Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Mystic Mom has Moved!


Yep.  As if I haven't moved enough already in real life, I recently moved The Mystic Mom blog to a new address.  I think the address is easier for all to remember, but the journey and the stories continue on there!

You can follow me at the new address:  www.themysticmom.com

Hope to see you soon!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thought for the Weekend



Well,  after my 10,000 typos yesterday, I hope to do better today!  (And I hope I was able to find and correct most of them before you had a chance to read it!  Trust me...it was bad!  That's what I get for posting right as the kids are asking, "What's for supper?")

Anyhoo, I couldn't find a way to fit this in yesterday, but Richard Rohr had some words in his meditation from Easter Sunday that I've been pondering ever since I read them.  I hope you enjoy them too:

The cross is the standing statement of what we do to one another and to ourselves.
The resurrection is the standing statement of what God does to us in return.
-Richard Rohr, Easter 2012

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

'Tis the Season




Happy Easter! 

I hope and pray you are doing well and that you didn't think I forgot about you! 

You see, while I began this blog with a clear-cut idea of how often I would write, I have found that, like so many things in life, trying to juggle my intentions with the realities of my daily life isn't always easy.  As a result, this fun little bloggy adventure doesn't always get posted as often as I'd intended.  But because of things I've learned through writing it,  I have to remind myself that that's OK. 

At any rate, I'm back now.

And I'm ready to talk about Easter. 

One of the things I love about living a life of spiritual awareness (or trying to be aware!), is that we are very often called to be counter-cultural on many things.   And for Christians, Easter and Christmas are, I think, two of the best times of the year we can "go against the grain" so to speak.

How? 

Well, for instance, by saying things like "Happy Easter" on the Thursday after Easter Sunday when in many people's minds Easter is already over.  The stores have ripped all the little bunnies and chicks off the shelves and are either reducing their prices dramatically or packing them away for next year.  "On to other things!" they seem to be ordering us.  But not on the church calendar!  Easter is a season that lasts for 50 days!  Did you realize that's 10 days LONGER than Lent?  There's still plenty of time to send out cards!

Isn't that amazing??

So, if you are feeling joyful this season, by all means continue!  Despite what most of the world is trying to tell you, Easter is NOT over!

But...what if you're not feeling Easter Joy right now? 

Well, as you may have already guessed, that's OK, too.  Perhaps you just need a little nudge to look at this season another way.   And guess what?   I have a little story that's stuck with me this season that may help.  So even if you don't feel like an Easter celebration right now, maybe if I share with you how I see it, it will help you see it, too.

This is actually a story I heard second hand, (which just goes to show you how stories of significance can live on through the ages).  It was told to me last year by a woman that was remembering her favorite homily told by a great storyteller and friend of mine,  who was the priest at my former parish. This woman remembered the homily from one of the first weeks when this priest was newly assigned to the parish years before I'd gotten there, but I'm so glad she shared it because it has remained with me every day of this Easter Season.

The story is simple and goes like this:

What was the first thing that Jesus said when he came out of the tomb?


(Ugh.  Easy to beat yourself up here for not having Scripture memorized isn't it?  But then you don't know this priest.  He rarely quotes Scripture chapter and verse.  Instead he always has a punch line). 

So in his version of the story, the first thing Jesus said was this:

Ta-Da!


Of course it's a joke.  It doesn't exactly go along with Jesus' more humble existence, does it?  But I'll tell you what: it sure helps me see those everyday miracles that I'd likely often overlook were it not for our celebration of this most important of seasons.

Because Easter is always about the resurrection.  And not just in Jesus' life, but in our own. We were meant to live the resurrection, too!  

And not just at the time of our death, but now. 

Today. 

Always.

Christians understand the only way to get to the resurrection is through the Cross.  But sometimes I can get too hung up on the Cross itself (pardon the bad pun there, but it's so true!)  Words like "Pascal Mystery" and "The Way of the Cross" sometimes sound just a little too heavy and finite.  They can, in fact, sometimes get me so caught up in the suffering of it all that I forget that there is an end to the suffering! (Of course, I have to be willing to give up the suffering, too!)  While those bigger, mysterious words are certainly valid and true, sometimes I need a little less food for the journey, if you will.  Something simple to chew on...not a full steak platter!   So I look for simpler understandings.  I like the way the 12th Century Indian mystic and poet Akka Mahadevi says it,


"The only way out is through."


