Thursday, July 12, 2018

the legend of Jingwei

The only time we met, I went into the warmth of her presence like a moth to a bright flame.I had heard about her deep faith and wanted to know this beautiful, blond young woman.We fell into an unexpected friendship.

The painting above depicts the Chinese tale of Namu, a young girl who is playing  in the Eastern Sea. She was unable to reach shore and drowned.She is then transformed into a bird called Jingwei. She lives on Departing Doves Mountain among the mulberry trees.Namu now resembles a crow with a patterned head, white beak and red feet She regularly carries twigs and stones to the sea in an effort to fill it up.The sea laughs at her and she answers that she will spend the next hundred million years filling up the sea, so no one else will share her fate. From this myth comes the Chinese chegyo idiom which means Jingwei tries to fill the sea or dogged determination and perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible odds.

My friend Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005  when she returned from her honeymoon. The honey of that trip left her shortly thereafter. After treatments, she was doing well but in 2010 her cancer returned with a vengeance. At that time she was given 3-5 years .That was 8 years ago, She fights, she hopes, she endures.

In the midst of her journey, she has been led to produce beauty products specifically for cancer survivors whose skin has been affected by chemotherapy. She now goes to a retirement facility and gives facials weekly. But what she brings is her story. One that has touched me so deeply that I can't explain it. In the painting above, my sweet girl stands facing that dragon which is cancer. Through all of this, she has a heart filled with appreciation. Her most recent note says this: "I am so grateful to the Lord , especially for putting all these angels in my life.." Those are the white doves swirling about her speaking words of love as she faces her journey.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

if you are in My boat....

Katie's first memory is of overwhelming sadness.

It is Christmastime and she was unsure of what was happening but all her family members were in tears. Her father had just passed away and the family was trying to find a way to celebrate Christmas for their beautiful little girl of two.This sadness is engraved on her soul but somewhere along the way, Katie decided that this was not going to define her, this loss.She is sunny, this daughter-in-law of mine. Loving and sunny.I treasure her more than she knows.

Our first memory is usually of something out of the ordinary. Mine was. I may have been four years old and my sister and I are playing on a dock at a lake in Winsted, Ct. All I recall is being over my head in the lake and a green hand reaching down to grab mine. My sister pulled me up and I am sure I shrieked loudly for the next hour.What a fright.

My grandson John is 4 and he tumbled into the pool a week ago at the place where he was getting swimming lessons. My son alerted the comatose life guard who hauled him out.Will this be his first memory?It's a frightening experience.Will it color his life?

My son Sean and a friend were lost on the Flint River behind our house when they were in high school. I remember that the day's light was rapidly leaving  when it occurred to me that something was wrong. I stood on the hill above the river frantically praying for their safety. I never knew until later that that happening was the most  frightful of Sean's life, he who has handled snakes and traveled to strange places. Finally, they spotted a house and went to find an open door and safety.

We are instructed to hear God's words and put them into practice. When the rainy season and the torrents set in,  if we have built our house on that rock, it will not be destroyed. We will not be destroyed.

Today,I heard this:

"Today you are Mine, tomorrow, Mine, through eternity, Mine. Nothing can harm you or your thinking if you just claim that knowledge and trust it.
What can go wrong as long as you are in this boat of My constructing ? This is what the stormy sea story is all about. You are in My boat and no harm can come to that essence which is you."

Sunday, June 24, 2018

the mysterious circle

Raise your hand if you are weary of my dreams.Sorry, not enough hands, so here I go again.This dream happened at least twenty years ago and though brief, it stunned me and left me mystified.

We are in a circle, a group dancing with abandon and great joy. God is in our midst, I am holding His hand. To my left is Jesus and I hold his right hand as we twirl.We are all at peace and sodden with joy. Then, it happens: Christ lets go of my hand and starts to drift away.I say, "No, You can't go.What will we do?" He took my hand , put it in the hand of the person on His other side and said clearly: "Now, you lead the dance." He drifted away and we danced on.

What did this mean? What was I being asked to do?I had no idea and for years when I thought of this occasion with Christ it still made no sense. Until last week.

A circle suggests a lap where a mother will hold her child until the child decides it's time to go off. That's the best kind of circle.The stones on the beach on Iona, are all round and smooth, tumbling around for eons in the ocean until they are finished and are flung up on the shore in their dazzling colors. And then there is our writing circle at church. Three years ago, I put an ad in the bulletin and wondered if anyone would come.

We have gathered in a small classroom to share our stories, inspired by art pieces. The joy is palpable.We have even started Joy Journals to record our happy moments. The circle is safe, affirming and inclusive. Everyone is heard because everyone is seen. Some comments:"writing has given me such peace of mind and soul,.'..we are all better people for this experience, '.'we have a loving environment to be as creative as we want to be,, this class opened the door to creativity and real joy."

