Everyday Spirituality

Archive for the ‘life’ Category

2012 Comes to an End

As I sit here in our hotel room ‘home’ 2012 is only a few hours away. The clock is ticking away and so the time we have been here is also increasing. The world did not end as the Mayan calendar led us to speculate. But things are definitely not the same. Things have changed, but it has nothing to do with an ancient calendar.

One year ago I never would have thought I would be sitting in this tiny room without my ‘stuff’. My priorities have been pinpointed whether or not I had a choice. Well I guess I always had a choice.

We were gifted with a new daughter in law this year. It came as quite a surprise since we were told after the fact. We did not have the pleasure of meeting her until Christmas day, six months after the wedding. I suspect she was just as anxious at meeting us as we were of meeting her. We tend to let our imaginations take over when the unknown looms in the future.

We have done some things this year I never would have thought we would. We spent Christmas with our sons in Austin and not with our parents and siblings. We traveled Christmas evening on icy roads; something we would normally not have done.

Come to think of it the past five months have been littered with many such things. It has been a bitter sweet year on so many accounts. I never thought I would be on the road close to twenty five percent of each month. I never thought I would be living from a suitcase even when I am home. They say home is where your heart is but this year my heart is torn between two very different places. Our home is not where we are together most so does it still count as ‘home’? Do I leave my heart in the hotel room where we are usually together? It gets confusing at times.

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You know what is really quaint? For forty years we have shared a king size bed even when traveling on vacations. Our first hotel room ‘home’ found us sharing a queen size bed. It was a little comfortable, but we made it work. Now since December 2 we have moved to another hotel room and the bed is now only full size. Wow! Now I must be cautious each time I turn over…where is the edge of the bed? I suppose God is forcing us to sleep closer and closer together. Maybe he has a plan here; he usually does.

All I can say about 2012 I have had experiences that have made me stop and think about what was of real importance to us. The conclusion is being together as much as we can is what really matters. We never know how much time we have together.

God put us in this situation and we are trying to make the best of it.

We have the sparkling wine chilled. We are waiting to pop the cork. The pink bubbles will rise in the glasses and we will toast another year together.

We are ready for 2013!

Here’s hoping it will bring joy and happiness not just for us, but for all of our friends and family.

with love

From a Distance

Musings on the word Distance

Last week I did not post here because I was out in the middle of ocean on a cruise.

We were quite a distance from land most of the time. My mother, her good friend, and my sister and her husband were also with us. It gave us more than just a few hours to be together. While we all live a short distance apart we do not spend that much time together. For my mother, who is a sharp eighty five, walking around the ship was quite a distance.

I began to ponder the word distance. Distant relationship…Distant learning…Distant loved ones…Distant hearts…Distant from God

And then of course Bette Midler’s popular song ‘From a Distance’ came to mind. I have been a long time fan of her so I knew this song well. I posted the lyrics on my scripture blog this week too.

distance measuring tape

 Distance…the amount of space between two things or people…the fact or condition of being apart…remoteness…there are some fifteen meanings for this word…mostly related to mathematics…reading down the list I stop at number ten…

A withholding of intimacy; alienation; coldness; disagreement; variance;  restraint; reserve.

Here are my musings as they randomly came to me so please do not try to make any real sense from their order. One thing I am sure of is that even in death ‘distance’ is of little consequence; if there remains the one constant…LOVE.

Long distance learning…

Long distance love affairs….

Long distance phone calls…

Better to watch some things from a distance…

Shortest distance between 2 points…a straight line…

Working from a distance…

From a distance the planet Earth looks like a giant marble…

distant-stars-and-cresent-moon

New Galaxies have been discovered in the distance…

In the distance the city skyline can be seen above the horizon…

In the distance the city lights form patterns in the darkness as observed from high above in the air…

In the distance lightning streaks across the stormy sky…

From a distance the moon appears to hang in the trees tops…

From a distance history becomes the ‘good ole days’…

From a distance things seem smaller…

From a distance a jet is but a speck in the blue sky…

From a distance a cruise ship is but a child’s toy in the immense ocean…

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The Wise Men followed the distant star to Bethlehem…

From a distance the ringing of the country church bells roll over the grassy hillside…

One can suffer from a numb distant heart…

The lonely often have a distant stare in their eyes…

On several occasions Jesus healed from a distance…

Only we can distance ourselves from God…

Distance never separates two hearts that really love…not even death…

The distant dance of sun and rain reflects the colors of the rainbow…

From a distance God can open our eyes, ears, and hearts…

Faith is often the catalyst for healing from a distance by Jesus…

Some people live their entire lives at a distance from everyone else.

