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A Beautiful Mess

“Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes.”—Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.”― Henri J.M. Nouwen

We reduce.
Life is richer, more complicated, and complex than a bumper sticker, a platitude, a paragraph, a snapshot.
Allow, invite and embrace the mystery, unknowing, intricacies, story, nuance, shadows, shapes and always light, always hope, always resurrection.
A beautiful mess, joy woven through all of it.
Always resurrection.
Easter and spring at the end of the story, with glimpses on each page.

“Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that’s not how it works. A human life is a beautiful mess.”― Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere

Cup of Life

“We must dare to pray even as we doubt… True faith is like a light that begins to flicker, however faintly, in the darkness that beckons us to pray even when we can hardly find the faith to pray.”― Jerry Sittser

“Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

In grief and loss, light remains.
A destination.
A lighthouse.
May we all be angels for each other.
Cup full, both sorrow and joy.
Angels for each other.
Grace. Peace. Light.

“We need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.”― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Choose the Better Way

Mom and me on a jet ski. One of my favorite photos. In the game.

We live a lot of life in between before and after, in the middle.
Then there are the afters, the lines we cross and there’s no going back.
No do-overs or second chances.
Today, is an after day.
Last night, my Mom died.
No turning back.
Going through is the only path.
No formulas.
No platitudes.
No turning back.
My Dad died in 2016 and Mom lived with me, my sister and brother, going between three houses each week for almost 7 years.
Almost two years ago, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, no treatment offered.
The fact that she survived for two years is only one indication of how tough she was and is.
Never admitting to pain, powering through.
The past 10 days she had been struggling, sleepless nights.
She loved the dogs, probably more than humans at times.
I get it.
Dogs just love without measure, memory or complication.
She loved us, the grandkids, and her great grandkids.
Always wanting to be busy, included and involved.
Stayed in the game to the very end.
I am grateful for the quick way she went considering the alternatives of the end of lung cancer.
Caregiving is a long hard journey filled with frustration, joy, exhaustion, all rooted in love.
So much more to say about Mom in the days to come.
Needed to mark this day, this time, as fumbling as this is.
For those who are caregivers, you are not alone and keep fighting the good fight.
We can do hard things, imperfectly, but love is big, expansive, undefinable.
And in the caregiving, we can be like Martha when Jesus comes.
Busy taking care of things, focused on our to-do lists, commitments, murmuring and responsibilities.
As I and we walk through these next days, I am going to be more like Mary and choose the better way.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus quietly listening, present as we walk Mom home for ourselves.
She’s already in Heaven in no pain, reunited with Dad, her Mom and Dad, brothers, friends and relatives she spoke of often and best friend, my Aunt Marion.
There’s a particular solace in her seeing her Mom again who she lost when she was 10 years old.
What a long embrace and reunion.
Martha, Martha, sit.
Choose the better way.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

Look Up, Blue Sky Breaking

“If a branch is too rigid, it will break. Resist, and you will perish. Know how to yield, and you will survive.”― Liezi, Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living

“Awareness is not a state you force. There is little effort involved, though persistence is key. It’s something you actively allow to happen. It is a presence with, and acceptance of, what is happening in the eternal now.”― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Day begins with heavy snow.
Shoveling wet cement.
Cloudy skies as winter lingers.
Days end, the clouds part for a moment.
Sun beams through.
Blue sky shows off like she always does.
In the autopilot, the daily “to dos,” transactions and tasks, pause, yield, stop, look up.
Blue sky breaking.
Take it in.
Sponge in water.
Thirst quenched.
Beauty woven in the ordinary.
Wonder in the unknowing.
Look up.

“The magic is not in the analyzing or the understanding. The magic lives in the wonder of what we do not know.”― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Last Snows

“Yes, I deserve a spring – I owe nobody nothing.”― Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

“Think of the universe as an eternal creative unfolding.
Trees blossom.
Cells replicate.
Rivers forge new tributaries.
The world pulses with productive energy, and everything that exists on this planet is driven by that energy.
Every manifestation of this unfolding is doing its own work on behalf of the universe, each in its own way, true to its own creative impulse.”― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

A heavy white coat clings to the trees and shrubs.
March snow.
Different that November snow.
Last snows.
The finale to winter.
Prelude to spring.
Nourishing, softening the earth.
Alarm goes off to awaken the seeds and bulbs.
Snooze button a few more times.
Then spring will get up, rise. ensue.
Bursting with color, resurrection, joy.
The anticipation of last snows.
Of new life arriving soon.

“Zoom in and obsess. Zoom out and observe. We get to choose.”― Rick Rubin, The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Travel Well

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”― G.K. Chesterton

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Explore and wander
Paint, write, compose
Blank canvas each day
Try, experiment, do
Not divided listening but rapt hearing
Clarity found in steps taken, not in certain knowing
The journey is the call to answer
Travel well.

“We come to know the will of God as a life calling through experience itself. We discover what our calling is in the same way an artist paints on a canvas or a person falls in love. We learn by trying, by experimenting, by doing. Our calling is inseparable from the journey. In one sense, it is the journey.”― Jerry Sittser, The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence

Exclamation Points Abound!!!

“And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Complete Poems

“The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back for the poet once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid. The discipline of poetry is in overhearing yourself say difficult truths from which it is impossible to retreat. Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines.”― David Whyte

A poem.
A prayer.
A song.
A dance.
An exclamation point!
Pause to praise, to delight, to kneel at the altars of ordinary days.
Allow and invite awe to do its work in you.
Pass it on.
Embody the elements and essence of spring.
May you find many exclamation points woven through this day.
And respond accordingly.

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Wood or Stone

“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”― Huang Po, The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind

“The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?”― Confucius

May you see the door rather than a wall.
And pass through.
Spring hiding in winter.
The mountains from the bottom and top.
Captured by beauty.
Held in color.
Commas rather than periods.
A softening ground beneath your feet.
The sun hanging out with the clouds and blue.
Expanding rather than contracting.
Inviting, allowing, crossing thresholds to wide open spaces.
Bridges to joy, wonder and delight.
Motionless as wood or stone to see what is present.

“Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring.”― Lilly Pulitzer

Exquisite Attention

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

“No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it. The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

An adjustment.
A slight shift.
A new angle.
To get your imagination out of atrophy, revived and pumping.
To see the same in a different way.
Merging of the sacred and secular.
Finding the red X beneath our feet.
Standing in awe, wonder and gratitude.
May you experience even an ounce of this today.
And be changed.

“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”— Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

The Promise of March

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs, bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in an elfland of moonshine.”― L.M. Montgomery

March 1st.
The snow is softly falling.
And it’s March,
Threshold month.
One foot in winter.
One foot tipping into spring.
Not before.
Not after.
In between but tilting to the promise of spring.
The harvest of wintering, of preparation to fruition.
Bloom coming soon.
Colors to burst.
Sun to linger longer.
The power of transformation, and of seeing it unfold.

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”― Rainer Maria Rilke

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