Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Sacred Smiles

So many things have made me smile recently.
*  The Jane Austen bandaids the grands gave me for my birthday.
*  The acrobatic squirrels leaping from windowbox to windowbox outside of our sunporch windows.
*  Bruce bringing me a new coloring book, and grandson Peter and I coloring happily when he spent the night.
*  The cardinal who sits on the ledge of our front stoop.

*   Our collection of carnival chalkware figures who now "live" in high-up kitchen cupboards. I have friends in the kitchen!
*  Brightly colored striped socks--a get well gift from a friend.
*  A stash of mysteries delivered by another friend--perfect for this restless time. 

Finding the Sacred
With each smile I see a glimpse of the sacred. I feel connected to the divine. True, this flash of the divine is evident also when I am touched by someone's fresh pain, such as the young friend of my daughter's whose father died unexpectedly, or when I remind myself to breathe through my own impatience or disappointment or frustration. 

Opportunities for Divine Intervention are boundless. 

Barbara Brown Taylor says, "Earth is so thick with divine possibilities that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars." (as quoted in Writing to Waken the Soul by Karen Hering, p. 216. ) Or breaking an ankle, I might add!

At yesterday's appointment with my orthopedist I was told I am healing well enough to make the transition from walker to cane. Alleluia! I smiled when my husband emerged from the medical supply store with several choices of canes. I chose a very chic, quite exotic black and white animal print cane. My new best friend. It makes me smile, and I imagine it will make others smile as well.

Is is sacred? Divine? Maybe not, but right now it is a tool of spiritual practice as it helps me bear my own weight and move forward into further healing. It is a source of support and strength and new life. That sounds sacred to me--and it makes me smile.

One More Thing
One never knows where you will find truth and inspiration. I found it recently in a mystery I was reading, the second in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The following passage was just the reminder I needed. Maybe it will resonate with you, too.

         "Tell me, Dr. Dene, if you were to name one thing that
      made the difference between those who get well quickly
      and those who don't, what would it be?…"
       "Well, if I were to name one thing, it would be accept-
        "Acceptance? But doesn't that stop the injured or wounded
      from trying to get better?"
        "…Some people don't accept what has happened. They 
      think, 'Oh, if only I hadn't walked up that street when I did,'
      or ….'If only I'd known the ground was that wet and that Fred,
      or whatever his name was, had left his tools in the way.' 
      They are stuck at the point of the event that caused the 
        "So what's the answer?"
         "…I would say that it's threefold: One is accepting what
       has happened. Three is having a picture, an idea of what
       they will do when they are better, or improved. Then in the
       middle, number two is a path to follow." 
                                                   Birds of a Feather, pp 220-221

My current path to follow is finding the sacred exactly where I am and using my cane to take me there.
An Invitation
What has made you smile recently? Where have you glimpsed the sacred, the Divine? I would love to know. 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Disappointment

This is the new countertop in our kitchen. White on white. Solid surface. I am very happy with our choice. However, during installation, one of the counters was chipped. The good news is that it can be repaired, but not by the repairman who came on Monday to do just that. He said he was not experienced enough to do that repair. While I appreciated his honesty, I am still waiting for an appointment to be scheduled with someone who can do the repair.

I am also waiting for the tile people to arrive to take out the old tile above the counter and install new white subway tile. I know I will be thrilled with it, and according to the schedule I was given, today is the day, but where are they? I have called the person leading us through this unending project, and he said he would get back to me.  I am waiting. 

It has been one of those weeks. The rug I ordered was sent to two different wrong addresses, but it did finally arrive, and it looks great in the dining room. The neighborhood association for our former home in Madison hassled me about not paying the yearly fee even though we no longer own that house and have not owned it since early January.  And the dishwasher does not seem to be working. I will deal with that later.

From Disappointment to Resiliency
The biggest disappointment, however, is that the doctor's appointment scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled. This is the appointment in which I anticipated being told I could finally put weight on that foot and therefore, have more freedom. Believe me, I am ready for freedom. I have been a good sport and have done everything I have been told to do. I have worked at staying "up" during this time, but the change in the appointment was a blow. I am reminded of what my spiritual director said recently, "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."