Jesus transcended our entire concept of distance when he came down from heaven to live among us. From a distance God has every hair on our head counted. From a distance he watches over us. From a distance he is present.

From a distance he fills us with a desire to be in his presence.

I have come to believe that the word distance is not part of God’s vocabulary.

Only we humans experience this concept of Distance.

Distance exists in all directions around us…God alone fills the space.

with lovehttp://youtu.be/i5_YAj9lCQc

Cornucopia of Blessings

Here we are at the threshold of Thanksgiving 2012.

This year I can honestly say has been a cornucopia of reasons to be thankful.

For the few years of my teaching carreer I not only taught all of the academic subjects I was also the art teacher. Well in reality it was more like time for creating and assembling craft projects. At Thanksgiving we would usually create our Cornucopia of colorful fruits and vegetables. This ‘horn of plenty’ was to appear to be too small to hold the abundane of fruits and vegetables. They were always pictured as spilling out of the horn onto the table top.

So many things can be learned from this simple cornucopia. The fruits and vegetables overlap one on top of the other…sometimes one blessing can partially obsecure another one. At times we are so preoccupied with what is easily seen when there is another blessing just out of sight.

Today if I were to be taken back in time to my former third grade classroom I would have them cut out the colorful fruit but I would also have them write on each piece something they were thankful for.

The cornucopia symbolizies aboundance. As I look back on this year I know I have been abundantly blessed. I know I have many things to be thankful for. I also know that some of those blessings in my life have been like the sour lemon. I know that some of my blessings have been like a pineapple…prickly on the outside but juicy and sweet on the inside.

A cornucopia gives the feeling that there is no end to what can pour out of the opening. You can not see inside as it tapers to a point. Which makes me think about the blessings I have received that could easily been overlooked…to tiny…too insignificant…not important…but blessings none the less.

This horn of plenty has became a staple for Thanksgiving decorations.

In Greek mythology, Amalthea raised Zeus on the milk of a goat. In return Zeus gave Amalthea the goat’s horn. It had the power to give to the person in possession of it whatever he or she wished for. The Cornucopia came to symbolize the unasked profusion of gifts from the gods.This gave rise to the legend of the cornucopia we believe today.

Well that does make for a nice story, but if you are thankful and express your gratitude to others you will be spreading abundant goodness out to others. If you express gratitude when it is unexpected by the other person it will be your gift to them.

The fruits and vegetables are crowded together in this horn of plenty yet they each retain their true form and properties…just as for the many blessings in our life remain unique for us.

The many blessings I have experienced this year in my life have been just like a cornucopia…all shapes sizes, different textures, some more obvious than others. 2012 has been a year filled with more blessings than I could have imagined and some I have yet to discover in the weeks ahead.

Many of you who are faithful readers of this blog are among the many blessings I have experienced this year.

Please know that I treasure the many gifts that pour forth from the cornucopia of my life.

The horn of plenty makes its own music for the heart…a symphony of thankfulness.

May you experience abundant blessings each day of your life.

Five Dollar Parking

 This weekend we continued our quest to find a church we would like to attend for the remaining months ahead. So this week we ventured into the downtown area of the city. We went to the local Cathedral. After driving the sixteen or so miles to reach the location, we were surprised by the parking situation. The biggest surprise was the five dollars it cost to park across the street to attend Mass.

Now granted we do have some people back home that bid much more than that for a single parking space for a year. But five dollars on a Sunday when people are attending church seems so greedy to me. In many other cities, on Sunday, parking is free in the nearby parking lots.

Well needless to say we will not be returning to the Cathedral very often. What if I did not have the cash money to pay for parking? Of course we were not aware if perhaps there was additional parking in another direction from the church building.

