Everyday Spirituality

Archive for March, 2012

Wisdom and Dreams

Whenever I read or hear the recounting of the Annunciation the Visitation gets equal attention. The two stories are meant to be together…you really can hardly have one without the other. I have previously written about my connection with the relationship of Elizabeth and Mary. See post here: https://faithtwins.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/the-gift-of-the-visitation/

There is something I cannot get out of my mind…my friend’s name was Elizabeth and my name is one of the names used for Mary…Rose of Sharon. Don’t misunderstand me I do not equate either of us with these Biblical figures…but it is something I think about. Maybe that is to keep me connected with the Blessed Mother. In many ways my friend was the woman I would go to, much as a young girl goes to her mother. While I did not look upon her as a mother figure she was a woman I admired. I admired her for her wisdom, among other things. I valued her insight about so many things.

I think Mary rushed to visit Elizabeth; for she too had words of wisdom. Wisdom is not something you open up a book and learn. Wisdom is not something you acquire while pretending to know it all.

The dictionary says wisdom is ‘deep understanding’. Wisdom is also the ‘comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action’. My friend had insight about life that she freely shared, even at times if you were not ready to listen. If you know her you may be able to think of a few times when she told you something you were not quite ready to hear. Many times her comments to me helped me to evacuate my ‘stinkin thinkin’ if you will excuse the slang.

When Mary reached the sight of Elizabeth she was validated and confirmed for her openness to doing the will of God. My friend was a little like the angel Gabriel to me. She would affirm that I was on the right track with an idea. I miss her words of affirmation, support, compassion, and caring.

I want her to speak to me as the angel spoke to Mary. I do not want to be asleep; I do not want it to be a dream. The angel Gabriel was very real to Mary. She was awake and filled with a mixture of emotions…fear, joy, anxiety, excitement, and humility.

We had dreams of someday opening a retreat center together. We had discussed our ideas for the name, the design, and the entrance. We wanted this retreat center to be a place of rejuvenation and peace for cancer survivors. Of course all those plans have now been placed aside, the economy took a plunge and then her health hit rock bottom and now she is gone. I struggle with ‘keeping the dream alive’, not to sound cliché or trivial. Maybe I am just too old, I say to myself.

Today the homilist spoke about God wanting us to dream big, really big. He quoted from the prophet, Isaiah, in chapter 8 verse 10. This verse is foretelling ‘the birth of Jesus to a virgin and that his name would be Emmanuel’. This occurred hundreds of years before the actual Annunciation took place.

Father said more than once ‘God wants us to dream big’. So maybe, just maybe the dream of having a retreat center together is not out of the question after all.

Certainly I do believe all things are possible with God plus now my friend has a much closer connection with the wisdom of God. If it is to be that I am somehow involved in a retreat center; I pray it will not take hundreds of years to become a reality.

I feel sure, had the turn of events been different, my friend would not have let me drop our dream on the side of the road and walk away.

I ask you today to join me in praying for God to provide what he needs for those we serve. I pray for the gift of wisdom, to have a more discerning heart, for where God is leading me.

We would have had so much more fun together. Sharing our big dreams and plans; doused with a good dose of her wisdom.

I will always cherish her pearls of wisdom.

I only wish I had written them all down for my future reference.

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The Mobile of Life

Many years ago I was taking an art education class. One of the projects we were required to make was a hanging mobile. Well I do not know if you have ever tried to make one of these delicately balanced rotating visual arts, but it is not just mere child’s play.

Today you can purchase a kit complete all that you need to create your own mobile. The directions are included but as with so many things in life having the materials and the written directions are not always sufficient to complete a project.

You can choose various sorts of objects to hang on your mobile. There is no requirement that they be of uniform size or weight. This is what makes creating a balanced mobile such a challenge. If all the component parts are the same size and shape things are much easier.

I have written before about maintaining balance in life and even have done several workshops on the topic, but hanging a mobile is a unique exercise in balance.

When you are planning the layout of a mobile each hanging object must also be free to rotate in all directions without touching another object on the mobile. The delicate balance of a mobile is much like life. We are constantly maintaining a sort of balance as we move about freely throughout our days. We come in contact with others on their own hanging mobile too.