A circle.

.Sometimes the circle feels like a carousel as we laugh and  go up then down in mood. Sometimes, it feels like circular confessional as we share our wounds.The tissue box travels easily in a circle as do the hands of compassion..

A circle, no beginning and no end. In all of this Christ is the center. I can see him looking through the door window as His grace circles, swirls and heals.I nod.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

the eternal fog

This story has been haunting me for awhile now. What to make of it? How does it fit ? Where to start?

It begins when my second grandson was three and was having a serious chat with his Dad. Out of nowhere Riley said this: " God said that I had to go down the steps, down to earth and into Mommy's tummy and I had to go by myself."My son asked if he was scared and Riley said ,"No, but I just had to do this by himself and that was that." I think my son was stunned and never thought to ask more, nor would I have.

Riley is now a tall , ginger, good looking young man of 17 years who loves children and is kind in every way. I recall giving him a small bag of Teddy Grahams when he was 5 and the first thing he did was offer one to his Grandpa. Sweet. In my wildest dreams I cannot see Riley being a bully, his heart wouldn't allow it. He has no memory of this conversation and I had no idea that this kind of memory is offered up by many children.

"Memories of Heaven"  by Dr. Wayne Dyer is a fairly recent book and it jumped off the shelf into my hand the other day when we just happened to be wasting time in the library. In reading some of the amazing stories I found this: the youngest child in a family, Abigail, describes "coming down and into her Mommy's tummy."That struck a chord.

A particularly touching story involved a mother who struggled to feel love for her son and then this happened: "I tucked Sean in and he began to sob uncontrollably.As compassionately as I could I asked him what was the matter and he said he wanted to be with his mother in heaven and he couldn't take being here anymore.I asked him what his mother in heaven gave him that I didn't and he answered; "Pure Love"?.He said that God was a being of white light and filled with love and that his Mother and God decided I needed to go to earth and be your son to help you learn. how to experience and give pure love.Sean was 8 years old at the time.

Wordsworth, who I adore, said this:.." our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting." Perhaps this is why we are restless here, down the steps and away from the Divine: we know better. But there is work to do and we must turn our backs and forget.

In prayer, I asked for help. What could the meaning of all this really be ?This was poured into my empty bowl:

"The point of the story will be that you are never without Me. Not here or there. Always cared for, always loved. From the ends of the earth to the heights and depths, nothing can separate you from the love of God.
God cannot withdraw His Love because it is all there is-it surrounds and seeps in all the cracks like an eternal fog that cannot be dispersed. It is all there is."

Sunday, May 27, 2018

the covered girl

We never met and yet, Cynthia owns a portion of my heart.

My second son, Kevin, had made a trip to Honduras with our church group a few years ago and when we picked him up at the airport, he looked shell shocked. The trip was almost too much for his tender, compassionate heart. As we ate dinner, he tried to tell us about the journey but was too moved to speak. We have pictures of him dancing with an elderly lady at a retirement home, and surrounded by children playing a game. He is glowing. I love those pictures. In the days after, we heard more of his stories and one day he quietly told us about Cynthia..

He met her in a small village on one of the group's side trips.She peeked out at him from beneath a ragged thin grey blanket.This girl of eight kept herself covered for two reasons: the sun was her enemy and the tumors were a sight. They covered her small back, neck and head and they were growing. Cynthia had been born with a rare genetic anomaly, xeroderma pigmentosum. Her body lacked pigment and therefore any exposure to the UV rays of the sun would cause irreparable harm. In her case, by the time someone took her to a large city for a diagnosis, it was too late.There are case in the United State and with early diagnosis and extreme measures, the victim can live a long life. However, a very restricted one-no exposure to the sun.Windows treated to keep out UV rays, only night playing outside.There are camps for these afflicted children and all the boating, Frisbee throwing, swimming is done at night.My mind cannot understand such a life.

Part of Cynthia's story is remarkable. I heard of the way that her siblings took care of her. More than one piece of candy for her; if she felt unwell, back rubs, cool cloths on her forehead and hand holding. Perhaps they sang her a sweet song as she suffered.They protected her and loved her deeply.

The next year, a new group was going and I put an envelope in the hand of the friar leading the group.I wrote her name, included a small note and a little pink beaded rosary. If I recall the story correctly, when they got to her village, she was out so they left the envelope at her hut.I like to think that holding the pretty beads made her feel special.