And despite the fact that she and I may understand God differently, I *know* what she says is true.  In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think she was talking about the Cross.  Because that's really the mystery of life, isn't it?  How to let pain and suffering be transformed into something better.

During Easter, though, I find it so much easier to let the pain and suffering go... at least long enough to consider that there may be something better on the other side of it all!  And the Easter season (by no accident I'm sure), rests squarely in the midst of Spring, which means the Mystery is right in front of us! God in His patient, quiet way is saying that New Life is always here with us, by surrounding us with nature's silently scream,

"Look around!  New Life is here!"



I see it in the new blooms on my daylillies. (Ta-da!)

In the grass as its beginning to grow, (and already needs mowing). (Ta-da!)

In the cows I see on the hillside licking and cleaning their new calves. (Ta-da!)

In the sun that says not only "Good morning!" but also, "Good night!" as it drifts over the horizon only an hour or two now before I fall asleep. (Ta-da!)

As the birds are slowly arriving chirping, quacking and honking their way across the sky.  (Ta-da!)

Of course, we have to open our eyes to see it, and we have to listen to hear it.   

But it is there.

And once we notice, it can be so comforting!  Because all of nature makes it look so easy.  Things die, transplant, or silently grow offspring in one season only to burst forth with New Life in the next.  They do not resist.  Instead, they seem to be enjoying it!

I can't help but think what my daylillies would look like if they were having panic attacks in the Fall anxious and worried about their imminent death.   Instead, as they brown and wilt and wither they seem to be saying, "Surrender! Don't fight it!  Fear not! We'll be back!" 

And I know they will.

So I've spent years now trying to do the same.  Trusting Someone I cannot see.  Believing in Something I cannot prove.  Hoping in Something bigger than I can imagine.

For Christians it starts at the Cross, of course.  It is there that we witness surrender, trust, belief, hope and love in a strange puzzle--a mystery-- of our faith. 

So I try to make the pieces of my life fit, because  my mind wants to understand what my heart already knows. (So much for the mystery, I guess!)

Still, on some level I think we all have a desire to understand, so let me share with you how in my own personal story I see it.  It goes something like this:

There have been parts of  my life (some dreams, some hopes, some wishes) that I'd envisioned long ago and I was so sure of when they came into my life, I nearly take them for granted.  They appeared the same way they'd been scripted in my own mind so that when they happened I just went, "Well, of course! I wouldn't have had it any other way!"  Things like the fact that the man I married at the carefree age of 22 is still the one person who can make me laugh loud and deep from my belly without even trying.  The fact that we went on to have three healthy children: two boys and a girl who are growing into almost exactly the people I'd thought they would be and more.  The fact that the dog I'd always longed for as a child has finally found his way into my home and heart with a devotion and loyalty to me that humbles me every day.  The fact that I had ambitions to share my journey on a whim through this blog and every few days someone reaches out and says a few words of encouragement or gratitude for something *I* said that touched their heart, or made a difference in their lives somehow.  


Of course there are also wishes, hopes and dreams in my life that I have had to let die.  Sometimes it has been easy, as I've simply lived long enough to outgrow them.  For example, I no longer wish to own a Jeep, or sleep in a four poster bed.  

But other parts have been more difficult to let die.  For example, I still wonder at times if it wouldn't have been better for our family if we'd simply stayed put rather than moving around the country every few years.  But even as I write that I know it's not true.   Would staying in one place have been easier?  I'm fairly certain it would have been.  But better?  That seems far less likely.  We've met too many wonderful people, made too many wonderful friends, and seen too many amazing sites that simply would not have happened without all those moves.  That's not to say that staying in one spot is bad or lacking in growth.  It's just to say, as my dear friend B says about being transplanted,


"We have two choices:  grow deep or grow wide."