This experience gave new meaning to the gospel message of giving to Caesar what is his and to God what is his. This city has found a way to tap into both at one time. Not sure if it is clever or sneaky. The city was sure to get its share whether or not you were giving to God in the church.

The truth is any time you must divide your income or your time there is the potential for conflict and tension. In life we find ourselves in situations where more and more people want a portion of both your income and your time.

Before Mass began the presiding Deacon come down the main aisle and shook hands and personally greeted many people. He even asked us where we were from…how did he know we were visitors? I checked to see if our camera was visible, but it was in my husband’s pocket. I guess we just looked like we were not familiar with the worship space.


Sitting behind us were about six or seven young Dominicans, possibly seminarians. It was a pleasure to hear them singing throughout the Mass. Religious men chanting make for a unique prayer experience. Their voices are full, rich, and dynamic symbolic of what our spiritual life should be like.

This cathedral is also a Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The architecture is classic Victorian. The high pointy steeples are symbolic of our prayers rising up to the heavens. The choir loft houses an impressive pipe organ and the cathedral choir was very nice.

I must confess that the music at Mass greatly supports my overall state of prayer.  The music probably should not matter, but in reality it does matter, at least to me.

We are still on the hunt for a good Sunday homilist. This Sunday was adequate, but not that inspiring, yet better than most others we have heard in the last three months.

Yes, it now has officially been three months since we began living this foreign life…Living in a space that could fit in our living room at home. Housekeeping came today. Funny I actually look forward to their weekly visit. I guess it is at least someone to talk to. The last couple weeks we have had a different person cleaning our room, a man. He does a terrific job, nothing gets past him. He takes pride in his work. He wipes up the kitchen floor on his hands and knees. Pretty impressive.

In all fairness I must ask myself these questions…

How much in the past have I just taken for granted?

How many things went unappreciated?

How many things went unnoticed?

I am still wondering what God has in store for us here in this place. I am confident he does have a plan…a ‘plan for good’ just as he revealed to the prophet Jeremiah 29:11.

 

 

Window Falling—Fan Recycling

 

 

Is this describing my feeble attempt at praying?

 I certainly hope not.

 

The morning sun is streaming through the windows warming the edge of the bed. It is a cool crisp morning. There is a light breeze today. The leaves are beginning to change to shades of yellow. The branches sway and the leaves dangle like the mane on the back of a horse’s neck. It is the beginning of Fall. The time has changed and the holiday season is right around the corner once again.

A little bird flew up to the window this morning curious to see what was inside. He could not stay long for his tiny claws had very little to cling on to. He flew away and then returned for one more attempt to hang on and peer inside the room.

 

Part of me wants to lie down on the bed and soak up the warmth of the sunshine. I want to feel its heat on my body. I want to be in the light yet remain unseen.

I cannot open the window because it does not work properly. It appears to be a functioning window, but in fact it is dysfunctional. The windows are a safety hazard in reality. When you raise them up they later come crashing down and fall out of the frame. Not really what you expect to happen when you open up a window.

We discovered this quite by accident when we needed to open the window after heating up some oil too hot. Electric stoves are a challenge to control.

First we turned on the overhead stove vent fan only to find that it drew up the smoke into the cabinet above which quickly seeped back into the room. There must be some safety code violation here, but who knows. So the vent fan is useless for venting it just recycles…novel concept at best.

We really do not want the smoke detectors to begin going off alarming the whole building. That would be soooo embarrassing.

This is when we discovered the dysfunctional windows. There are even parts on the window that say do not use. It seems someone got a good deal on some windows; not bothering to make sure they would work. Maybe they do not fit properly into the frame and that is why they just fall out. Maybe they were not properly installed from the beginning.

Later in life when you begin to feel the necessity of prayer; then comes the question…

Is my prayer life simply dysfunctional windows? Is my prayer life just a method of recycling my inability to turn to God?

If your prayers are not bringing about change in your life they are just like the vent fan recycling the same smoky air. I recently read that the devil does not mind if we pray and worship God just as long as we do not change. Prayer should be bringing about a change in your heart. We can pray night and day, but unless we are willing to let God change us we are like the windows in the hotel….nice but non-functional.

If you do not let God change you into a better you; then you are going to fall out of the window frame when the first real crisis comes along.