But sometimes we encounter those we have chosen to place on our own mobile. Since we have the choice of what becomes a part of our mobile we can include our friends. In life our mobile is much more fluid and we are constantly making adjustments to keep each part as a freely moving part. Each part while freely moving is very much attached to the structure of the mobile. Each part of the mobile is affected by another part either on the same level or by the next higher level.

The sculptor Alexander Calder said “To most people who look at a mobile, it’s no more than a series of flat objects that move. To a few, though, it may be poetry.”

By the time you are an adult the mobile of your life is quite complicated. It requires much energy and attention to keep all things moving unencumbered by the other parts. When you add something new to your mobile it is usually necessary to adjust the balance again. Even adding something small will change the balance of that section. If you are not anticipating this imbalance then things become tangled up and may ruin the ascetic beauty of your mobile. You will then need to invest hours to untangle and rebalance.

So the question arises, ‘What happens when something is removed from your mobile’? When something is removed from your life mobile, as the result of a death, everything else loses its balanced beauty. There is this hole with nothing to balance the other end. Things become horribly lopsided. You look at the mess and wonder what to move into the empty place. You cannot ignore the empty space. You cannot replace the missing part with just anything to hold the space. What you chose to place in the empty space must be carefully chosen.

You do have another choice; you could decide to completely rearrange the entire mobile. If you chose this option then you will ultimately look closely at each part from a different perspective. Is this piece something I still want to be a part of my mobile? This whole process may take a significant amount of time. There is no deadline for completion, but it must be addressed. This is your life. Do you want to have a tangled mass of stuff or do you want order and beauty to be restored to your mobile?

This is where I am, assessing what is necessary to be kept on this delicate mobile of my life. It is not a matter of one part no longer being part of the balance it is the entire balance. Losing a person from your mobile of life requires the most delicate attention.  At this point I am not sure what the remodeled mobile will look like. I will keep trying to rearrange, add and remove things until the missing sense of balance is recovered…until beauty is restored.

 

Aside

The “White Noise” of Eternity

I am beginning to feel as if the presence of my dear friend is becoming a beautiful ‘white noise’ in my daily life.

I just discovered simplynoise.com, this website offers white, pink and brown noise on their site for free. They even have a white noise app. (You can find an app today for just about anything.)

  The beauty about white noise is that it gradually vanishes into the background and is not something you readily notice. When I was a little girl my sister and shared a bedroom. We did not have central air condition yet so we had this floor fan. You guessed it the sound of this fan became white noise for us. Every night we went to bed with the fan motor humming us to sleep. Each morning when daddy rose at about five o’clock he would come into our room and turn off the fan. Soon if nothing else woke us up the ‘silence’ of the quiet morning had our eyes wide open.

Have you ever noticed when the power goes out in your house just how quiet it is? Just the hum of the refrigerator motor missing creates a huge sound void in the house.

The death of my friend was like turning off the refrigerator motor the ‘noise’ of her presence was silenced. Just as you notice when the electricity goes off you notice when a friend is no longer a part of your daily life in much the same profound way.

So you ask, ‘what exactly is white noise?’ White noise is a noise produced by combining sounds of all different frequencies together. If you took all the different frequencies a human can hear and combined them together, that would be white noise.

My sister, to this day, still sleeps with a fan on every night. The white noise from the fan motor lulls her to sleep.

The adjective ‘white’ is used because of the way white light works.

White light is made up of all the different colors (frequencies) of light together.

 

A prism confirms this quality of white light since it is able to separate the seven colors of the spectrum. White noise works the exact same way.

So how does this work and how does it relate to my friend? The human brain is an exceptional part of our body, but it does have its limitations. When too many conversations or sounds are being heard by our brain it has limited capacity to focus. Once say several conversations are being heard simultaneously the brain no longer even attempts to process the information. It just becomes noise…white noise.

Now that my friend is not physically present and my brain cannot focus on her alone she has become for me white noise. I find this to be comforting because I know she is with me even though I cannot see her. Just as I know all colors are present in white light even though I cannot see them all at the same time.