Now, if I were living my life out exactly as I'd intended, I would have surely grown deep in one spot. But for me, God had something else in mind.  (Of course, I cannot escape the irony that I would never have met B if both she and I had not been such willing spirits to uproot our lives and relocate!)   She and I both confess that the difficulty is that even as we are uprooted and relocated, we continue to choose to grow deep.  Which is why it hurts so much when we're uprooted! It's also why relocating for me has certainly been a choice that I have done willingly but with great reluctance.  Maybe that sounds like a contradiction, but it is the way I feel every time.  It's how I've  been able to grow in ways I'd never imagined. 

But I think a case could be made for the fact that I've grown wide, too.  (And not just in my waistline!)  Knowing that I have friends spread around the country and homes that I've nurtured there means, I think, that part of me--part of us--remains there.  And certainly part of those people and places remains in us.  Or, as a card my mother-in-law gave us last year so beautifully states,

"Everywhere you go becomes a part of you somehow."


So true.

In reply for all our "uprooting" though, God has taught me over and over and over again that faith pays off!  As my good friend/mentor/soul sister L (another one I wouldn't have met were it not for my willingness to move) taught me in the framed quote she gave me years ago that still sits on my bedside table,

"When you come to the edge of all the light you have known and are about to step out into the darkness, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen:  there will be something to stand on,
or you will be taught how to fly."

So, during this Easter season,  I look at those dreams of my earlier years and I think about how some things I'd dreamed of happened when I wasn't even looking, almost none of them happened on the timeline I had planned, nearly all of them happened in ways (some bigger, some smaller) other than I'd intended, and, of course, some have yet to happen (and so my journey continues there:  waiting, trusting, hoping...).

But all the things that happen in my life and how I respond to them are, in my simple mind, how I understand what it means to "die and rise,"  how I live the Pascal Mystery,  how I "work things out"...by going "through."  


And my lack of control over when, how, or if they happen is how I understand what it means to suffer.  

 
I pray you see the same is true of your life, though your Cross will likely bear different things.

I hope that over the next few days or weeks you take some time to look for those moments of your life when God came to you disguised as Opportunity and Choice and Decision and you followed Him. Even (or perhaps, especially) if it meant you had to suffer or let part of yourself die in the process.   

I also hope you take a little bit of time to see how that process eventually popped you out of a Tomb of Doubt or Confusion or Frustration that you and those around you believed would have you buried forever, only to emerge,

 still alive,

 but newly transformed.

Just like on Easter morning.

Ta-da!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Upside Down


Holy Thursday is traditionally a time when many Christians remember the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.

It is said that this act turned the world "upside down" for his closest followers, the apostles (especially Peter who at first turns Jesus down), who probably felt it quite awkward, and maybe just flat-out wrong, to have their Master Teacher serving them. 

But I hold on to this thought in another way that may also be "upside down" 

I think of this washing-- this gesture of service --every time I hear St. Paul's letter to the Philippians.  I think that perhaps in this very kingly, royal description of Jesus, we sometimes miss the most critical part as Christians:


"...that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bend"

My knee.

And yours.

For others.

It may be upside down thinking.   But I like it. 

And if we do this?

Well, then. 

It seems as though it would put us a bit closer to being the very Body of Christ that we so proudly proclaim.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Way




We are in the midst of the holiest week in the Christian year, and I wish I could report  how transformed I feel after such an amazing journey and  how much I've learned and how now I am closer to God than ever before. 

And in a way, that's all true.

But in this moment right now?   I just feel...tired.  And maybe a little disappointed.

So never being one to let a freshly crusted scab just heal, I picked away at this disappointment a bit as I walked my dog this gloriously beautiful morning. I was trying to get to the bottom of why --on such a special week, after weeks of soul searching and opening my mind and celebrating the Spirit within me-- I am Just. Not. Feeling. It.   

Of course there are many reasons why I'm sure.  For starters, as part of my newly found Self Love I'm back to taking better care of myself by exercising more and this means that I am also more tired from those daily (though nearly invisible) physical transformations.  But I think I'm also spiritually, emotionally, and mentally  tired because, after all... that's where most of the transformational journey has occurred! 

