Happy Birthday, My Sweet Constellation

Today, my daughter is 17.  People told me that the time would fly by.  It has.

She was a beautiful, yet colicky baby.  The first 3 months were the hardest.  On my refrigerator I taped a big calendar.  Each morning I would cross off the previous day with a giant ‘X’.   As an exhausted new mom, surviving each day was one of my chief objectives but even then I felt a tinge of regret that I wasn’t totally embracing the joy that was now part of my life.

As I remember those days, I can smell that fresh new baby smell.  I can feel the soft, gentle, warmth of her tiny little body all swaddled in the perfect bundle that I held in my arms.

This tiny person changed everything.  She challenged.  She pushed.  She made me cry with frustration and worry.  She broke me time and time again in those first few months.  She taught me about love.  She made me a mom and she opened the door for her brother who followed 25 months later.  If I could, I’d give birth to them all over again.

I remember watching my toddler daughter at mom’s group.  As the other children competed for toys, or food, or a companion, my daughter was an observer.  Her face a zen-like mask of concentration, she would wait until just the right moment and move in to gain whatever had been the hotly contested prize just moments before.  She still approaches life that way.  I am so grateful.

Then, there was the first day of kindergarten.  As the other children cried or ran around the classroom, our daughter looked around the room, read the names on all the desks until she found her own.  (She learned to read at 4 without any assistance from us.)  She sat down, her back straight, her hands clasped on top of the desk.  Her face was eager for instructions.    My husband ushered me out of the room so I could indulge in a few tears.  She was ready.  There, in that morass of chaos and tears, my constellation, the center of my universe, sat calm, cool and collected.  I was so proud of her.  I am so proud of her.

At 17, she is the person I hope to be when I grow up.  She is one of the nicest people I have ever known.  She is patient and kind.  She is naturally positive and accepting.  She is a delight, my shopping buddy, my sweet honey bunny.

Guess, how much I love her!

I love her to the moon and back.

Happy Birthday, my sweet constellation.  You were and you are the best daughter I could ever have.  You bless me with your life and your love.  I am forever grateful for the wonderful gift you gave me on your birthday,  YOU!

 

The Mud and the Stars

The Mud and the Stars

Once a year, at Christmas time, I hear from a dear friend. This year, when I first got her letter, I waited to open it. I knew it would be full of good news and I didn’t want to envy her. I wanted to be happy for her with a heart that was full of pure intention

This morning, I read and responded to her with a happy and open heart. I’m convinced that it required a grace that I don’t posses on my own.

I found myself taking a clearer look at the circumstances of my life as I wrote the letter. I am sharing some parts of the letter here because I feel it is important.

This isn’t about me, although it seem it is.   I know how hard it is to find the good in others or in bad situations and I’m sharing why and how I struggle with this to encourage others.   If I can manage this, I’m pretty sure most people can. I’m not all that strong, or kind.

So often I hear people complain about money and all that they don’t have. All of them have a lot more security than we do. Poor people don’t usually complain a lot. They are too busy getting through the day.   Many people have sat in judgment of me, or us. Andy and I are often blamed for our own bad situation.   While I know that our choices or lack of effort is our responsibility and that it can have a negative impact and that it has a negative impact, we are human and we are struggling with challenges that threaten to crush us and to especially crush our spirits. Given this, I think it very important to appeal to hope, to faith and to our capacity to love. Life isn’t a dry run. It is the run. It’s the test. All this practice is part of the test.   Find joy where it is given. It can be hidden. Find it.

I had to find my joy before I could respond. At first, I felt small and jealous. I was missing the point. In time, I grew beyond my small edges. This is what I share today. It’s raw and honest and I am grossly uncomfortable sharing it. Here goes:

 

Dear ……….,

You’re letters help make the season bright! So happy to hear how well life is going and that you await the joy of more grandchildren.

We soldier on. Most days it feels more like battle than a joy but I’m beginning to believe that God gave me what I could handle and that there are lessons here that I need to learn.

Foreclosure is a long and painful process. As of yet, I have not solved the problem of future shelter. Hoping to be able to get through the winter and the worst of the weather before contemplating a tent in a nearby wood.  

Dear God, please send me some options. I’m taking a beating down here and am starting to lose it. Yesterday, I had several moments when I acted from my broken pieces, I didn’t rise above the fray but contributed to it. I’m sorry. I want to be so much better than I am.