Last night I allowed myself to wallow, and I admit I am not quite out of the blues this morning, but I am trying. 

Instead of feeling as if my life is on hold, I am breathing in and out and attempting to become aware of being held. Instead of focusing on the brokenness of my ankle, the countertop, and even schedules,  I am trying to see what in my life is breaking open. 

         What if instead our brokenness--and the world's--
         might be seen as a breaking open, like the splitting
         of a seedpod or the cracking of an egg about to hatch?
         What if that breaking open to new meaning and 
         possibilities brings a beautiful play of light shining
         on our shattered and sharp surfaces? What if our 
         brokenness might actually be our salvation? 'God
         breaks the heart again and again and again,' said Sufi
         master Hazrat Inayat Khan, 'until it stays open.'
                                      Writing to Wake the Soul, p. 163
                                       Karen Hering 

This feels like a stretch at the moment, but when I look at my swollen calf and top of my foot, and then remember my belly towards the end of my two pregnancies, I realize how much the body is capable of stretching. Surely, that is possible for my mind and heart as well. 

Is this what resiliency is all about? Kent Groff, http://linkyourspirituality.com who was founder of the spiritual direction program where I trained, Oasis Ministries http://www.oasismin.org, said in his recent weekly meditation that resiliency is "seeing tiny traces of growth or newness," and he encourages, "Instead of becoming brittle you can bounce back with creativity and compassion." 

Finding Grace
Karen Hering says "grace is resilience," and I want to live in grace and with grace and recognize the grace within and without. Therefore, I have taken time to calm myself, to stretch myself into the Big Picture remembering that each of these disappointments are fixable, and then I made the necessary phone calls, setting up a new doctor's appointment and tracking down the glitches in the countertop and tile schedules. Now I will return to working on a writing project, which I hope will break open meaning for myself and others.  All will be well. 

         I want…to live 'in grace' as much of the time as
         possible… By 'grace' I mean an inner harmony,
         essentially spiritual, which can be translated into
         outward harmony.
                                 Anne Morrow Lindbergh

An Invitation
In what ways are you being stretched right now? How do you nurture your own resilience and move beyond disappointment? I would love to know.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Coloring Mandalas

I broke my ankle four weeks ago. Since the surgery and coming home from the hospital, I have read nine books, started and rejected several others, paged through a pile of magazines, caught up on my email, including listening to a number of TED Talks and reading various blogs. I have watched movies on my laptop, since our television is in the lower level of the house, and also enjoyed once again all three seasons of the BBC series, Rosemary and Thyme. I have written thank you notes, paid bills, played solitaire on my i-phone, and napped in the afternoons--not every day, but often. I have written two posts for this blog each week, and I have resurrected a writing project started a year ago, but set aside when the pace of life picked up, beginning with my father's surgery late last spring. 

I have left the house only twice: once for a doctor's appointment and then Sunday for Easter brunch, thanks to the assistance from my husband, daughter and son-in-love, for it takes a village to support GrandNan. I was able to sit outside on our small front stoop one rare sunny, warm afternoon, and when a neighbor discovered I had a broken ankle, he said, "Well, at least you are not a horse or you would be glue." I will add, "I am not glue" to my gratitude list.

I have meditated and prayed and simply sat quietly watching the activity on our street. I have enjoyed company, as well as my solitude. 

Childhood Pleasures
However, anticipating my husband's departure for Madison Sunday afternoon, I thought about what I could add to my repertoire of ways to keep myself entertained and occupied. One can only read and write so much. I thought about activities I loved as a child, such as biking, ice skating, baking cookies, for example. None of those are possible right now. What about coloring? I loved to color and always had a big stack of coloring books. A favorite present was a new big box of crayons. 

One of the benefits of having grandchildren is coloring with them. The subject of the coloring books may not be too inspirational--Elmo or Star Wars or Disney movies--but opportunity for easy conversation has been sweet. What's your favorite color? If you lived in another house, what color would you paint the front door? How many things can you name that are red? Tell me about your best friend and what the two of you like to do together? 

At ages 6 and 11 now neither of them are coloring as much as they used to, but that doesn't mean I can't color, and it just so happens that I have a big set of markers and a stupendous set of every color in the rainbow colored pencils. I kept hoping I would discover hidden drawing and sketching talents in myself, for after all our talented son was a drawing major at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, but no such luck. I do have on hand, however, two different mandala design coloring books, and actually, that's enough for me. 