Ideally I would like to just be able to sit here and reflect upon how this journey has brought about some new understandings, and how I have changed, and how I have grown, and how I have been transformed, but instead all I keep thinking about is how  most of those changes  took place in the first two or three weeks of Lent, and then for the next few weeks I was just able to BE.  And how now, in the holiest of weeks, I am left feeling a bit like something is...lacking  And how, just as the journey is reaching its climax... I am SO ready to be done with it.

Then it occurred to me that I am in good company!  If you're familiar at all with Mark's Gospel account of the struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane leading up to Jesus' arrest as he is betrayed by Judas, you will note that something keeps happening there:  Jesus asks repeatedly for the apostles to stay with him and pray with him in these most important final hours...but the apostles don't listen.  They either leave or fall asleep!

Now today we may read this story and  think how differently we'd behave knowing what we know now.  But what I find more interesting is what the Gospel is really saying here about our fallen human state:  that despite our best efforts,


we cannot do on our own, what God must do through us.


You see, I realized that this Holy week is when I'd like to take the time to remember and live out all that I have learned and recorded here in Blogville:

to breathe,

to open my eyes,  

to hang on,  

to let go,

to pray through everything,

to give myself up,

to love myself,

to get out of God's way,

to get behind God,

to go the distance,

to help others when I can,

to forgive myself when I don't.

But in the middle of my struggle to make this great list of all these things I've learned... there was a tug on my heart that gave me pause.  And my heart told me to look at the list I was making again.

And that's when I saw it. 

Yep.  There's a problem all right.  You know what the problem is? 

Whether I like it or not, this list I'm making is all about me:

What I've learned. 

What I've written about. 

What I *know.*

How I want to celebrate Holy week.


And I smile then, because I'm reminded (again!) that despite my every effort to make my life more meaningful, more relevant, more *just right,* I end up only making it more difficult, more disappointing and more... exhausting.  I also smile because I'm reminded (again!) that it is only when we don't listen to what God has written on our hearts the first time, (or the second or the third), that our peaceful life becomes a struggle.

This is why for Christians, Jesus is such an important guide.  Because he is always The Way to get us back to God.

So that's when I went looking to see just what it was Jesus asked of the apostles the very FIRST time in the garden.  Because I knew that when I found it, I would *know* what I should do this week.  And as my eyes scanned the pages trying to find that first request I was beginning to feel the thrill of the drama of this holiest of weeks and I was finally getting INTO it!  I was betting myself that the request would be to either "stay awake"  or to "stand guard" and I was ready to roll up my sleeves and give it a shot.  I was going to do what all the other apostles had failed to do!  I mean, I was all fired up and ready to not just stare down evil, but to punch it square in the face! 


Which is why  I can't even tell you how shocked I was when I traced my way back to his very first request.  I SWEAR I'd never seen it before.   (I mean the nerve of This Guy when I had plans for something so much bigger!)  But I'd told myself I'd do whatever it was He asked.  I just couldn't believe it would be this:




... he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

Mark 14:32 (NAB)



Which is why I'm sitting here now humbled and in tears, falling in love all over again. 


And why I was reminded (again) that while I believe and respect that there are many ways to God... Jesus is still The Way for me. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just BEing



Did you think I'd left you? 

Well, fear not!  I'm still here.  But, if the truth be told (believe it or not) I just don't have much to say. 

You see, I'm too busy just BEing. 

(Stop already with the wisecracks! I know! It's not normal for me, but I'm sharing with you now to prove that it does, on occasion, happen).

Even though BEing is not that hard for a lot of people, as a wife and mother I often find it very difficult to just BE. (And who am I kidding...looooooong before I was a wife and mother it was difficult for me, too, but that's not my point!)