I frequently label the fray, the mongrel hoard. Usually, this is done in the caverns in my head.   It’s those petty moments of retaliatory thinking that make me shed a light on the depth of my resentment. Wow, is that an ugly thing!

How I prefer cooperation over conflict, kindness over cruelty, generosity over selfishness.   How I long for unicorns, pink castles, lottery winnings, pigs that fly, an end to all war and the whole world singing as one. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”

Real is often dirty, rude, messy, some times heartless and cruel. I can be all of those things.

I sit in the mud puddle of life and I look up at the sky and the stars. Their beauty makes me cry. It also helps me get out of bed in the morning. It boosts my spirits and drives me to paint a smile on my face and create fun morning songs for my children. 

Yet, there are days or moments when I forget about the sky and the stars. All I see is the mud and the other people sitting beside me and I hate all of us. I question the whole Christian premise that “Christ died for our sins.” Really? Honestly? What was God thinking? We’re not worth it. We’re a disaster 

It’s a really good thing I’m not in charge. It’s time to leave philosophical/theological questions to greater and better-paid minds. My energy needs be applied elsewhere.

In this darkness, my children are another very bright spot in my life. ….

And my dear husband, Andy…this last year we’ve watched as numerous couples in our circles have split. It frightens both of us. We know how stressful troubles can be, how easy it is to blame the other, to not work together, to grow apart.   We don’t always like each other. Our communication is less than perfect. Single life can beckon like a beautiful yet deadly siren. Together, we are better than when we are alone. I said, “for better and for worse, for richer for poorer, for sickness and in health.” I have a commitment to honor.   He is also one of my best friends. That is another blessing.

While I can’t judge the relationships that split, I still feel shaken and sad. They may have the best reasons for parting.   It isn’t the path I want to travel. Life in the mud puddle is hard enough without losing my partner and a dear friend. This can be easy to forget.

From my mud puddle, I see the sky and the stars. My life is a mess. That sky and those stars remind me that it is also beautiful and that there are blessings right beside me in the muck and mire. The beauty overhead gives me hope and something to reach for. This is a good life. There is much be to learned and much to do.

At the end, I can say, “I did what I could. I didn’t give up without a fight. I fought to find the good in others and in myself and in situations that looked like hell.”

God must love this broken person very much to give her so much. I am blessed.

It just doesn’t look like much from the outside. 

I love you. Your letter forced me to sit down and write out my heart and soul and I’m so grateful for what you inspired in me. You are a treasure. Your letters are a treasure. Enjoy those wonderful children and grandchildren. I am so happy to hear from you and to know that you are doing so well  

Take care!

Have the Merriest Christmas and a New Year full of miracles!

 

 

 

Choices

“Humility is recognition of truth. Your worldly accomplishments are a gift bestowed upon you by the Uni-verse, nothing is possible without the support of the invisible realm of the Infinite Mystery. When you know that you actually do nothing and are simply a channel for the Good, Abundance, Joy and Peace that already existed before your birth to be rearranged to your preference you will be in harmony with Life. The minute you buy into being the doer of anything you have taken yourself out of the flow and stepped back into Ego thinking.

 

All things have been created by the Joyful will of the Infinite Mystery, Life is an experience of making choices about how you want to arrange things in your life. You can choose to arrange things in a Fearful, Egoic way, or you can choose to arrange things in a Loving and Joyful way. When you choose Love and Joy you align with the greatest and highest Good and begin to express your unique creative perspective while at the same time feeling a oneness with everyone else. This will leave you with a feeling of wholeness, joy, peace and gratitude.” 

– Jackson Kiddard

Lack of money limits choices.  It’s so easy to focus on what I can’t do or afford that I often forget that I still have a choice as to how I chose to act.

Lately, I’ve been a grump.  I felt sorry for myself, frustrated, limited, lacking.

When reality would come knocking and life was showing me that compassion with myself and others would be the better choice, I tried my best to ignore it.  Wearing misery like an ugly old sweater pulled up against a hostile world got to be a real drag.  So when I found an ugly sweater that I loved, I “decided to rock the ugly!”