A New Kind of Meditation
Bruce gathered my materials for me, and the last couple days I have sat at the dining room table and colored mandalas. As I did so, I could feel myself quiet and become still, except for the hand moving slowly and gently across the page. A mandala is a sacred circle, a symbol of wholeness found in all cultures throughout time. In the past I have drawn my own mandalas tracing a plate to create the circle and then have drawn my own designs rather than following someone else's lines. I suspect I will do that again someday. Maybe tomorrow. But right now I am content to sway with the rhythm of back and forth, light or maybe a bit heavier. 

A kind of prayer. A time of meditation. A pathway in this healing process.

One of the other things I enjoyed doing in my childhood years is putting together jigsaw puzzles, so perhaps that's what I'll do next.

An Invitation
What enjoyable childhood activities have you not done for a long time? What are you waiting for? I would love to know.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April's Book: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

Shortly before I fell and broke my ankle, I had ordered a replacement copy of a book I loved reading the first time around and wanted to reread. I have no idea what happened to my original copy. No doubt I have loaned it to someone, for I can't imagine deliberately choosing to purge it from our bookshelves. Not only is it a beautifully designed book with full color illustrations, it is also extremely well-written and inspiring. A treasure of a book. 

How happy I was with the companionship of this book during the beginning days of my unexpected confinement. In fact, The Paper Garden, Mrs Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock http://www.peacockpapergarden.com is another example of the "Right Book at the Right Time."

Written by the Canadian poet Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden is the true story of Englishwoman Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-1788) who as a young woman of 17 was married off to a drunken 61 one year old, in order to improve her family's economic situation. When he died, she still had her whole life in front of her and eventually married a man who was truly the love of her life, a man who appreciated and supported her charm and intelligence, along with her many creative talents. After being married for 23 years, her beloved husband died, and she was submerged in grief.

Discovering One's Life's Work
However, this is when Mary Delany finds new purpose in her life.

Just at the point where she was re-emerging from her deep mourning and returning to patterns and habits that had sustained and enhanced her all her life, such as embroidering and walking, she suffered an insect bite on her foot and needed to be immobile for quite some time. During this time of confinement, supported by  her gifts of observation, her love of nature and beauty, and her ability to use her hands, she picked up her scissors and created a new art form, mixed-media collage. She was 72 years of age. Over the course of the next 10 years Mary Delany created almost 1000 botanically correct paper flower portraits, which are now housed in the British Museum and are known as the Flora Danica. If I ever return to England, I sincerely hope to see these masterpieces in person.

Why does this seem like the right book at the right time for me? Well, I am no Mary Delany and in fact, I am not good at doing handwork of any kind nor have I been in a time of grief, but here I am physically limited just at a time when I thought I could return to work I love to do and feel I have been called to do. Right before my accident, I felt a resurgence of energy, of creativity, of joy as I began to discover how to honor this stage of my life. 

Whoops--time out! Full stop! At least that's the way it has felt in my lowest moments, but then I think of Mary Delany, who at age 72 discovered her life's work. I'm just 66, I say to myself. I have all sorts of time to plunge myself into my life's work! Or perhaps it is now in this time of healing and resting and restoring, and easing into quiet that I open to work I have been preparing myself to do all my life.

The Sum of All We Do
Peacock says, "Some things take living long enough to do." She summarizes the living Delany did before settling into her true life's work.
          It evolved, first from silhouettes, and then from
          handiwork and collecting shells and designing shell
          grottoes, and then designing her dresses, and then
          from drawing and painting and gardening, and from
          being supported in her enthusiasms by her sister and
          her husband, and lastly from not being able to paint,
          from a feeling of the world dimming, and from the
          energy of the natural world and the way she was
          supported by a friend.   p. 343

It's not that any of these previous interests and experiences were unimportant. Quite the contrary, for as Peacock quotes the poet Charles Bukowski, "Age is the sum of all we do." 

