Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘heart’

The Sands of Grief

In a few days it will be one year since losing my best friend. As we tend to do when looking back I have tried to process the last twelve months.

At first there was the acceptance that she really was gone. The days when I missed her physical presence…The times I wanted to pick up the phone and call her…The questions I still had to ask her…The advice I missed getting from her. And so much more; like just being able to hug her and feel her hugging back in response.

At first part of me felt so paralyzed…almost lost. I knew that life would go on with or without her. I knew we would survive even with this huge void in our lives. But I did not like it one tiny bit.

When I was a young child we would often go to the beach early in the morning. If we could not be there by eight o’clock mother was not happy.

My mother wanted us to be on the sand and in the water before it got terribly hot. I remember being fascinated with the way the water would fill up any whole you made in the sand. You would dig your fingers into the sand and just as quickly it flowed back to fill up the whole. The sand on the beach has the quality of holding water in itself.

In the early days following her death I would go about my daily routines. Thoughts of her would rush in to fill whatever space available. I could be driving and thoughts of something we did together would rush into my mind.

Just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

I could be alone in the kitchen cooking and thoughts of times we cooked together would rush into my heart. I could see us standing together chopping and sharing our dreams. Or discussing how to cut the cucumbers. Thoughts rushed in just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

I could be praying in our church filled with Sunday worshippers and thoughts of the many times we prayed together would rush into my heart. I could feel her presence as we joined together in praying to Our Father in heaven. These thoughts and feelings would rush in just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

You cannot stop these thoughts and feelings from filling the spaces in your heart, mind, and soul. You cannot control these thoughts and feelings any more than I could control the beach sand. I could not stop the sand from rushing into my little hole unless…I moved farther away from the shore line.

As time passes it seems as though you have moved farther away from the shore line. The thoughts rush in less frequently, but still present.

One of the interesting facts about sand is that it is made of remnants of the past…               So it is with grief.

Sand actually comes in different sizes. Most sand feels gritty between your fingers. But some sand, like silt, feels as soft as baking flour… So it is with grief.

Because of the chemical makeup of sand, usually containing quartz, it is weather resistant. Just as it is with grief, sand comes in several different colors depending on its physical contents.

One day grief feels like depression…one day grief feels like gratitude…one day grief feels like regret…one day grief feels like solitude…one day grief feels like overwhelming love…one day grief feels like deep peace and one day grief feels like profound joy.

We find sand in many environments from the seashore and the desert to the mountain tops. The waters of grief can flood your heart and soul when you least expect them. Grief can leave you in the desert to face and wrestle with your feelings of being alone and empty. Finally you realize it is grief that makes you appreciate the mountain top. It is the grief that guides you to seek out the mountain top. The beauty of grief is that it enriches your future.

On the mountain top…you can rejoice in what fills your heart and soul.

On the mountain top… you can let the sands blow.

On the mountain top you can be content in knowing that your heart will always hold the one you love.

If you ever want to amaze yourself about sand just go to the Wikipedia where you can learn how sand is used in things from concrete and bricks to beautiful transparent glass. You can even smooth your toes while at the beach by digging them in the sand.

Beauty lies within the wholeness

of the grief we experience…

be on the lookout for its presence.

Grief can became a treasured

piece of sculpture.

God is constantly surrounding us with his goodness.

My Soul Yearns

 Each day for hours the cat sits very still     on the windowsill. She stares outside.

I wonder. Is she yearning for her former days as a free, yet abandoned cat? Does she long for the thrill of the hunt? Does she miss the suspense of stalking her next meal? Does she still remember the wind blowing through her fur? Does she want to run free exploring with her neighborhood cat friends?

This post is mostly about my unanswered questions about yearning. Is yearning different from longing? Or are they merely two different words we use to express the same state of consciousness? Is craving for something yet another word we use to describe the same emotion?

 Does a caterpillar yearn to develop wings and fly?

Does a bud yearn to unfold its petals?

Does a fragrance yearn to be inhaled?

Does a thought yearn to be expressed?

Does a word yearn to be written?

Does a book yearn to be read?

Does a cloud yearn to release its raindrops?

Does the sunrise yearn to break the darkness?

Does a dream yearn to be remembered?

Is what you yearn for compatible with your true self? How can you know?

Does a sail yearn to be filled with wind?

Whatever you are yearning for; God will satisfy. Do you believe this? Is God really the only one who can satisfy our yearning hearts?

Does yearning keep you moving forward or is it paralyzing?

Did Jesus know what it meant to yearn?