Cynthia's story has often tested my faith. When I close my eyes, I see this: a small grave in the dusty village cemetery with a poor wooden cross carved: Cynthia, aged 10yrs 4 mo.. But now I also see: a free child, whole, laughing, running through golden fields surrounded by love. And when each of her siblings leave this world, she will be smiling and leading them to that brightest of Lights that doesn't hurt the eyes or harm the skin.Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

a dragonfly, vapor and me.

The day is etched in my mind. I had just retired  and was feeling decidedly uncomfortable with my life.What now, my inner Sharon said. Is the next phase just a time of waiting til the first fatal disease shows up?Perhaps this is normal when a person stands on the edge of a cliff and then jumps into the unknown. The freedom was delicious but the unknown left a prickly feeling in my body.

We were at Mass and it was time to say good-bye to a associate pastor who was going to D.C. The love and joy but also sadness swirled around the church. One could feel it. It was in these moments that I heard something like this: "this is what the future will be like, filled with love and joy and some sadness.I am in charge, you are my child, just go in the future with confidence." The message was also a reminder that as I had not been alone in the first half, I certainly would not be abandoned in the second. The fear left and the anticipation began. A turning point.

That was 18 years ago and this next hill of my life has been just as promised. I thought of all this because yesterday I had a visit.I don't want to read too much into this but a beautiful dragonfly with gold on his wings attached himself to my screen porch just where I sit to read and pray.It was there all day.

When we were kids, we called them darning needles, who knows why. I never paid much attention to them but now that I often sit in my garden to pray, they seem companions. I had no idea of the variety.I have seen ones with blue bodies, some with green but the one from yesterday was much larger and the gold on his wings was beautiful. I met them when I started praying the rosary in my garden a few years ago and yes, I feel as if my life has opened up like a lotus in a still pond.

When I looked up dragonflies on-line, I read this "When a dragonfly jets in as your spirit animal, it's time to find the positive in all situations." In the folklore of many cultures, when they appear in a special way, they are advising that change is coming.The first thought fits perfectly with my starting a Joy Journal. And the second with the changes I have seen.

The life span of a dragonfly is 7 months and I just knew as I pondered yesterday's friend that something in today's readings would speak to this and it did. James:4-14. "You have no idea what kind of life will be yours tomorrow.You are a vapor that appears briefly and vanishes".We, the dragonfly, the trees, all are vapor.But we have this moment.Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

the joy of haiku

This is a rainy, porch perching kind of day and in the stillness I am reading about haiku. This poetry form has been embraced madly by the writing group that I belong to.We only spent one session on it but in these teaching moments we connected with nature in a new way. It is as if we finally looked and began to experience what a child must feel.

It was a spring morning, Easter Sunday, a few years back.My granddaughter Maddie was two at the time.The older kids were playing football in the street and she was sitting in the grass playing with some wildflowers. Her Grandma, as is always the case, couldn't take her eyes off her. Then, I saw it. I viewed that magic moment when a child new to this world experiences something wonderful. A breeze came up and caressed her cheek and she looked up in awe and smiled in happiness.Later, I went to collect those few bedraggled flowers and found one of her hairs tangled in them.That treasure is in my journal.

A new member of our group spent her entire vacation composing  haiku and her description of the joy she felt in the writing is worthy of mention. She feels like she is noticing, seeing and looking with new eyes.Yes.
Just reading one person's article on how to write haiku on the porch in the rain has made for a joy filled morning.What a gift.

The author Jane Reichhold mentions some of the attitudes that are necessary for one to have a haiku mind: being aware, being non-judgmental, being reverent, having a sense of simplicity and humility.What wonderful virtues to carry in our pocket as we walk through this life.

Haiku moments are encounters that stay with us forever.Like the day, after having lunch with a friend, I found something as we the car. It seemed like a gift from the bounteous Hand meant just for me.Here is what I wrote:

                                                              sweltering cement
                                                        in a crack some roots growing
                                                             a johnny jump up.

As if that wasn't enough, next to it was a thrown away plastic spoon for me to dig it up and take it home to a spot in good soil in my garden.

The other day I posted a haiku on Facebook and an old friend wrote 5-7-5 in the comments. Ah, another poet in the house. I first met Charles when he was 6 years old and in life I have seen him just a few times. But we share a bond that God has ordained. He is grown now, married with two beautiful children and a lovely wife.When I think of him, the virtues above come to life. He is awake, treasures every minute, and has an aura of humility reflected in the words he writes. How I love this young man. I told him my haiku bowl was empty, so he provided. This haiku prayer will open the next session of our writing  group when we start back in September :

                                                      He has risen indeed
                                                    yes, we believe it is He
                                                    who will return again........Charles Jackson

And the people say,Amen.