Peacock continues:
          That's a bit of what happens to a plant, too. It keeps
          adding up until it blooms, but even after blooming,
          after mid-life, so to speak, it keeps going, because
          it has to start withering. Only in the drying does the
          real fertility begin, the seedcase forming, and only
          then are the seeds available to be blown apart and
          travel and settle. The fierce winter of dormancy is
          part of it all…   p. 343.

Opening to What May Yet Come
This past week I have re-opened a notebook with the beginnings of a big writing project I started a year ago. Life intervened in ongoing ways and the notebook was set aside. Waiting to be rediscovered? Waiting for a time of dormancy?  I am actually quite surprised by the amount of effort I have put into it already and also by how much appeal and interest this material still holds for me. My life's work? That feels premature and presumptuous, but on the other hand as I age, I begin to understand the themes in my life, the context of my life, and this project not only explores them, but could help others in their own explorations.  

Mary Delany's legacy is not only the gorgeous flower portraits she created, but also her example that one's life's work evolves and can continue to be fertile and life-giving. 

Yes, the right book at the right time. 

An Invitation
I am always interested in knowing about "right books at the right time." What books have been that for you? Or people or events? How is your life's work being revealed to you right now even as you come to the end of your work life? I would love to know.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: Birthday Celebration

Yesterday was my birthday. I am now 66. Being confined with a broken ankle is not exactly how I thought I would celebrate my birthday this year, but as my father is known for saying, "That's the way it is."

I recall many wonderful birthday celebrations in my life: going to see "My Fair Lady" on Broadway for my 13th birthday, celebrating my 40th with dear women friends at a surprise luncheon planned by my husband, doing Tai Chi on the beach in Zanzibar for my 50th. However, I also recall one year in my 30's when we got up in the morning to so much snow that all birthday plans were cancelled. 

Birthdays are not always easy to handle, and I think about a picture of what must have been my 6th birthday. My birthday guests are seated on the steps of our house, and I am turned away from them, sobbing. Was I overwhelmed? Disappointed? Was the reality less than what I had built up in my mind? Who knows, for that was 60 years ago, and I have learned over the decades that some years are just better and easier to celebrate and be celebrated than others. 

The Movement of God
I assume this will be one of those birthdays I will not forget, nor do I want to forget it, for even though I am confined and moving slowly, I recognize there are gifts in this time. The challenge is to recognize and honor them. Joan Chittister in her book The Story of Ruth offers a good starting place for ongoing reflection:

          Change points are those moments in life in which
          we get inside ourselves to find out that we are not,
          at the end, really one person at all. We are many--
          each of them lying in wait to come to life. We are
          each a composite of experiences and abilities, of
          possibilities and hopes, of memories, and wonder,
          of gifts and wishes. Every stage of life calls on a
          different dimension of the self. Every stage of life
          is another grace of being that teaches us something
          new about ourselves, that demands something sterner
          of ourselves, that enables us to learn something deeper
          about our God.
One of the questions often asked in spiritual direction is "How is God moving in your life right now?" A good question, and one that even though I am not moving very much right now or perhaps because I am not moving easily or quickly during these recovery weeks, this is the perfect time to reflect on the movement of God in my life right now. If you have been reading this blog, you know how much the theme of moving has figured into my life over the last couple years. Now my challenge is to come to a place of quiet and stillness in which to feel how God is moving in my life, "to learn something deeper about our God."

Questions for Discovery
Who is this Nancy who is not moving? Who is this Nancy whose springtime plans are on hold and whose lists for doing are not being accomplished? Who is this Nancy who loves quiet time for reading and writing and meditating, but when she chooses it? Who is this Nancy who prefers to handle her own needs and now must accept the help of many? What is this time-out preparing this Nancy to do, to be? Who is the Nancy who will come to life because of this time of not moving? 

One thing is clear: God is moving in my life, the life of this Nancy right now, in the form of all those who have offered prayers and well-wishes for my healing and all those, who have helped in so many concrete ways, especially my family. God is in the movement of my husband who has been the perfect combination of taking charge and doing what needs to be done, anticipating my needs, but backing off when that was the right response.  And pushing me when that was exactly what I needed. 