Can yearning ever be satisfied in this life?

Does darkness yearn to see the light?

Does a spark yearn to burst into flame?

Is there ever an end to yearning?

Does one yearning give birth to a future yearning?

Does war yearn for peace?

What does your soul yearn for in the warmth of the sunlight?

What does your soul yearn for in the dark of night?

What if you yearn for something you cannot have?

What if you yearn for something that does not exist?

Little did I know; research shows that after a death of a loved one yearning is the primary emotion felt. This is contrary to previous studies which found depression to be the primary emotion. The Yale and Harvard scientists found yearning to be the most powerful negative emotion after a death. Learning about this study actually makes me feel normal. Ha!

Yearn is a great word to remember when

playing scrabble.

 If my writing does nothing but causes you to think; then I have written well at least for today.

 “…my soul yearns and pines…” Psalm 84

Sometimes I am confused by what I yearn for…

Do I actually create my own yearnings or do they just materialize?

I am yearning to learn all that I can about how to become

a better more holy person.

 

 

 

 

Grafted to My Heart

In spite of how much knowledge we believe we have acquired there is so much we have yet to learn about our own physical bodies. There are so many theories circulating especially about the heart. So I am going to add my own heart theory.

This theory has been circulating through my mind for some time now. I truly believe that when you make the choice to love another person that over time the very makeup of your heart cells is changed.

Now to be clear I am not talking about the love you have for your spouse. This is my one sentence disclaimer.

Loving another person calls your very being to a higher level. I believe with the passage of time as your love for the other person grows you begin to change. With every passing year you gain more understanding and love for the person. The more you are with the person the more you share; the deeper the understanding. Gradually your heart begins to change in response to this love.

I am not talking about the feelings of being in love here; I am talking about the genuine love which comes from God’s commandment to love one another.

There is a visual I keep getting of little minute pieces of the one you love being sprinkled into your cells invigorating them, nourishing them if you will. Love really is good for us. Love keeps us physically healthier.

Certainly the love for God keeps us spiritually healthy. So why wouldn’t we reap physical benefits from loving another human being. We were created to love one another.

Any way back to my vision of the cells in my body…what if as you learn to love another person more and more with time little pieces of their essence take up residence in you and become part of who you physically are as a person. (Forgive me for that terrible run on sentence…) In this manner they would really be with you forever.

When you have loved someone for a long time after they die the parts of them in your cells do not die along with their physical body. This presence is more than a vivid memory of who they were this is a part of your heart.

You carry a part of them with you wherever you go. They have become grafted to your own person. The grafting of plants is very common. I think we can experience a grafting of the spirit of another person.

Once this grafting is firmly connected in the heart it is part of the cell structure.

When this happens you are overheard making comments like, ‘I felt her presence with me’ or ‘she was leading me to _______’. Once you have someone grafted onto your heart they are there as long as your heart has the life giving blood rushing through the veins and arteries.

There are numerous references to the heart in the Bible. The very act of praying comes from the heart. Prayer the raising of one’s mind and heart to God. The heart is the dwelling place where God resides. The heart is our hidden center. The heart is what we honor with our decisions. The heart is the place of truth. The heart is where we first make a decision.

If the heart is where we encounter God and live in relation with him; to me it follows that the heart must also be where we are in relation with all those we love deeply.

Whether or not my little heart theory is correct does not really matter…What matters is how you love another person and how that love gets grafted onto your heart. What matters is how this love changes the very essence of your cells as they are changed to include the other person’s love for you.

Your love for one another changes not only your heart, but the other person’s heart too. You exchange cell grafts. Once you love another person you are never exactly the same ever again.

The love God has for us certainly changed us for all eternity. “For God so loved the world” John 3:16

When Jesus says I will be with you always until the end of time it is precisely because his love has changed our hearts. God is love and he is in our hearts.

As with any other graft you must care for this gift of love.

Where are Your Scars?

Just before Christmas I tripped on the sidewalk coming back from the mailbox. Well of course as I am trying to pick myself up from the ground I am also looking around to see if my neighbors saw my tumble. I scratched my glasses, cracked a front tooth and I sliced both of my knees.

Why am I writing about this now? This happened almost exactly four months ago and my knees still have very visible ugly scars. I do not know of these will ever completely disappear. Whenever I bathe or shave my legs I am reminded of the day I tripped on the sidewalk.

I feel the same way about losing my friend only there is not just one scar on my knee. There is this scar that you cannot see with the naked eye, but yet you know it is there. A scar on the skin gradually gets lighter in color…it becomes less sensitive, but it is still there. A scar on the skin loses some of its sensitivity.