Seeing is in most cases believing. I think of St. Thomas, he needed to see the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus that post resurrection day in the upper room. I believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist even though I cannot see him in the precious Body and Blood.

I believe even though I can no longer see my friend’s beautiful smiling face; she is with me. God is light and just maybe when you die and pass into the light you become part of the essence of that light. Once you become part of the ‘God Light’ we here on earth can no longer see you with our human eyes. You are a part of the light that surrounds us all, but you do not lose your ‘unique’ color.

She is with me. She is part of my white light I can feel its warmth. I can feel her smiling, even encouraging me. I can feel her supporting me.

 Yes, I do know she is dead, but I do not believe death is as final as we might in our limited understanding believe it to be.

If all we ever saw was white light we would never be able to appreciate the colors of the rainbow. God gave the colorful rainbow as a sign to Noah of his covenant to never again destroy the earth by floods. (Genesis 9:13-14)

Next time you see a rainbow or hear white noise think of the presence of a loved one. They are with you, you just cannot see or hear them any longer.

Be True to Yourself

In reflecting about this post the word legacy kept coming into my head and heart. Legacy is a powerful word to me. Being a visual person, the word legacy brings to mind something larger than life; perhaps a large stone carved statuary piece. A legacy represents something or someone who is no longer here. It is something left behind to preserve a concept, idea, or ideology.

Many times a foundation is even set up in honor of an individual’s contribution to society. I like this concept of legacy. It reminds me of that movie Pay It Forward, I think that is the name. Creating something with the intention of somehow benefiting future recipients is a worthwhile endeavor.

In 2004 Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, began the Legacy Project. In his project he began collecting practical advice from senior Americans. Those seventy and above were polled for their response to the most important lessons they had learned in their life. I have included the link for your reference.

<a href=”http://legacyproject.human.cornell.edu/” target=”_blank”></a>

The lesson posted for today is ‘don’t worry about what everybody else thinks…be true to yourself.’ Be true to yourself. That is not always the easiest thing to accomplish. Recently I was faced with a decision to make, that was difficult. A decision which involved not only being true to myself, but also being true to the legacy of a friendship.

The legacy of a friendship, at least for me, carries with it strength and commitment to hopes and dreams. The legacy of a friendship colors and influences the future. After you lose a loved one it is not unusual to occasionally ask yourself, ‘what would he or she say or do in this situation?’ I have done it many times over the last five months.

After someone dies you may hold on to the smallest seemingly insignificant detail, idea, or item. These things in some way represent the person and become part of their legacy for you. It’s something you hold dear. It’s something that may bring comfort, meaning, and purpose to your life. I am not talking about a situation where you are stuck, not able to function.

I am instead talking about a legacy that gives you fulfillment; one that brings exuberance for your life into your future. I am talking about something that keeps the passion of the person alive.

To me a legacy does not need to be something tangible or visible. A legacy can be in the form of a belief or even emotion. A legacy truly is something handed down from the past. Once you recognize and place value on the legacy; the care for keeping it alive follows as well. Keeping it alive might be in how you choose to preserve it or in some cases defend it.

An emotional attachment to a legacy runs deep within your very being. It is not easily pushed aside or ignored. And if the one who holds this emotional legacy feels that it is being trivialized the automatic reflex to defend it is stronger.

Jesus left us many legacies, perhaps the most profound would be his holy words recorded for us by the gospel writers. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path. We can go to the Bible and find scripture to parallel any of our life events or feelings. Therein lies its legacy.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” (Is. 30:12)

Last week I felt a legacy connected to my friend was jeopardized and my emotional defense system was activated. If you value a legacy, in my opinion, you are responsible for its care and preservation. If you value a legacy, when it’s threatened and you do not protect it; what do you really value?

 

“Happiness is when

what you think,

what you say,

and what you do

are in harmony.”

Mahatma Gandhi1869-1948

I am committed to keeping the legacy of her fingerprints on what we created together. ‘Be true to yourself’ is not necessarily as easy as it sounds.

 “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I shall have the belief that I can do it. I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Mahatma Ganghi 1869-1948

Leaving a Legacy is a lasting gift to those you care most about…your loved ones.

How are you living your life? How do you want to be remembered?