them home (from West 57th Street down to West 4th St) and back between the services. A lot of walking. A lot of talking. 

Emilia shared stories with me about her experience of life at Calvary. Her father was an elder at the church, and her mother was also deeply involved in leadership and ministry there. Emilia told stories that opened my eyes about what happened behind the closed doors of the church, behind the pulpit, behind the scenes at that respected and influential church. I spent most of our time together listening to her stories, pulse racing, mouth agape. How could that stuff happen at church? At CHURCH?

Soon after our arrival at Calvary, my parents joined Emilia's parents as prominent leaders in the church. Meetings. Retreats. Dinners. Teaching. More meetings. More retreats. People at our house. My parents at other people's houses. Phone calls. Late night arrivals after late night meetings.

Fear set in. 

What if they disagree with the pastor again? What if we get kicked out again? 
What if I have to abandon my good friends again?
What can I do to ensure that I don't have to go through that pain again?

I know: I'll be a good girl. I'll be the best girl I can be, the best girl the church has ever had. I won't lie or cheat or steal. I won't gossip or bully or tease anyone. I will obey my Sunday School teachers, speak respectfully to the pastors and elders, and I will do the same with my parents. I won't ask them for anything and I won't complain about anything either. I won't ask for prayer at prayer meetings; we didn't need prayer. We prayed for other people. 

If I'm a good girl, a good student, a good person, then nothing will go wrong. 

The only thing that went wrong was that I became addicted to being good, to being complimented, and to having to find new ways to impress people with how good I was and how good I could be. 

I was afraid all the time that the truth would come out. That I would be discovered to be a fraud, a liar, and once again, we would get kicked out of the church. I would embarrass my parents and myself. Somehow I managed to forget that what had happened at Sixth Avenue Baptist wasn't my fault.  I had nothing to do with the decision to leave that church, and my pleas that we be allowed to stay went unheeded. Nonetheless, I thought that this time, if I was good enough, then everything would be okay. 

Fear set in.

There was the persistent fear of telling the truth about what I thought, felt and needed, 
fear of asking questions, 
fear of challenging people in authority over me, 
not only people who truly had earned that authority,
but also people to whom I abdicated authority over me -
these fears and so many others consumed my every thought.
Not only in my church life and my spiritual life,
in my education, in my family relationships,
but also in my thoughts about money, friendship, and love,
I believed that there was never enough of anything,
and that everything could be taken away unexpectedly and without explanation.
Fear most definitely became a factor.

So I determined to live the life of a good girl, a good teenager,
a good young adult, a good wife, a good mother,
a good teacher, a good church member, a good volunteer.
I was terrified all the time, but I was so very good.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What I Remember...

I remember wishing that I could go to church five days a week and go to school for two.

I remember wishing we lived closer to the church so that I could go there anytime, all the time.

I remember looking forward to turning 13, so I could join The Liberators, our church's youth group. They went on retreats. They watched movies. They went to each other's houses. They went on picnics in Prospect Park. They dated each other. They married each other. I remember that I wanted to be a part of that. I remember counting the days until my 13th birthday in anticipation of being a Liberator.

I remember lining up on the sidewalk outside of the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York, waiting for Vacation Bible School begin. Dozens of children, lining up in order of our heights, boys on one side of the entrance, girls on the other. I remember that we marched into the church while singing every verse of "Onward Christian Soldiers," carrying our Bibles. I remember that following the processional hymn, we sang, "The B-I-B-L-E," and then Pastor Thomas would count the Bibles that we eagerly raised above our heads. "The B-i-b-l-e, yes, that's the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-i-b-l-e!"

I remember watching the movie, "A Thief in The Night," every New Year's Eve at the church. I remember that every year I would invite Jesus into my heart again, just in case... I wanted to make sure that God would remember to take me with him when the rapture happened. I didn't want to be "left behind."

I remember donning my swim cap, wading into the waters of the baptismal font, and "being dunked," baptized in the warm water beneath the organ loft.

I remember taking communion for the first time that same night, at the Sunday Evening service.

I remember that I was wearing a long light blue dress that night, and after I sipped the grape juice out of the tiny plastic cup, I flipped the cup over in my hand, and spilled the remaining juice onto the front of my dress. I remember my mother's glare from across the room.

I remember listening to my parents talking late at night about something the pastor had said, something my parents did not agree with.