Death is like a scar on your heart. At first it is very sensitive and painful,

but gradually the pain lessens.

 Instead of associating the scar on your skin with the cause; the scar of the heart is associated with those things you miss most about the person…things you did together…things that were shared…things that were said…

 There seems to always be something that reminds you of the person…

it is like a scar that never goes away.

I know that there will always be something that reminds me of her. Someday these memories will come to be associated with happy memories. Someday I will look at the scars on my knees and not remember the details of the day I tripped on the sidewalk.

 I look forward to the days of happy memories free of any the pain of loss.

Scars of the heart will eventually soften, but they will forever be a part of who I am.

I Am with You Always

For some time I have had a picture of Jesus embracing a child in a hug. In this picture, however I see the woman receiving comfort in this embrace. The muted colors reflect tenderness to me. Even moments of tenderness can carry a huge impact on your soul. I tend to close my eyes attempting to block the outside world from interfering with my feelings. The arms of Jesus are supporting the child and drawing her close into his love. Jesus also has his eyes closed so he is also focused on this moment in time. Jesus even seems to be using his head to further extend his love to this child.

I can remember holding my children close to me in much this same pose. Looking back at the child her right hand seems to be clutching to Jesus’ shoulder.

I am describing this picture with such care because it closely represents much of what I was gifted with this weekend during a guided meditation. We were initially led into a church with large heavy doors.

I was at first in a church we had visited while in Barcelona a few months ago. I could easily picture the massive doors. The exterior surface was covered with cut out raised words. You could easily trace the letter of each word with your fingers. The name of Jesus was highlighted in gold and could easily be read.

As the meditation progressed I found myself in another European church with the typical smaller altars lining both sides of the inside walls. I am kneeling there to pray for my friend, which I had actually done, when I began to feel this warmness.

My friend was embracing me; our hearts were merging and the tears were beginning to well up in my eyes. I remember thinking I wanted to wipe them aside, but I did not want to move for fear of spoiling the moment. I remained still letting this embrace be enough to fill my heart with her love.

I think God used this special time to let me know that she would be with me during the rest of the weekend. Towards the end of the meditation time we were asked to touch the place on our body where we experienced God’s glory, I think, anyway I could only touch my heart. I felt her embracing my heart much as I had felt her hugging me physically many times before.

I did not want to let the moment pass, but I knew it was not meant to last. This picture above is a wonderful snapshot of a moment frozen in eternity.

I felt her presence with me at other times during the weekend too. She was beside me during many conversations I had with the other women. She knew most of the women present. She never met a person she did not remember on subsequent occasions.

If she met you she cared about you it was that simple. So she would not have missed the opportunity this weekend to be with those she knew.

So in spite of not really wanting to be on this retreat I know now it was a blessing of peace. It was a blessing of reassurance of her presence. I know Jesus said he would be with us until the end of time.

So if my dearest friend is with him in heaven, which I have no doubt she is, then it seems reasonable to me that she would also be with me until the end of time. Without the hindrance of her physical body she can now be with many at the same time, family and friends.

The beauty of the ‘spirit’ of a person is that there are no boundaries, but only a thin separation as some call the ‘veil of death’. Shortly before my friend became ill my sister was inspired to paint her in an embrace with Jesus similar to this image.

This week as celebrate Valentine’s Day my heart is rejoicing at the friendship and love we shared for so many years. Sending my valentine wishes via thoughts and prayers sprinkled with joy for all the times we shared together.

I invite you to pause tomorrow and think about those who have been a part of your life and touched your soul in a special way. They are with you if only in your heart.

“And behold, I am with you always,

until the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:20)

The Party

Well today is The Party. For several years now my friend and her husband have hosted a party to celebrate family, love, and friendship. This party is much like a wedding reception except there will be no new bride and groom. But in many ways we are celebrating their wedding because it brought forth a beautiful family. We are celebrating all that is good about love and family. This party contains all the elements one could hope for in life…food, family, friends, fun, and music.

They loved to dance together and they loved to see their guests having fun together. Every other year has been marked with this celebration. I have to accept my deep regret this time. Two years ago at their last party my husband and I were in San Diego, consequently we were not able to attend.

Had I known two years ago that she would not be here for her next party I would have made different vacation plans. But we are not privileged to see the future so, I was not there. It was my decision. We all have to live with the results of the decisions we make in life.

She was disappointed that we were going to miss the party, but she never made me feel guilty. That is true friendship.