The time has changed, the trees are changing, the season is changing…now is the perfect to take an inventory of your heart. How have you changed since last Fall?

Are you saying your prayers and letting them wash over you like water off a duck’s back? Are you ‘installing’ the proper words on your lips even if you know they are not from your heart?

As long as the window remains locked and not raised it appears to be a functional window…when it is in fact broken.

As long as the vent fan is not needed to do its job the switch does go on and off…but the intended results cannot be realized.

Even if the window is falling and the fan is recycling; they still have the potential to be working properly.

Prayer must change you in some way… no matter how great or small.

Evidence of Trust

There are times when I trust in myself, but more and more often I must trust in the Lord.

Today we live in a society where an attitude of trust is difficult to maintain. Some almost think it is naïve to trust. We are routinely misled and deceived by what we see, hear, and even taste. The medical environment is certainly not an area where we can place our trust.

I think maybe God is the only one you can completely trust. You can rely on him in every conceivable situation.

 

Printed on our money is the phrase ‘in God we trust’, but today I wonder what those words mean. We can hardly trust our government or the politicians of today to mean what they say. We are being led into the weary land of the skepticism.

In recent years we have came to the sad realization that we cannot trust our teachers, our ministers, or our law enforcement, to name just a few.

The headlines reveal things are not as they appear. 

Things are not as they should be.

So where do we turn? There is only one person to whom we can trust with total confidence and that is of course God. But even then we struggle, at least I have. I trust but with reservations. I want to completely trust but there is that sense of hesitation hanging over my head. It is hard to trust with your whole heart.

So many of those we meet are masters of deceit; which is precisely why God gives us so many reasons to trust him. And it is also why we need to be constantly reminded by God that we should trust him.

I have had several personal reminders myself from God concerning trust.

God says even in the midst of crashing waves, trembling earth quakes, loss of loved ones, distant travels even on a blue bus…you can trust me. I will take care of you. I will bless you. I will give you sufficient grace.

Trust seems to always be supported with scaffolding, ropes, and pulleys. We all want to trust but we need some tools of support to let ourselves trust. Trust precipitates more trust and more trust results in greater trust, and greater trust leads to deeper trust. With the greatest, deepest, and most reliable trust remaining with God.

 

I must remind myself to trust each time doubts begin to stir within my heart. The feelings of turbulence are a clear reminder to recall the many times the Lord has taken care of me or my loved ones. Trusting God is so much easier than trusting anyone or anything else. You can count on God to never fool you, deceive you, or mislead you.

Scripture verses on trust:

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD,

have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

…when I am afraid, in you I place my trust. Psalm 56:4

He shall not fear an ill report; his heart is steadfast,

trusting the LORD. Psalm 112:7

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,

on your own intelligence do not rely…Proverbs 3:5

I invite you to spend some time this week praying with these verses on trust.

Ask God to open your heart to his trust as you go about your daily life.

This is what I am seeking; to be open to God’s trust.

Lick and a Promise

I am sure you have heard that saying before…a lick and a promise. Our dear housekeeper is overwhelmed with the number of rooms she must service each day, but she cleans with a lick and a promise. I tidy up the room before her usual knock on the door just before noon. While I know she cleans the bathroom the tub stills holds tightly unto the ‘ring’ of soap scum.

She has never once dusted any piece of furniture and only mopped the kitchen floor once during our stay.

She is very friendly, changes the linens, and vacuums. She leaves us plenty of TP, which is a good thing. But her overall cleaning is a lick and a promise.

The dictionary explains the idiom as meaning…superficial effort done without care or enthusiasm. The saying dates way back to 1800’s probably referring to the way a cat may give a quick lick with the idea to came back later and do a more thorough job.

I was thinking that sometimes perhaps my prayer life is nothing more than a ‘lick and a promise’. I go through the prayer motions. I say the appropriate prayers for the day, but is my whole heart in the right place?

Is there something more I should be doing? Should I be praying for a longer time? Should I be spending more of my prayer time in silence? Maybe I am using too many words.

Yesterday after receiving Eucharist I was drawn to really focus on his presence within me. I noticed the woman next to me was wiping tears from her cheeks. My thoughts turned to her for a moment. She was attending Mass alone. What was causing her to cry? I felt urged to say a little prayer for her. At the end of Mass I told her to have a blessed week. We smiled at each other and went our separate ways.