Every Moment of Your Life
In some ways I feel like a young child getting dressed and making my bed "all by myself," but I also feel like the accumulation of all my birthdays, entering years when there is more memory than future. Peter Levitt in his book Fingerpainting on the Moon, Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom says, "Step forward and put new ground beneath your feet every moment of your life." Every moment of your life means even those moments when your feet are not moving very steadily. It's in the "every moment" that one is invited to know the movement of God.

I am listening. I am stopping. I am becoming still. I am accepting. I am receiving. I am opening. I am healing. I am sensing the movement of God in my life. 

A Blessing
"May you move through the day with eyes open to the God who shines like the sun within and around you." Jan L. Richardson

An Invitation
How is God moving in your life right now? I would love to know. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Going on a Bear Hunt

I have no idea what I am going to write about today, but it is Thursday and I publish a new post on Thursday. Here I sit in the sunroom, the room we call the Annex, of our Little House, and I feel a bit dry. Dry and empty.

I slept well. I woke quite refreshed and free of pain. Before getting up I read in bed--The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, a novel set in Iraq in which the war is a main character. I find I can only read a chapter or two at a time before I need to turn to something else. I moved to the Annex, still in my pajamas, and read my emails, including one from a dear friend who is in a health crisis. That mirrors the one that came yesterday from another friend who had just come through a health crisis. Another friend who has been in rehab for almost 3 months following surgery had posted on her Caring Bridge site that she is finally going home. These kinds of emails are becoming more and more common.

I hobbled with the aid of my walker to my lady's writing desk in the living room and rustled through the drawer for a sympathy card to send to a friend whose mother just died and also to retrieve a pile of get well cards. I like to have a stash of cards available to use when needed, but it seems I go through the stash more and more quickly these days. 

Another Country
I commented to my husband who was reading in the Annex that we seemed to have entered another country. The entries in my prayer list book grow daily.  

I wrote a note on the sympathy card and enclosed a handkerchief as is my custom -for when tears come--and then I sat in the quiet, my husband having left to get coffee at his favorite spot, and I prayed my way through the prayer list. It took a long time, but I have the time. 

A Bear Hunt
Along the way, as I meandered through the names on the prayer list, I thought of the wonderful children's book, We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 
Do you know it? If so, you may remember these words:
        We're going on a bear hunt.
        We're going to catch a big one.
        We're not scared.

Along the way the family encounters various obstacles, the deep, dark forest and rushing waters, and a raging snowstorm, but they forge ahead.
         We can't go over it.
         We can't go under it.
         Oh no, we've got to go through it. 

Oh no, we've got to go through it. We've got to enter this new country and go through it no matter how unprepared we feel, how weak and tired we may be. We may feel dry and empty or full to overflowing with emotions, with responsibilities, with regrets or dreams unfulfilled, but still there is no real choice. We've got to go through it. 

Of course, the big question is how to do that. You know that spiritual practice you have been thinking about starting or the one that has somehow drifted away? Now might be the right time to begin or resume a spiritual practice. You know, of course, that a spiritual practice is whatever you decide is a spiritual practice. Someday I could write more about that in this blog, but for right now I am going to close my eyes, lightly not tightly, sit quietly, breathe deeply and find my own rhythm. In doing that, I trust I will begin to learn how to find my way through this new country.

We can do this together.

An Invitation
How are you doing traveling in this new country? What spiritual practices are you bringing with you? What are you learning about yourself as you go through whatever it is you have to go through? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday Reflection: The Next Step

Yesterday was a big day. I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon's physician assistance as a follow-up to the surgery for my broken ankle two weeks ago, First, there was the challenge of getting me out of the house and into the car and out of the car and into the office. Trust me, you don't want to know all those details.
Then there was the removal of the cast and a new set of X-rays.
How thrilled we were to learn that healing is going well and is progressing on schedule. Very good news. That is the most important thing.

However, I am still at the "no weight bearing" stage, even though I have graduated from cast to boot and I have at least 4-6 weeks before I can drive and have more of a normal in and out, out and about kind of life. Going upstairs to my office garret area and downstairs to our family room are activities not yet on the allowed list. Disappointing, for sure, and last night I permitted myself to give into the blues and to sink into the exhaustion from the day.