I remember being confused about what I was hearing, but knowing that something was wrong.

I remember the arrival of several couples, elders, and deacons at our house for a meeting not many days after that.

I remember that we were told to stay in our rooms in the back of the house. Darryl and I disobeyed. We sat in the dark behind the door at the end of the hallway closest to the living room. I still didn't understand everything I was hearing, but I knew that everyone out there was angry. I knew that mean words and accusations were being hurled from one end of the room to the other. I knew that nothing I heard reflected the words of the song we sang so often at the Sunday evening services I loved so much - "Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."

"We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love."

I remember standing up in that darkened hallway and telling my brother that I was going in there. He grabbed at my arm and told me not to go, but it was too late. I pushed my way into the living room and stood there, tears flowing down my cheeks, so broken-hearted that I couldn't speak. I wanted to ask them, Where was the love they sang about? What was happening to my church, to my family, to these people I loved so dearly? Why wouldn't they listen to each other and apologize and forgive each other?

I remember being angrily ushered back to my bedroom.

I remember that, as a result of that meeting, we were kicked out of the church. I was 12 years old.

I remember realizing that I would never get to join The Liberators.

I remember being told not to talk to anyone about what was happening.

I remember the pain of having to leave the community of people I loved most of all - for no comprehensible reason.

I still remember the agony of having to keep it a secret.
What had we done wrong? What had I done wrong?
What was wrong with talking about something that felt so wrong?

I remember that years passed before I realized how deeply I had been wounded by what transpired on that terrible night in our living room during my 12th year of life.

This past August, my daughter and I stayed with friends in Park Slope and decided to go out for an afternoon stroll. We walked past The Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. The doors were open, so we walked inside. Upon entering the sanctuary, I burst into tears.

Thirty-four years later, when I remember that night and the aftermath of being kicked out of the only faith community I'd ever known, I remember the pain of exile, of loneliness, and of rejection. This summer's tearful outburst proved that I have yet to fully recover.

My heart remembers. My soul remembers. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Oh, how I love Jesus...

When I was a girl, I loved Jesus.
As a teenager, I loved Jesus.
As an adult, I still love Jesus.

I have three older brothers. My two oldest brothers took formal piano lessons. My "piano lessons" consisted of one simple moment of instruction: My father took me to the white upright piano in our living room, pointed out middle C, showed me middle C on the treble and bass clefs in the piano book, and left me to figure out the rest on my own. I had to practice the piano for 30 minutes per day. I started out with the Thompson piano books and graduated to the hymnbook. I never moved beyond hymns. On the rare occasions that I sit at our keyboard these days, I still play hymns and sing along at the top of my lungs. My favorite hymns to play are: To God be the Glory, It is Well With My Soul, and O, Come All Ye Faithful.

Another one of my favorite hymns was and has always been, "Oh, how I love Jesus."
Here's the thing - over the past few years, I've realized that as much as I love Jesus,
I fell out of love with church.
With all the rules, the restrictions, the limitations, and the abuse of power.
With the regulations, the expectations, the allegations, and all the complications.

A little over two years ago, I stopped attending the megachurch I had been attending
and serving in to "take the summer off."
Then fall came. Then winter. But I didn't go back.

Feeling guilty for my repeated absences, I visited other churches.
I knew I had to go to church, so I went.
But in every single one, I writhed and moaned, bristled and groaned.

In one church, every Sunday, the pastor - whether it was a man or a woman, on staff at the church or visiting from another church - yelled, screamed, and shouted at the congregation. We visited that church as a family a few times. On the third visit, my son looked at me at one point and said, "Here he goes." And sure enough, the next statement out of the Pastor's mouth was loud enough to wake the dead or at least those who had fallen asleep earlier in the service. The screaming and yelling continued until the end of the sermon.

The music was so loud in another church that I couldn't hear myself think or sing. In that same church, it seemed that all the stories, the jokes, the parts of the sermon that were supposed to help us understand the preacher's points were about sports, war or men. One Sunday, every sermon illustration focused exclusively on men. Except for one - and the woman in that story was dead. It was in her noble, quiet, neat death, of course, that her story became an example worth relating. I didn't even wait until the service was over. I whispered to my daughter that I had to leave and would meet her in the lobby. When she came out, I told her, with tears running down my cheeks, that I couldn't do it anymore. I could not and would not ever attend that church again. I haven't. And I won't.