This week, with the canonization of seven new Saints, I have been examining my life more closely. Each of those individuals recently canonized led very ordinary lives. At some point in each of their lives they became more dedicated to doing the work of the Lord.

How does this transformation take place in one’s life if your prayer life is merely ‘a lick and a promise’?

There is a gift in going to a different parish each Sunday. It is exhilarating to join so many faithful in attending Mass. To feel a part of a greater community of believers that is so much larger than our community at home. To see people from every walk of life and every age sharing the Eucharist together is inspiring.

Each Sunday I look forward to the music that we will sing during the Mass. Many times we sing familiar hymns, but about half the time we sing hymns that are new to me. I find the new music truly enhances my participation.

I think maybe I am enriching my prayer life, even though I may not feel it.

I am expanding my prayer circle beyond those I know well at our home parish. It is different to pray for those anonymous persons. It is different to pray for someone you probably will not see again even if we do return to the same church.

There is no sense of real community except that we are all Catholic.

A Lick and a Promise is only about the surface…the top layer…the most obvious.

I want to have a prayer life with a much deeper meaning…a deeper commitment…I do not want my prayer life to be limited to the obvious.

We should all be striving for a deeper more committed relationship with the Lord.

Did I really have to leave the comforts of my home parish to make this discovery?

God deserves way more than a ‘lick and a promise’…

He deserves the best that I have to offer.

 

Near Occasions of Joy

During this past week I think God has been trying to get my attention. As I have often experienced in my relationship with God, he is ever so subtle when he is trying to teach me something.

 
He has sent me little messages through a penny on the ground at my car door. He has sent me a very personal message through a painting on our Paschal candle.
These last few days I seem to be getting these little unexpected occasions of joy. Little bursts of joy that appear ever so briefly, yet undoubtedly fill the bill.

 

The other day my husband and I were just opening the door to leave our room. At that very moment two tiny frolicking puppies almost ran into our room. They were happily bounding down the long hallway ahead of their owner. They were so playful and energetic that it really made us stop and smile. These two little dogs were eager to go outside and play ball. They had been cooped up in the room all day long and it was time to run.

 

Once again yesterday these two happy puppies greeted us as we left the building. They make us smile every time we see them. They are a reminder that God wants us to be joyful.

These little dogs would much rather be running around outside with the wind blowing in their ears, but instead they only get to be outside a few minutes each day.

These cute little dogs want to chase the ball thrown by their owner, but he is working all day. They are eager to catch the ball and return it to their master just so he can throw it out once again.

I ask myself.  What are you doing to fill your day with joy?

Is it fixing breakfast for my husband?

Is it chopping carrot sticks for his lunch?

Is it making the bed?

I think these little dogs are God’s way of showing me there can be much joy in life’s simple pleasures. You don’t have to be having a special celebration to experience joy. You do not have to be in some exotic destination to experience joy. You don’t even have to be with your best friend to experience joy.

Life is filled with near occasions of joy that may go unnoticed if we do not look. We could not ignore these two happy dogs. We nearly tripped right over their little bodies.

They are living proof that even if you are cooped up inside a single room all day there is joy worth waiting for.

In the end you do get to run with the wind in your hair.

In the end you do get to catch the ball.

In the end you do get to return to your master.

The Ironing Board

I have a question for you. Do you ever iron?

I must admit there are not too many things I iron today.

With the advent of permanent press and wash ‘n wear who needs to iron?

I have noticed that most every hotel room includes an iron and ironing board. Just what you want to do while on vacation….iron. Well our little hotel room does indeed have the iron and the accompanying board.

As I have said before when you are living simple it tends to make you look at all things from a different perspective. As a writer I spend a great deal of time typing on the computer. I was scanning the room; where could I most comfortably set up the computer?

Suddenly it occurred to me that the ironing board would make the almost perfect desk. It was portable. It already had a dedicated space in the room. It was adjustable to various heights. Who could ask for more?

I could carefully maneuver it on either side of the bed so that I could sit on the edge of the bed and type. I could place it near the window. Now we have a lovely young tree outside our window.    I could even raise it up so that I could stand up and type. Wow! Such versatility from something as  mundane as an ironing board.