That year during the party she gave away some of her precious possessions to her children. She also had small pieces of crystal decorating each table, which one person at each table received to take home.

Later many people asked me if she knew she was dying. I cannot now nor could I then answer that question completely. But I believe when you have pancreatic cancer diagnosis you cannot “not” think about your own mortality.

It seems fitting that the gospel reading today is the Wedding Feast at Cana. Jesus performed his first public miracle changing water into the best wine. I rejoice at the beautiful marriage my friend and her husband shared for 42 years. On more than one occasion I witnessed their response to, “Do whatever he tells you.” On more than one occasion they took empty jars a filled them with their unconditional love. Who could ask for anything more from a friend than unconditional love?

It will be a difficult night as I mingle with family and friends who loved her and miss her presence in their lives. I suppose I will never truly get over missing her. Yes, I know things get better with time, but a part of me left this earth with her. A part that can never be replaced…a part I gladly let her take into eternity…my love for her.

We used to do a day of prayer together called “The Heart Connection”. We used a little story about an old man and a young man each boasting about who had the most beautiful heart. The young man thought he did until he listened to the old man describe how his heart came to look so tattered and torn. How through the years the old man had given parts of his heart away. How sometimes people would ignore his gift; and sometimes they would give him a piece of their heart in return. His heart looked more like a well loved and worn patch work quilt to be treasured.

I go to this party ready to join her family in sharing her love with everyone attending.

I wonder, though not recorded in the Bible, how many people regretted not answering the call to follow Jesus. Did they have other things to do at the time of the call? Did they not believe what he was saying and doing? Were they not ready? Was it just not the right time in for them?

We all have regrets in our life. A regret can be as simple as not being able to accept an invitation or as serious as not mending a relationship with a loved one. Many people express their regrets on their deathbed.

“Regrets are the tears of choices not made, and of good deeds left undone.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I really do not think my friend had any real regrets to express, because she lived her life always trying to do what was placed on her heart.

Perhaps it is better to make a fool of yourself rather than to build a storage shed to hold all of your life regrets.

“…Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” Eph. 4:1b

Well everyone at the party had a good time and joy filled the room through lively music, exhausting dance, tasty food, personal conversations, and warm embraces.

My friend was dancing in heaven with us…not sure what the chicken dance looks like with angel wings! But I have a really vivid imagination!

“All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts. 2:44

 

Restless…Body, Mind, and Soul

This has been a difficult few days. Sitting…waiting…just “Be-ing” in the moment and yet at the same time feeling restless. Where is this restlessness coming from? I watch my friend tossing and turning in her hospital bed. She cannot get comfortable too many tubes too many interruptions… vital signs. Even the slightest move…even in slow motion takes every ounce of energy from her frail body. I try to help, but where do I place my hands to not cause her more discomfort?  Sometimes even the next breath takes all of her energy.

I look into her eyes. I feel her frustration and pain? I speak to her in gentle kind loving words…how is this? Is your head comfortable on the pillow? I gently bring the covers up around her shoulders…trying to keep out the cold air. She is so cold. I wish I could warm her with the very breath from my own body.

When I was little I remember having little ribbon streamers attached to the end of my bicycle handle bars. When you rode fast into the wind the streamers would blow and twirl around. It was so much fun!

We did not have air condition when I was little so a fan in every room was the norm. You could tie thin ribbons on the grill of the fan. Once you turned on the fan the ribbons would blow out from the grill and ripple in the wind.

I was just across the hall from my friend in her home. She has finally gone into a deep restful sleep. I am tossing and turning…restless… I cannot get into a comfortable position.

Then it happened; as my body settled down my mind entered into this restless state. Memories, but not like a movie or a scrapbook page. These memories came as ribbon streamers. Each ribbon a different color bearing the written account of a time we’ve had together. I could clearly see the printed words some larger than others…some written in bold type.  

The ribbons were blowing, swirling, dancing perhaps in my mind. Swirling as if some undetected source was generating a breeze in my head keeping the streamers in constant motion…restless…

Eventually we are both taken into sleep…taken away from our own uncomfortable restlessness of body and mind.

I wonder, if this restlessness is part of the dying process…is this restlessness a symptom of our resistance to surrender? Sleep became the salve for her restlessness and eventually for mine too.

St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”

I know in my heart that God has a plan…we just need to be patient within our restlessness…more than once Jesus calmed the restless waters…speaking words of peace…Be not afraid, for I am with you. The familiar music drifts into my heart”…I go before you always…”

How do you handle restlessness in your life?