Now, I lost track of “rocking the ugly” between then and now about half a dozen times but “rockin’ the ugly” is a choice and it sure beats letting life weigh too heavily.  I’m old enough now to know “that this too shall pass.”  No one can take their money or possessions with them when they die and as much as I’d like to leave a physical legacy for my children, they aren’t going to be taking it with them when they go either.  In the end, all the money and stuff in the world won’t matter.  What matters is how I chose to live my life and how I made the best with what I was given.

I’m going with the flow.  Here’s to “rockin’ the ugly!

 

 

racooncoat

From the Ragamuffin Gospel

Some time this last year I read a book by David Timm entitled The Power of Blessing.  In that book, Timm references a quote from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel.  Manning was a priest, author and wrote candidly about his struggles with alcoholism.  Manning’s humble realism and poetic soul appeals to me.  I copied the following down from Timm’s book which quotes Manning on page 19.  The piece of paper on which I wrote these words is passed around from pile to pile.  The edges are starting to wear down.  I reread it often because I can’t help myself.  I especially love the line, “unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”

I know exactly what that means.

Lately, it’s been hard to write.  I’m afraid too.  Opposition, criticism can really eat away at one’s self esteem, one’s courage.

Life is also crazy busy.  I am drug behind the freight train of life struggling to climb aboard.  This isn’t the way I imagined it would be.  There are lots of moments of joy in between moments of grave disappointment.  The cheese on my cracker is Swiss.  Joy is the cheese.  Disappointment are the holes.  Manning reminds me that this is as it should be.  He gives me hope that even though I’m a scalawag with slipping cheese, I am loved beyond imagining.

This is the essence of the Christmas message.  The Nativity Story is the story of simple people, a simple God, and the most humble of beginnings. Love was born into this world in a barn. Imagine the smell of the animals, the flies, the little rodents who love to share spaces like these.  Imagine no snow in the Middle East.  Imagine hot manure.  Imagine a helpless new born baby beside it.

This Good News is the Ragamuffin Gospel.

“The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, burnt-out.

It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.

It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.

It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.

It is for the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.

It is for the earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.

It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment.

It is for the smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.”

 

I can recycle that scrap of paper.  I write the Ragamuffin Gospel on my soul.

Thanks, Fr. Manning.  I’m beginning to understand the true joy of Christmas.

Prophet in a Strange Land

Some times it seems the harder I try, the worse things get.   I flopped around my week like a fish out of water.   This last week when I listened to career counselors tell high school students how college prepares them for the job market and a better future, I thought of how my degree is helping me now.  I’d be in much better shape if I’d become a mechanic.  While I have no doubt that my degree has increased my quality of life and that at one time it did open doors to jobs I’ve held, it is now basically irrelevant and that was exactly how I was feeling.

At home, as I boldly tried to connect with old and new customers and kept getting voice mails and the occasional live no, I felt irrelevant.  Over weight and out of shape, I felt exhausted and again irrelevant.  I sorted through the past and found things to blame but couldn’t indulge in blaming . Again, the default emotion: irrelevance.  It’s much harder to be a nobody than a some body and I’ve been working too hard at just that.

Negation cripples.  It blocks love and compassion.  My life felt like a land slide on a road no one travels.

This morning, I stumbled to the shower like I usually do.  That transition phase between sleep and wakefulness is an odd territory.  The landscape seems barren yet comfortable and familiar.  There on the plains of my mind, God often speaks.

This admission makes me grossly uncomfortable, yet, here I am again writing about my shower revelations. Over the years, I’ve listened to many people speak about God, His work in their lives, what God wants of us, what we need to do.  Often their words did not match their actions.  They are often blessed with confidence and committed to the conviction that God is speaking through them.  And, often, He  is.  Yet, the God they talk about so easily, is not Someone I know.  I am not like them.

The God, I know, is infinitely confusing.  He/She surrounds my life with ordinary miracles that I usually miss because I’m feeling rather lost and often more than a wee bit worthless.

My belief in God doesn’t instantly make my life better.  The challenges remain and they keep coming.  It’s often enough for me to be more than a little angry at this God.  I’m still waiting for my “joy in the morning”  like a petulant child.  So as a weary morning me steps in the shower, I hear, “You are My voice, crying in the wilderness.”

“Great!  That’s just great!  I already feel like an irrelevant loser and now I’m a voice in the wilderness.  What a lousy job!  How is this going to help me dig my family out of the scary hole we’re in?