The point is that now, as a wife and mother, I'm often the one inspiring and encouraging and making sure that the rest of the family (including the dog) are all busy BEing the best they can BE.  So there's a constant voice in my head reading off mental checklists of things I need to do to make sure they can get their stuff done:  groceries, chores, errands, menu plans, etc.  And it's also taking notes making sure that everyone did/is doing what they are supposed to:  teeth brushed, laundry put away, limited video/game time, etc.  Then of course there's the whole listening to Husband's day and trying to help him "problem solve" whatever may be going on his life.  (FYI - Men like to problem solve out loud, women just like to vent.  This takes practice for both parties over the course of many years to understand, but Husband and I seem to be getting this down pretty well now after nearly 17 years of marriage.  Amen!). 

And here's the thing about BEing.  Though it sounds pretty simple,  for some of us (me) it takes a bit more effort.  Because, you see, BEing requires the voice in  my mind to take a back seat (and the voice in my mind LOVES to talk, so this takes a lot of coaxing and coddling from the rest of...well...me, to put the voice on mute.  Or at least make it into background noise). 

But when it does? 


It feels like all the phrases we love to toss around but (at least in my case) seldom achieve.  BEing for me means I'm  content just going with the flow...in the zone...living the now...at peace.   


So, I just wanted to share with you a little meditation/prayer that I like to use to get (and keep) me in this spot.  I learned it from (who else?) Richard Rohr, and I love that it is based on a rather commonly quoted line from Scripture, because sometimes the more common lines become SO common that they lose their "punch."  (Who doesn't do a mental eye roll when you see "John 3:16" on a poster board or banner?)

Anyway, this meditation/prayer helps bring the "punch" back for me. 

Consider it my gift to you today.

And rest assured, I'll be "off course" soon enough wondering where I'm meant to go and how I'm supposed to get there.  And I'll be all too happy to talk about it then. 

For now, though, why don't you see if you can join me in this perfect state of BEing:


Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.


Psalm 46:11 (NAB)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Snapshots From My Journey - #3 The Transformation


Today's snapshot is really a summary of what I learned as I reflected on my interactions with the jogger and the beggar

Those experiences created a new image -- a third snapshot, if you will-- that I hope to hold on to.

And because it's of a nature more mystical than physical, I've felt compelled to write it with words that read more like a poem than a story (which, FYI is very, very "out of my comfort zone" as they say, but I feel compelled to share it all the same.  And trust me... at this point I realize I very well may be crazy.  Especially because I have friends who are poets.  Really good poets. I am not a poet.  I'm not even sure this is poetry.  But let's just pretend it is, OK?   Because I hope that regardless of what it is, the message rings true for someone [other than just me]). 

Snapshot #3: The Transformation

On the first day:
In the moment of the fall, I offered to help and God was loving me.
I loved myself in that moment, too.

In the moment of the need to comfort and cleanse, I was there to help.
I offered help when I was able.

In the moment of a change of heart, I was allowed to help.
I witnessed the grace and courage it takes to allow someone to help.



On the second day:
In that moment, even as I said, "Sorry, no," God was loving me.
I must love myself in that moment, too.



In that moment, I let my worry and my judgment determine whether or not someone else needed what I had.
I must not let Doubt make my decisions in the future.

In that moment, of my saying "no" I was given the gift of being told, "That's all right." And the blessing to "have a great day."
I must accept that gift and remember the willingness
to be forgiving and kind in the face of rejection.



And so:
From this day forward, when I think of the jogger, I will remember:
I AM called to be the hands of Christ to those in need,
and to let others be Christ's hands for me.
 
 
From this day forward when I think of the beggar's outstretched arm with his bucket of coins, I will remember:
I AM called to discern my ability to help others from my willingness to help them.

From this day forward, I will remember that when the day began with my thoughts focused on an empty reflecting pool outside an old memorial:
I AM called to be a reflecting pool of the Living Water.

I frame that snapshot with these words:

In this moment,
I will pick up my Cross.
And in that moment,
I will remember.
That from this day forward,
I AM carries me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Snapshots From My Journey - #2 The Beggar



(Note:  If the title of this post makes you wonder what Snapshot #1 was, you might want to click here and read it first.)


Snapshot #2:  The Beggar



It was a long morning.  We'd already walked around the perimeter of the White House, and made the loooong walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Building, plus spent two and a half hours of walking around inside the Air and Space Museum.  This was also our third day of walking. Our feet were hurting, our backs were sore and we were tired. 