A New Day
Today, however, is a new day, and I am figuring out how to manage this next step. Without the cast, for example, I can get myself dressed without Bruce's help and throughout the next couple days we will determine what else I need in order to function in the house on my own as much as possible. I will attempt to look with fresh eyes at this stage --how can I best use this unplanned time? In what ways can this be "found" time for me?

I don't feel trapped, but I do feel limited. Therefore, within the given limits what are reasonable expectations while I keep my eyes on the prize of total healing? The lesson is to let things take the time they actually need. I hope I can keep Richard Rohr's words in mind, "Your concern is not so much to have what you love anymore, but to love what you have right now." 

Right now I am re-evaluating what exactly it is I have right now. Obviously, I am fully aware of all I have in terms of the support of family and friends and that my injury is totally fixable etc. etc. My gratitude list is very long. Now that the initial two weeks of healing time have passed and I have a better sense of what is ahead, however, I don't want to take this time for granted. I know there are ways I can deepen my spiritual practice during this time and ways I can use my gifts as well. 

Recently, I spoke with a friend and former spiritual direction client who is in the midst of a major family crisis and I passed on to her words the writer Sarah Orne Jewett wrote to her friend and fellow writer, Willa Cather, "We must be ourselves, but we must be our best selves." How can I be my very best self during this next stage of healing?  Just as Bruce and I are figuring out how I can move easily through the house and what I need in order to fix myself lunch and do the other basic tasks of my life, I am listening to the cues in my heart about how to best use this time.  Stay tuned!

A Story
Such wonderful help we have received these last few weeks, and I am so grateful. Reminding myself to be a graceful receiver of help, I remember a story from many years ago when our children were young. The mother of a neighbor and good friend died unexpectedly and when I heard the news, I put together a breakfast meal--muffins and orange juice and I don't know what else. When I delivered it to our friends' home, the babysitter, a lovely college-aged woman who babysat for the family regularly, came to the door. I told her what I had brought, and she sighed and rolled her eyes. I could tell she was irritated with the interruption and was probably wondering what she was going to do with yet more food. 

I started to leave and then I turned back to her and said, "I want to do you a favor by sharing some advice. Someday you will lose a loved one and people who love you will respond with tokens of their support and sympathy. This is what people do for others. This is what we do for ourselves. The appropriate response is to simply say "thank you." 

Thank you everybody! 

An Invitation
When have you needed to move at the pace of your body and what did you learn? In what ways have those times deepened your spiritual practice and allowed you to access your best self?When have you needed to just smile and say "thank you"? I would love to know. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: A Time to Heal

Yesterday I spent much of the afternoon studying John 11, which the class I have been attending until I fell and broke my ankle discussed last Monday night. I want to keep up with the syllabus and be ready for the day I can return to class.

Bruce brought me my stack of books from my office, and I immersed myself in the Gospel story of Martha and Mary's distress over the death of their brother Lazarus and Jesus performing his last major miracle before his crucifixion. It was an afternoon of deep contentment, and except for the obvious hunk of concrete splayed in front of me on the ottoman, I forgot about my ankle. I was doing what I love to do--reading, studying, reflecting, knowing I would eventually write about what I was learning.

One of the books I consulted was Women in the Ministry of Jesus by Ben Witherington III, a book in many ways that is over my head. For one thing I can't read Greek. Even so, there are words that seem written specifically for me. Witherington refers to the story in Luke in which Martha is upset Mary doesn't help her serve Jesus, but instead sits at his feet and listens to him. Witherington writes, "…it is a matter of contrasting the importance of listening to and learning the word of God to anything else. We are dealing with a matter of priorities and only one thing can come first and be absolutely necessary."

Healing is and needs to be my priority. 

It's not that I didn't know that, nor have I ignored what many have been saying.  One friend said, "It's all about healing now. Think constantly of your healing." Another, "Give yourself the time to heal quickly and completely." Yet another, "Broken ankles are just not acceptable." Love that!

I didn't think I was fighting what needs to be my focus, but I hadn't moved it into my heart. My body was quite clear about the necessity, as was my mind, but the heart was lagging behind. I had been thinking about how I could best use this time--what books I want to read and what writing I want to do; how I can finally go through the stacks of household and tax papers and decide what can be tossed and how this would be the perfect time to clean out my computer files. I had not yet created a list with the title, Things to Do While Healing," but I was forming it in my head. 