In my mind, God smiles patiently, silently, waiting for my little hissy fit to end.   It winds down into exhaustion.  There are some things that are best not to fight. Silent, invisible, smiling God of the shower is one of them.  And, yes, I know how crazy that sounds.

Belief is crazy.  It doesn’t make sense.  It isn’t rational or logical.  I’m often embarrassed to admit I am a believer because it seems so quaint and colloquial, like something evolved civilized people have outgrown, but I can’t deny what I believe to be true:  Some Thing infinitely more evolved than any of us or all of us combined, lies just beyond our rational knowing and this Some Thing loves us beyond our imaging.

This is what I argue with in the shower.  I’m arguing against some amazing, infinitely indescribable, Love.   How stupid is that?

Oh, I’m completely aware that this idea can be one of my own creation.  My desire to have something beyond to believe in might be so great that  in my limited mind and soul,  I may be creating this God as a figment of my imagination.    It doesn’t feel that way.  This shower God that speaks to me and passes on wisdom that pulls me out of my mental prison and opens the door to loving possibility in the midst of a life that looks pretty bleak on paper, is way too good to be a figment of my mind.  I’m just not that gifted.

I stop arguing.  “Ok, I’m a voice in a wilderness.  I don’t want to be.  I think it’s nuts and just out right depressing.  No body is going to listen to me.  Few people listen to me now.  I’m an emasculated Moses without an Aaron.  (I can’t resist an opportunity to be cleverly sarcastic.)

“You’re beginning to get the idea.  I want you to be a prophet.”  This I hear in my head with such clarity, I’m either schizophrenic or actually listening to Some One outside me.  There aren’t too many other possibilities.

“Wait!  This is way too egotistical.  I’m going to sound like an idiot if I ever admit this.  It’s way too arrogant not to mention impossible.  I’m no prophet.  I can’t even comfortably admit that You and I have a relationship.  Who is going to listen to me?”

The Silence that answers, gives me pause.

Can I fight this new level of crazy?

Yesterday,  I spoke with an adult who admitted that he/she is probably an atheist but that even that requires a committment not to believe in something and that wasn’t a place they wanted to go.  I felt sad.  I wanted to say, “I understand how you feel but I believe in a God of Love beyond us and that makes all the difference in my life between a life of meaning and purpose and a life of utter despair. I wish the same for you.  I wish you could know this Love.”

I didn’t say that.  I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t know what to say but I felt sorrow.  I felt like something was missing that God could fill  but I didn’t know how to help.  I couldn’t even share what I believed.  I was ashamed of my silly belief but I was even more ashamed for not sharing it.

No person or idea has been so abused over the centuries, as the concept of a God.  God has been used to justify war, punishment, and all the ills of the world.  Is it any wonder people can be turned off by the idea?  It’s the idea that has been abused and misused, not God.  All the nonsense, we humans toss out that clouds the picture, doesn’t affect who or what God is, was or will be.  It’s us humans that get it all messed up, royally messed up.

“I’m no prophet.”

Hello, God of the Shower, are You listening?  Are You?”

“Write about this, My voice crying in the wilderness.”

And I have.

Create

Following the Daily Love blog by Mastin, today I read a guest post by Chris Assad.  Read the entire article at the link posted posted below.  I’m also sharing a quote on creativity for all those creators out there.

http://thedailylove.com/show-up-for-your-creativity-and-it-will-show-up-for-you/?inf_contact_key=0391e96d470e0bba8339c4bbf5be7fd888f18986e2d4be4e26848f5f8cd3d9f8 

“The truth is that creativity flows when we show up at our instrument, at the blank page, at our mac (or PC), at our desk, at the easel, and when we make ourselves available for creation to happen. The truth is that creativity is one of the greatest gifts we humans possess and it’s available to all of us all the time if we’re open and ready to receive it. The truth is that creativity is magical but only in the sense that it’s one of the ways that the Divine expresses itself through us, not because we need to wait to be chosen or struck by lightning to experience it.”

What’s Your Purpose?

