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.

Monday, May 14, 2018

ask Grandma Graham

The honor is all mine, for now. If my sweet granddaughter who is 5, has a question and the word God is in the sentence, she is told: "Ask Grandma Graham."I think it's hilarious. A few weeks back I got this one: "Grandma Graham, why did God make my ears so that I can't close them like my eyes and mouth?" What??? Thank you, Maddie's parents, my son Kevin and his wife Heather,.I got this one.Not.

Well, last night, Maddie had another one."Grandma Graham, when was God born?" I said, "You mean Jesus?" ?and she said "No, God."Well, now. I told her that God was never born that He always was and always will be. Puzzlement filled her face.I said, " It's hard to understand but that is how it is."She hand slapped her forehead and walked away.I thought, I know.It's hard.

Let me tell you about the soul of this beautiful child.There is a fellow kindergartner who has trouble behaving. He has pushed my Maddie down and treated her badly .He is like this with all the little children and the other day the whole class turned on him. He needed earphones and no one, not one child, would let him use theirs. Imagine his feelings .That's when my sweet girl walked up and handed him hers to use.My son has trouble telling this story because it moves him so as it does me.

Today's psalm is so perfect for my story: "Who is like the Lord, our God, who is enthroned on high and looks down on the heavens and the earth?" Ps. 113:5-6. If we could understand Who God is He wouldn't be God, He, who holds out the truth for us as we wander towards Him.We get it only slightly but as the journey goes along, it becomes a bit more clear.

This little girl with the big questions is being held in the palm of that great God who always was , always will be and waits for us at the end. Nothing could be more comforting.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

out of Africa.....

The music that I am listening to makes my heart so full that I need to write.What will come, I have no idea. I am listening to the beautiful  soundtrack from "Out Of Africa "and thinking of people in my life who bring joy.

In the movie, Robert Redford takes Meryl Streep on a flight over the African plain in a small piper cub.From her seat in front of him, she sees the antelope running below;the lakes shimmer in the sunlight. She reaches back to grab his hand. What more can she do to thank him for this wonder? Listening to the music, I can see this scene and it moves me again. What can you do to thank people for their unexpected presence in your life?

My 75th birthday is coming soon and my husband, who will be out West, has bought a ticket to fly home just for that day. What a gracious gift. No words do that justice.My oldest son, busy beyond all telling, meets me for lunch monthly where we catch up, he who has always read my mind and watched out for me. Around the house are several small articles that he had given when he was a child.Where he got the money I have no clue but there they are.

When I retired in 2000, I thought I had left my friends behind but one, through grace, has stuck.She is my cheerleader as I embark on my wild adventures.We are writers and believers; those connections keep us close. I can tell her anything and she nods.I have cried in gratitude for this gift .

I have a special friend who helps with my writing group.She makes sure all my stuff is packed and helps me lug it to my car.I know writing has enriched her life and that inspires my own efforts.I count on her and her ideas.Where did she come from to bolster what I do?

A niece who, when walking down a country road said this, only this, as she felt my heartache and put her arm around me: "sweetie" and then she listened. A long ago friend who I met at 16 has found my blog and me.We share pictures and memories and what I feel from many miles away is his appreciation. I can hear him clapping his hands when I share what I am up to.Where does a gift like that come from?

To each of you, and all the others, I reach my hand back and with misty eyes, squeeze in gratitude.

Monday, May 7, 2018

You, who took me in....

It didn't make any sense, last night's dream. But........

I am in my childhood house on Long Island; I am a prisoner, kept there by force and being starved to death. No food allowed. I am wasting away and desperate. Suddenly, an opening to escape appears and I run out the front door.I can see it as I go into the yard.;this heavy oak door that had deep gashes on the inside from the scratching of a dog that I loved .

Through the yard to a neighbor's back door, knocking frantically and finally a young person lets me in."Please don't let them know I am here, tell them you haven't seen me.".Yes, he nods and I am safe. And in a quiet voice I ask for an Ensure to keep me alive.

Most of the dreams that I remember, the vivid, like "a movie on a screen" ones, I understand immediately. This one? Later, after prayers, something tells me to open my last journal and read the words I have been given.I drink in the notes for November 2nd, 2017. As I read and ponder, my mind expands to hold the real meaning and I get misty with gratitude.

I am starving in that house on Webster St.We all are. For love. For a word of affirmation, a kind thought about something we have done.We don't speak that language, we don't know it exists.We know sarcasm, we make small cuts with it rather than risk the truth.

The young person letting me in without question or judgment is Christ who has been waiting for me to be brave enough to reach out. I recall the exact moment though not the date.We , my small family and I, are living in California in the 70s and I am feeling a dreadful emptiness, I silently say these words; "God if you are there, help me."Nothing happened, I felt some relief at having done something but now I see that this was my mad dash to His back door.

Soon after, I casually picked up a book for a friend and it spoke of His love.A library book that I had thought was a love story turned out to be about the conversion of St.Augustine. It enchanted me. Co-incidences piled up that made and still make my head spin.

Here are the sunshine filled, gold dusted words that I received on November 2nd from the Hand that took me in::

"The stars tell of the distance from Me.Your heart and it's co-incidences tell of My nearness. Ever and ever believe in these small , inexplicable moments that come like the dew to point out the closeness of My heart to yours."

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Only Grace

It was years ago that I heard this word spoken in an interview on a talk show. Daniel J Trafanti, was being quizzed about his success on the TV show "Hill Street Blues." It came to light  that the actor had struggled for years with alcoholism and finally was able to reclaim his life. Then his acting success followed. When asked how, he said a simple word: grace. It was stunning to see his face shine as the interviewer looked on in puzzlement.

At Mass today we celebrated the First Holy Communion of a friend's eight year old. It brought back thoughts of my First Communion on a glorious day back in May in the '50s. We were trained down to the last detail of the ceremony for weeks by the nuns who held our lives in their stern hands for 8 years. I was so uptight, so afraid of making a mistake that I broke out in hives and could barely walk.Such fear, such rigidity that allowed for no mistake. One must be perfect. I recall in detail that my view of God was that He was up there watching and just waiting for us to make a mistake.What a horrible burden for a child to bear.

This day also brought back pictures of an entire family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins all on the lawn in the back of our house after the happy ceremony .At a young age I recall the early afternoon drinking to excess to celebrate this holy day. It all mystified me.The disconnect.

How did this fear filled child survive? How could she, a child who was so intimidated by the thought of coloring outside the lines of her coloring book that she put a small grey dot in the middle of an elephant and called it coloring, how could she make it? I thought of that as I sat among my community of friends .People I have known and loved for over 40 years. As I sat with my husband of 50 years in contentment and joy. I heard the words of the gospel," I am the vine and you are the branches and cut off from me you can nothing. (of kingdom value)."My life has had value. I have been connected. Put your hands together for grace.