But I'm not sure that makes what I was about to do any better.


We were heading into the Museum of Natural History (our last stop for the day) and it was hotter now under the afternoon sun.  It was also getting more crowded by the moment.  I was growing tired and irritable but trying to keep things positive for the kids (and me).  As we were approaching the building, I spotted a man with a small bucket of change.  As I began to walk past (trying to avoid eye contact) he held the bucket out, shook it a bit and then looked me at me saying,



"Got any spare change, Miss?"



Right then about a thousand thoughts went through my head:  What if he's lying and doesn't really need it?  What if he uses it to buy drugs/alcohol?  How much change does he want/need?  Can I offend him by offering too little?  If I give to him will I have to give to others, too?  If I pull out change, should I give bills?  He seems pretty clean, does he really need it? How do I politely say no? What if I need quarters later for the Metro, or a vending machine?, etc.  (Side note here:  I still haven't needed that change.  Even now.  And its five days later).  . 



I'm sure many of you have been through this before.  It's not the first time it's happened to me, either.  But it seems like no matter which decision I make...to give or not to give... I rarely feel right with my decision. 


This time was no exception.



Giving in to the weariness of the day-- my sore back and feet, the heat and my own irritation at the thought of having to dig through my seemingly bottomless (yet very heavy) bag-- I decided to turn him down.



"Sorry, no."  I told him, looking near--but not directly in--his eyes.



He just smiled back at me with a calmness and peace (and a clarity in his eyes that seemed to make the drugs a less likely possibility), and said in the most tender voice (picture a loving grandfather here), words I hope I never forget:



"That's all right, Sugar.  You have a great day."



And it haunts me still.



What's so haunting about that? you may wonder.


Well,  if the whole truth be told, I didn't give it much thought at first.   What haunts me is the thoughts that came later...when my prayers led me there. 


You see, sometimes at night, when I can't get to sleep I use a simple  prayer that my spiritual advisor/good friend/mentor Sister B taught me.  I find  it quite effective.  Sometimes if I think my day has been a complete waste, it's helpful to see that maybe it really wasn't.  But, I especially enjoy it when I'm already feeling joyful, (which I was that night, because our vacation was going so well!)



Anyway, it's very simple.  You just ask yourself,



Where did I see/meet/witness God in my life today?



And when you've had a particularly joyful day (or days) this is so much fun, because it helps you to see God in ways that you may not have even noticed Him while you were "going forward."  It's only in this special way of "rewinding" that you see Him in places you may have missed.



And I saw Him again and again in many ways throughout our trip.  I saw Him in the way our family worked together as a team getting to and from each spot making sure no one was lost or drifting too far.  I saw Him in the way our children made a game of every train and elevator ride as though it were their first time.  I saw Him in the way our great United States shows such reverence for both its leaders and its fallen, who I think-- often in the first  instance as well as the second-- paid a Personal Price.  I saw Him in the faces of  various individuals we'd encountered that were so kind, like the Metro lady who, though clearly worn out and beyond exasperated that someone like me could  be so ignorant of how to get a simple train ticket out of a machine, still forced a smile and said, "It's aw'right.  I'll show ya how."   



The list of people and places I saw God in that day went on and on like that:  fun memories and realizations (revelations) of things I'd not "seen" until I played them back, looking for God.  



But when my thoughts took me to the beggar?  Well...that was when my blood ran cold. 



Because that's when I remembered (again) that  God is in all of us.


Which means He was in that man who was asking for something I was perfectly capable of giving him.  And I'd told Him,

"Sorry, no."


Now,  maybe you're thinking that I'm reading way too much into this little scenario and that the man probably WAS on drugs.  And that's fine.  You may be right.  He may have been on drugs.    He may have been an evil-hearted man with an evil plan for the world.  Still,  the fact remains that in the moment that I denied his help, he was both understanding and forgiving.  So, I can only ask you (and myself) this:  Even if all the other things were true, would that have made it wrong of me to give (or more right not to)?