Following that decision, every time I thought about attending church, I got itchy and nervous. I couldn't come up with anyplace else I wanted to visit. I had to stop. So I did. I stopped going to church altogether - for a while.

A strange thing happened soon thereafter: I fell more deeply in love with Jesus.
My prayer grew deeper. My heart grew bigger. My faith grew wider and stronger.
I wasn't sure why. I'm still not entirely sure why.
But I'm beginning to understand. I'm beginning to see why stepping away from church was the best thing that has happened to my faith in a long time.

It's kind of a long story - one that I am planning to tell here on the blog.
In small pieces.
Trying to protect the innocent.
Oh, wait - none of us is innocent.
We all participated in the drama and in the trauma: pastors, attendees, leaders, and bystanders.

I still love Jesus.
Oh, how I love Jesus.
But church, not nearly as much.

This beautiful, thoughtful, gifted woman, Kathy Escobar, expresses what I have been going through far better than I can. I had the honor of meeting her and hearing her speak this past Tuesday. I look forward to reading her book, Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Evening Blessings

Peace in the longing,
peace in the leaving,
peace in the letting go.
In every step, peace.

May you have food in the bowl, to feed what is basic,
and nourishment in the heart, to feed hungers more wild.
May the God of the feast draw you to a welcome table
where you know communion and delight and rest.

May you have
the vision to recognize
the door that is yours,
courage to open it,
wisdom to walk through.

In the pondering of your past,
in the contemplation of your present,
in the hungers that persist
and in those that fall away:
peace to you, deep peace.

Photos taken at the Jesuit Center between August 21 and 29th, 2012.
Blessings are from In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer 
by Jan L. Richardson.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday, September 11th

It was another gorgeous late summer morning in Norwalk, Connecticut. My children and I had our breakfast and made our way downstairs to our homeschool room. Kristiana was 7, and Daniel was 4. Homeschooling back then consisted mainly of reading books aloud, doing addition and subtraction problems on the white board, a few phrases in Spanish here and there, and lots of arts and crafts activities. Fun was had by all. I adored my children, and they were, of course, the cutest and smartest children in all of Connecticut.

The phone rang.

I told the kids to wait in the homeschool room, that I'd be right back.

It was Diane.

She said, "I know you're homeschooling your kids, but you need to turn on the television."

"Okay." I was annoyed. If you knew I was home schooling... whatever.

I turned on the television just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.

I fell to my knees and burst into wailing sobs.

The children ran out of the homeschool room, threw themselves at me, and asked what was wrong.

I told them that there had been a plane crash.

I wiped my eyes and blew my nose.

I turned off the television.

I said, "We'd better get back to our schoolwork."

My heart was broken wide open. So was our world.

Today, eleven years later, I continue to pray for healing and for peace for my broken heart and the whole, wide, aching, wounded, hungry, grief-stricken world.


On the morning of September 11th, 2001 and for many weeks thereafter, I regularly recalled the many times that people told me I was wasting my time in protecting my children from "the real world" by homeschooling them. If ever there was a time to protect them from the horrors, the evil, the sorrows of "the real world," that was the time to do it.

I waited six months before I told Kristiana that "the plane crash" I had seen on the news that morning had been intentional and that it had taken place in New York City. Years past before Daniel understood the enormity of that moment on that spectacular and horrible morning.

Actually, I'm not sure any of us truly understand the enormity of those horrifying events.

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

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Today I'm grateful for -

- the men who cut the bushes outside our house and clean the gutters

- the truck drivers who bring the food to Trader Joe's, Harris Teeter, Dean and DeLuca, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, The Home Economist and all the other places that provide food and beverages

- the mail woman

- the man who delivers UPS packages in our neighborhood

- the company that takes care of our neighbor's pool, the pool we are free to swim in (thanks, Jen!)