Typically I would have never paid any attention to the ironing board neatly tucked in the closet. But when you have few things creativity can be a breath of fresh air. I think there is some saying about invention coming out of necessity. I am sure you are familiar with the saying.

Oh, there was also a plug nearby so I could get power to the computer. A source of power is a useful thing to have nearby.

It reminds me that God wants us to use what we have. It would be easier to look at what you do not have to make excuses. We have a creative God and he has passed on to us the ability to tap into this fountain of creativity.

It is quiet in our little room and there are few distractions. Distractions can hamper our desire to really look at our environment. Distractions keep us preoccupied. Distractions divert our attention to our immediate surroundings. Distractions lure us to look everywhere except the immediate area.

In our prayer life distractions keep us from praying as best we can. How easy it is to put our prayer life even below these distractions.

I invite you to look around and find something in your immediate environment that you have previously taken for granted. As you look at this object ask yourself how you can bring it into your prayer life.

Maybe it is something as insignificant as the television control. How could you use that creatively in prayer? Perhaps it could remind you that changing you have the ability to change your attitude. Perhaps it could remind you about how God is present through the many different genres of your life from news and drama to comedy and cooking.

 

The ironing board served as my desk….something useful and mundane. The ironing board reminded me too that my prayer life needs to be kept fresh through various changes. It is so comfortable to get into mindless routines even when it comes to prayer. We go through the motions on auto pilot. I cannot function on auto pilot at this time in my life. There is nothing about my current situation that would fit into my previous thoughtless ‘auto pilot’ life.

 

Thrift Store Surprise

The Laced Edged Plate…

When you are living the simple life you learn to also be frugal. You become serious about bargain hunting.

When you are living a ‘temporary’ simple life your decision making processes are different. You are more aware of what is really necessary. You assess the available space for storing each item.

This particular day we decide to locate the nearest Good Will Store. We are on the hunt for old fashioned TV trays. You know the ones with the beautiful painted scenes of still life or the country farm house. Apparently they are now vintage and the monetary equivalent of a collector’s item.

When I was a kid these little trays were handy for using in the living room while watching TV. Duh!

The kitchen was another room back then and there was no television. So someone came out with this new invention…a portable collapsible individual table. They were light weight and could easily be tucked away when not being used.

 

After looking on line it was clear that we were not going to easily find these little trays on tubular legs. This is when we got the idea for the Good Will Store. We are not frequent thrift store shoppers it just seemed appropriate.

They have nothing close to what we were looking for….but none the less there were some hidden treasures on the shelves.

In life you often stumble upon something of value while you are actively looking for something else. That is exactly what happened as we walked leisurely up and down the aisles.

We have moved across the street to a smaller room now. We have nothing that could be considered appropriate for drinking wine; before we had the cute juice glasses. We used those, just fine.

There were many glasses sitting on the dusty shelf. Some were even engraved with  people’s names. What happened to ‘Dick and Jane’? I wondered. Why did they get rid of these wine glasses bearing their names? Did they get new glasses? Were they stil together? Paused to send blessings to these two people wherever they were…

Eventually we agreed on two plain crystal wine glasses. It was important to my husband that we find matching wine glasses. He finally was able to locate a pair of matching wine glasses.

Just below the shelf of glasses the real surprise lay in hiding…beautiful china dinner plates. These were fine china white with a lace pattern rimming the edge.

The plates in the hotel are; well let’s say dull and boring. These were delicate and beautiful. Even my husband thought they were perfect to go with his wine glasses.

Oh, there was only one question; nothing was marked with a price tag. So we agreed on a certain amount we would be willing to pay and proceeded to the register.

 

We presented our new found treasures and asked, ‘How much?” To our surprise she said ninety-nine cents each. We were thrilled. Now we had two proper wine glasses and two real china plates for dinner.

Simple does not mean you must sacrifice the finer things in life. You may have to change your attitude about what those finer things truly are.

Sharing a glass of wine together and eating off of these beautiful lace edged plates; today translate to some of our finer things.

Allow yourself to be surprised when you least expect it.

Life can be as wonderful as you want it to be or as miserable as you want it to be.

Which do you choose?