Or, you may be thinking  Don't be so hard on yourself.   (Uh...thank you, but  I already know that, remember?  I just found the Y in JOY! )  Still... I can't help but think of a little story similar to this that Fr. Carlo Carretto told in his (very awesome) book Letters From the Desert.  He told of how he (a priest living in a small dwelling in the desert with literally little more than the clothes on his back) had two blankets and thought he should share one with a man he'd met on his way into town.  Later, when he'd returned to his place,  he realized that he'd forgotten to give it to the person who needed it.  And it haunted him.  At the time I read this, I remember thinking, Oh, Father Carretto, I'm sure God forgives you!  You've done many good things! 



But now I know how he felt.


You see, in my first  snapshot, I wanted to help another person, who (after some hesitation) allowed me to help, and I did.   I felt better for it. This snapshot is easy to look at, and still brings me joy.



In my second snapshot,  someone is asking me for help, I am clearly able to help (down to the point of complaining about the weight of my bag which would, arguably, be a bit lighter if I got rid of some change), but I am not willing.   So I chose to tell him NO.   This snapshot brings sadness to my heart.






The most difficult part about writing this is that I still don't have the answer.  I'm still trying to sort out what my head is telling me and what my heart already *knows*.


But I DO think the man's condition at that moment is not relevant to the choice I made.  I also think his response tells me that, at least in that moment, he was a better person than I.  Maybe he always was.  Maybe he still is. 




Regardless,  a faith journey is very often about stumbling around blind.  It's about continuing the search for God even when you think you may have turned away.   So, with the jogger as my inspiration, I am choosing to allow God's Spirit to help me see now something that I didn't see at the moment of the beggar's asking.


And I can tell you right now it is something I'd  rather not see.  But since I didn't give willingly when he was asking, I must look willingly now.  As I understand it, it's one of the best ways to grow.



It's what some Christian mystics call "seeing with the Third Eye."  They say the Third Eye sees things that our eyes see and our  mind reasons to be contradictory.  With the Third Eye, though, we hold those seemingly contradictory things together not thinking either/or, but both/and.  It often holds joy and sorrow together at the same time.


So, in this instance, this is what my Third Eye sees:

BOTH snapshots hold Truths about the person I am:  I GIVE (when I want) which brings me happiness, AND I DENY some people help when I am asked (even though I am able) which (if I'm willing to reflect on it later), brings me sadness.



Not surprisingly, if I were to draw a picture of what this looks like it would be cruciform.


Because those two snapshots I showed you?    They are, as Christians say, "my Cross."  It bears BOTH the eternal joy of a pleasant moment of kindness towards a fellow human being, AND the wicked stain of  rejection towards a fellow human being who asked me for help.

But-- just as in that moment on Calvary hill--God is with us on both sides of our decisions. 

ALWAYS. 

(Even  the wrong ones!)

And if  we are willing to SEE it transforms us.


For me, that transformation lightens my burden and allows me to give both the beggar and the jogger a gift I would most likely not have given them if either she'd  told me my help wasn't needed, or I'd dropped my coins in his bucket.

And that gift is my prayers. 

Of gratitude. 

Of thanksgiving.

Of courage.

Of forgiveness.

Of humanity at its best and its worst.

And of love for humankind. 

And who knows?


Maybe that was the Real Plan --for each of us-- all along.





Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snapshots From My Journey - #1 The Jogger


Bummer. 

The reflection pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial is empty and under construction.

This was all I could think about as we began walking towards all the monuments and memorials near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. 

I know.  It's petty. 

But in past visits, the reflecting pool was always one of  my favorite parts.  Something so large and calm and serene in the middle of all the hustle and bustle is just so inspiring to me!  And it's smack dab in the middle of such history memorialized:  Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most famous speech, and several of our country's staggering wars including WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

If you've never had the privilege of going to our nation's capital, I highly recommend it.  I am doubly blessed both for having extended family that grew up there, which gave us an excuse to come visit on occasion, and for having parents that surely would have seen to it we'd have gotten there, family visit or not. 