- the perpetually friendly cashiers at Trader Joe's

- my son's tennis coach, even though he can be rather gruff sometimes

- the people who pick up our garbage and recycling

- the people who pick up the yard waste

- gas station attendants

- fruit and vegetable harvesters

- farmers

- the chickens that lay the eggs, the cows that provide the milk, the soy plants that yield their beans for the production of tofu

- bartenders, chefs, and bakers

- restaurant hostesses and servers

- chocolate chip, chocolate syrup, and chocolate candy makers

- the folks who keep DirecTV piped into our house

- the men and women who clean hotel rooms, public restrooms, and office buildings

- police officers, firemen, ambulance attendants, security guards, ticket takers, toll workers, and military personnel

- nurses, doctors, dentists, hygienists, midwives, chiropractors, and their receptionists

- the men, women, and children (gulp) who work too hard so that I can wear the shoes, dresses, skirts, shirts, bras, underwear, flip-flops, jewelry, work out clothes, sneakers, jackets, scarves, boots, coats, hats, gloves, pajamas, and everything else I wear

- the men, women, and children who make the paper, notebooks, journals, markers, pens, glue tape, glue dots, glue sticks, paint brushes, paint, scissors, rulers, pencils, erasers, White-Out, paper clips, hole punches, needles, thread, ribbon, rubber bands, duct tape, packing tape, washi tape, stickers, beads, wire, wire cutters, ear hooks, clasps, and everthing else I use in my many creative endeavors

Today I am grateful for the thousands of people and animals whose hard work makes my (relatively) easy life possible.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Tree Hugging in Pennsylvania

Spoiler alert - I didn't hug any trees. I tried. Several times.
But the parades of ants up and down the trunks were impossible for me to overlook.

So I patted a lot of trees. I laid under a lot of trees. 
I stared at a lot of trees. I introduced myself to a lot of trees.
I poured out my soul to a lot of trees. And the trees spoke back. A lot. 

Some trees told me that staying close, growing up and growing old together
can be a gift for both trees. 
Protection. Companionship. Shade. Strength. Nesting space. Shared and entangled roots.

This tree invited me inside, to come under its drooping branches,
to find shelter from the hot sun under its heavy boughs and leaves.   
Someone had clearly heard this message before me
and brought in a chair to sit a while and be a more avid student.
I've never climbed a tree - ever. But this tree tempted me to try.
I didn't give in to the temptation, but I suspect that if I return to the Jesuit Center,
nay, when I return to the Jesuit Center, I will seriously consider the possibility.

This tree taught me not to compare myself to others.
We each, we all grow at our own rates.
For some, leaves fall early. For others, they fall late.
No two trees are exactly the same. 
Nor are any two people the same,
so I must live out my own story, in my own time, in my own way.

This particular tree, the red one, the dead one, 
taught me to live fully, to live my own twisted, scarred, oddly shaped life all the way to the end.
It taught me to not be ashamed of my scars, my bumps, and my bruises -
each one of them tells a story all its own,
reminds me of the many adventures I have been on,
the fierce storms I have survived,
and the fact that I have lived long enough for those scars to heal.
It taught me to dance my own dance until my final breath.

 Sometimes when wild winds blow and brittle branches fall, 
sometimes those branches need to stay close to the tree.
Past love doesn't disappear from my heart.
Past pain doesn't either.
Past laughter, past sorrow, most of it remains close to the heart and the root of who I am.
Sometimes I need those reminders nearby, lest I forget.

Sometimes the broken branch doesn't even make it to the ground.
Can you see it? 
The dead branch separated from the trunk but was caught on another branch as it fell.
Sometimes a broken relationship, 
such as a separation between a parent and a child,
between two siblings, between two distant spouses, 
cannot be healed, 
but nor can it be completely discarded. 
At least, not yet.
So that branch is held, tenderly, gently, until the right time
when the only just thing, the only kind thing, the only right thing,
is to lay it down and walk away.

This beautiful bush taught me that pruning happens. It hurts. 
Sometimes I feel exposed and raw after the chopping away of that which is no longer needed,
but I have to trust that the outcome is worth the pain.
The way that my mind, my soul, and my life are being shaped 
will someday prove 
that all the snipping, the sawing, the buzzing, and the bleeding 
were necessary in order for me to become the woman I am meant to be.

The trees at The Jesuit Center taught me profound lessons.
I'm glad I was quiet enough to hear them speak and learn from them.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

A Quote I Found While Waiting for My Spiritual Director

Pedro Arrupe (SJ) wrote -

Nothing is more practical than finding God, 
that is, 
falling in love in an absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

what you do with your evenings,

how you spend your weekends,

what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. 

Fall in love.
Stay in love.
And it will decide everything.