Yesterday was hard.  I poured out my heart writing but couldn’t hit the publish button.  Some struggles are best kept private.  Overwhelmed, lost, I struggled to get my bearings.  I prayed that God would show me the way but I didn’t expect an answer.  One was provided for me any way.  In my faithlessness, I was shown faith.  My closed heart shown an opportunity to love.  Lost, I was given the way.  No one else was given the job to be me.  It’s time to step into the life I’ve been given as a gift.  It’s time to be me, the better me, the best me.

 

The Trail

The trail feels good under my feet.  It’s been too long since we’ve spent some time together.  The feet of a runner behind me makes a familiar rhythmic sound as she passes.

I say,  “Good morning.”

She can’t hear me.  An ipod is firmly strapped to her arm.  She is wired for sound.  I think of a future in which ipods are chips imbedded under our skin.  We can turn them off and on at will.  I shudder slightly to shake off the sting of this thought.  My mind turns back to the runner and the trail.  Deaf to my good morning, to the call of the killdeer, the hum of tires skimming over pavement, she runs past me as if I were part of the landscape just like the dead branches of scotch broom that lie along the sidewalk.

A smile flashes across my face when I think of what she is missing.  Gratitude fills me as I walk and listen to the sounds all around me.  This is engagement and it is sweet and warm. Taking a deep breath, I enjoy the air that is delicately laced with a lazy morning dampness.  My senses have come alive without an ipod to revive them.

The trail unfolds under my feet.  I come alongside a chain link fence.  A small wren lured by a young woman with her hair in a neat little bun flutters within the perfect frame made by the links of the fence.  The spaces between the wires are more important than the wires themselves.  This is how it should be.  We should always know what we are fencing out and what we are fencing in by the spaces in between.

The little wren calls to the young woman from its perch.  As the woman walks on, the wren flutters to a closer link and calls again.  It happens once, then twice, then again and again.

“That little bird seems hopelessly in love with you,” I say.

Talking of love to strangers early on a Sunday morning seems a bit bold and possibly rash. What am I thinking?

“I’ve never seen a bird do that before,” she replies with a smile.

“Nor have I,” I say.

The bird and the moment pass.  We all go our separate ways.  In that moment, nature and talk of love met in a pair of smiles.  I’ve missed this trail, the sound of birdsong, the chance to carve a space for myself upon the trail that divides the earth from the sky.  This trail feels good under my feet.  I will walk again.

 

Perfect Timing

The older I get the less I believe in coincidence.  Ideas, people, things do appear at the right time, the time when we can open our eyes and see them.

Recently, I reconnected with a friend.  She inspired me with her ideas, her passion for life, her drive to find her purpose and to develop that purpose in to a life work.  How can you not love that?  Yesterday, she referred me to a book which I immediately placed on order:  Lean-In Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.  Find it at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Lean-In-Women-Work-Will/dp/0385349947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367086380&sr=8-1&keywords=Lean+In
The author, Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at Facebook.  She is also a woman. Continue reading

Sunday — Wanna Make a Difference?

I follow a blog/website called Kind Over Matter.  Amanda Oaks at Kind Over Matter often helps keep me on track with her positive and encouraging posts.

(You can find out more about Amanda at:  http://www.kindovermatter.com/p/about_22.html  )

Recently, a frequent contributor to her blog, Jo Anna Rothman, wrote an article called “Wanna Make a Difference.”  I contacted Jo Anna and Amanda for permission to post.  I’m posting the first part of Jo Anna’s post here and providing a link to Amanda’s site and the rest of the article.   The day I read it, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

“Want to make a difference? Yes? Good.

Show up. Do what you say you are going to do. Do what you know needs to be done. Don’t stop. Even when it gets hard. Even when all the reasons that you haven’t done it in the past come welling up. Keep moving forward, letting action and pleasure guide you.

Want to make a difference?

Serve. Every day. And not because you feel guilty. Or bad for anyone. Serve because it feels amazing to. Because it connects you with who you and and connects those that you serve with a deeper truth inside of them. Serve because it reminds you that life is wonderful. That people matter. That this experience has the potential to be absolutely incredible.”

Please read the entire post at Kind Over Matter.  http://www.kindovermatter.com/search?q=Make+a+difference

Jo Anna Rothman contributes often and I enjoy reading her posts.  Jo Anna has her own web site and her life work is inspiring others.   Check out her “Receiving Project.”  Find out more about Jo Anna here:  http://www.joannarothman.com/

I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.

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The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
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