I also had the privilege of earning a scholarship my senior year of high school for a week-long tour of the capital and its surroundings.  That particular visit is the one that is still most freshly ingrained in my memory... which is why it surprised me so much to realize that I took that trip 21 years ago!  Like so many things, much has changed in that amount of time, but much is the same, too.

I'm busy gathering pictures to post on my Facebook page of the things we saw and did during our trip, but all I can think about is what I want to capture here, in this blog.  The things no photos or videos captured, but that were significant and telling all the same.  These are "snapshots" I only know how to capture in words (and even then perhaps not well), but I am learning that these snapshots-- these slices of life-- are often the very food for my spiritual journey. 

So, I will take the next few days and to attempt to "show" you what I saw/learned/discerned along my trip. 


Snapshot #1:  The Jogger

As we were strolling under the trees along the paved road towards the Lincoln Memorial (diverted from the usual means of getting there due to the above stated construction of the reflecting pool), there were several runners jogging on a dirt trail next to our path.  Much to our surprise a woman (probably ten years older than me but clearly-- since she was jogging-- more fit) tripped and went flying through the air landing with a thud on the dirt path beneath her. 

"Are you all right?" I gasped rushing to help her up.

She was understandably embarrassed and a bit confused, floundering to justify and explain the reason for her fall (we very quickly found the culprit, a poorly-placed metal post cut off near the surface of the ground, but still tall enough for someone to catch her toe and trip).  Not knowing what I could offer her, but thinking of my kids and what I would do for them, I blurted, "Would you like some wet wipes?" 

She hesitated, and started to turn me down, then eyeing the dirt on her shins, forearms and knees (and no doubt realizing she still had to finish her run) she changed her mind and smiled sheepishly asking, "Would you mind?"

"Not at all!" I said whipping them out of my bag and pulling them out of the packet one by one, feeding each of them to her as she got herself cleaned up.  She laughed as she cleaned up, visibly more relaxed now, and shared how it seemed the older she gets the clutzier she gets, too.  I smiled and nodded.  She thanked me profusely, but now was left with a wad of dirty wipes in her hand and no where to throw them. 

"Here," I said, showing her the pocket on the outside of my bag already carrying the kids' gum wrappers and a wadded up Kleenex.  "I can take your trash."


The woman sighed, relieved, and thanked me again about a thousand times.  I told her it really was no big deal and wondered if there was anything more I could do.  


No, she said, she was fine. 

Then she jogged away.


I'm not sure that image would have stayed with me so much if it weren't for the fact that that night, as I sat with my family at dinner, my husband reflected, "God was sure smiling on that lady in the park today.  What do you think the odds were of her tripping and falling in front of a mom with wipes who could help her get cleaned up and carry away the trash?" 

And I wondered. 

I'll admit that for a moment there I felt pretty good.  I still do.  It was a good thing to do!  But... let's be honest, most moms carry wipes, and by nature most moms are pretty helpful.  There are plenty of us around, so I really didn't think that was such a big deal.  I mean, of course, my journey right now is about self love so sure my heart is smiling that in that moment, I helped and did good.  But it's not exactly ticker tape parade worthy or anything.  (Still,  maybe it will get me out of purgatory a second or two sooner when my time comes). 

But talking about my good deed isn't exactly what stuck with me from that incident.

What I DO marvel at, is the change of heart the woman had to let me help at all.  I really wonder if the roles were reversed, if I wouldn't have just jogged away muddy (and bleeding) or at the very least I would have insisted on carrying my own trash!  I wouldn't doubt that I would have let my own pride win out and (as I see reflected in my own children), insisted that I DO IT MYSELF.  

But sometimes I can't. 

And sometimes I shouldn't.

I know I felt better for being able to help her.    But I don't think that makes me special.  I think most people would have been happy to have helped her.


But no one would have had the chance to if she didn't allow it. 


And there's that Super Power again. 


Always the opportunity to say NO. 


I'm realizing now it takes a certain amount of courage and a great deal of God's grace to say YES-- not just in trying something new or going down a new path, as I'd always seen it before--but also in letting others help you along the way. 

Because sometimes, to deny others the ability to help, may very well be denying them a happiness they richly need.