And how could I not use this time to reflect on the meaning of this experience. Why did I fall and why now? Am I not grounded enough? Did I need to be stopped cold in my tracks? All good questions, and I know in time I will sit with these thoughts, but right now the priority is to heal.

What exactly does that mean? For me right now it means staying awake enough to know when I need to nap. It means paying attention to know when I am overriding what my body is telling me. It means accepting today, each day, and remembering as a friend reminded me that we become stronger in the broken places. She also said, "Our years bring us wisdom and fragility." Thoughts for another day.

Late in the afternoon as I ended my session of study, I glanced out our sunroom windows from the chair where I have set up my temporary office. The troop of elementary kids from the nearby parochial school were bouncing and bounding down the sidewalk, and I felt my whole body respond, "I love my life." What a glorious moment of healing.

An Invitation
Does healing, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, need to be a priority in your life? What are the signs that is so and what does it mean for your life? What are you willing to do to make that happen? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday's Reflection: The Mystery Woman

I have been thinking about The Mystery Woman who was present when I fell and broke my ankle a week ago.

When I arrived at the recreation center to pick up recycling bins, I parked behind a large SUV with its engine running, and I noticed a woman sitting in the driver's seat. Moments later I was on the ground, ankle swelling beyond human understanding, but one of my first thoughts, since I didn't notice anyone else in the area, was  at least that woman was there and would come to my aid. 

At that moment another car drove by and the woman inside lowered her window and said she would park and come help me. "Don't move," she said. Then two men appeared, someone from the rec center who said he had called the ambulance, and another man who wrapped me in a blanket, A Green Bay Packer blanket, no less. 

No sign of The Mystery Woman. No word from The Mystery Woman.

The Green Bay Packer Man noticed the car with its engine running, too, and looked to see if anyone was in it and reported that a woman was indeed inside. I could tell he thought her lack of response was odd.

Before long, the ambulance had arrived, and I was lifted gently and competently inside. The Mystery Woman was still inside her car.

The Need For Response
I am sure each of us has had moments when we have responded immediately to a crisis or uncomfortable, uncertain situation.  Someone on our path needs help and there we are. Perhaps all that was needed was an assist through a door or retrieval of a fallen package or it may have been more--being the first on the scene and calling 911 or even administering CPR. Our response was instinctual and one in which we did not stop to weigh the pros and cons.

One day many years ago as I pulled into a parking lot of a strip mall,  I noticed a young woman lock the door of her car and head towards one of the stores. She had a package in her hands. Eventually, I left my car and on my way into the same store, I caught a glimpse of a sleeping child in the back seat of the woman's car. Without thinking, I ran into the store and found the woman in line at the check out wanting to make a return. I went up to her and said, "I followed you here because I saw that you left your child in your car. You have a choice. You can either return to your car RIGHT NOW or I will call the police RIGHT NOW." She was furious with me, called me names, and told me to mind my own business, but she did go right back to the car without completing her task. I returned to my car and waited there until she left. 

In retrospect I wish I had called the police immediately, but I hope at the very least my action made her think enough to never do something so foolhardy again. In the aftermath I shook and wondered where I found the courage, quite frankly, to confront her, but I knew I had done the right thing. For the child, the mother, and for myself.

Living with an Open Heart
I have no need to judge, but I do wonder about The Mystery Woman. Fortunately, I was blessed with people who responded quickly and compassionately.  I wish I knew who they were in order to thank them personally, and at some point I will go back to the rec center and see if I can find the man who made the call for the ambulance.  I needed their help and they gave with open hearts. 

The Mystery Woman has a story, one I will never know. I can't begin to guess or make any assumptions, which is always a dangerous thing to do anyway, but there is a reason she is The Mystery Woman. When she shared her day with family or friends, I wonder if she mentioned seeing a woman fall on the ice. What did she say and what kind of response did she get? 

My prayer is that I may live with an open heart, a heart that allows me to respond to the needs I encounter as I move through my days. I pray I will not be someone else's Mystery Woman. 

An Invitation
When have you benefited from the kindness of strangers and when have you felt your heart open enough to respond to the needs on another on your path? I would love to know.