Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘love’

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.

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The Multi-Purpose Room

This Easter week the gospels about the Empty Tomb, the women gathering and weeping, and the angels keeping watch were so touching to me. I have heard and read these stories many times but they had more meaning this year.

It has only been seven months since her death. Or, has been seven months already?

I often vacillate between both attitudes. Life is so much about your perspective. You know the half full half empty glass concept. So this week I have been taken back to the scene of her death.

While it was not an empty tomb by any means; instead it was the middle bedroom slash computer slash sewing slash television room. I guess you could say the multi-purpose room.

As I have reflected this week on the gospel scene depicting the two angels sitting in the empty tomb I see us gathered around her. Some of us were at her feet…some of us were at her head…some were on the floor at her side. She was surrounded on all sides by loved ones.

As God gently drew her back to him we were there keeping watch… praying…  expressing our love for her. Thinking back it really was a beautiful peace-filled scene.

While technically none of us present were angels just the same we honored with much reverence her crossing from death into her new life. The angels keeping watch in the empty tomb of Jesus were also honoring his passage although very different.

Jesus died a violent cruel death. His loved ones were not allowed to touch him while he was hanging on the cross during his final hours of suffering. How heart breaking that must have been for Mary.

I feel that we were most blessed to have been present for her death. We touched her, caressed her, spoke words of love to her. I like to think our presence somehow made the transition more peaceful for her.

We gathered by her side for her, but we also gathered together for one another. We know that we will never forget this time we had together. Each time since then when I have had the occasion to hug one who was present that evening it is a special connected embrace. An embrace of compassionate knowing I guess you might say.

I think back to Mary and the apostles, how they must have felt a similar connection having shared in witnessing the crucifixion.

While I do not expect to experience any visual appearances from my friend; I have experienced the feeling of the spirit of her presence. I feel sometimes as if I am blind. When you are blind they say you sense things in a more intense manner. The mind and body compensate for what would normally be received through seeing.

Perhaps death is like a ‘blindness’ so the heart is compensated through other avenues. It is beautiful really to hold these things in my heart. It is also a blessing to share them with others.

I pray that whatever God puts on my heart to write here will give comfort to someone else; if not now sometime in the future. Perhaps years from now someone will stumble across this blog just when they need it most. So I pray for those people today…future readers who must also embark on this journey of grief.

There is no way to escape the grief…you may attempt to ignore it for awhile, but it hangs around. It is not packed neatly inside your heart; it is sometimes more like a natural disaster you must wait out.

The Multi-Purpose Room is our Sacred Room…her spirit will remain there for us to delight in remembrance. It is one place we can come to honor her as the angels sat in the empty tomb of Jesus with love.

Incomplete Words: Missing Letters

As I sit before the computer keyboard today I am at a loss for words. What more is there to say? What happens when we run out of words? Is that when we cease to exist? If there are no more words that need to be said that must be the end. I do not really believe lack of words is an ending.

There are times when words do not suffice. There are times when words get in the way. There are times when words are not necessary. If this is true then why do we miss the words once spoken by a loved one?

Many years ago I had a dream that I was sitting in the bath tub full of water reading what seemed like a newspaper. It was large and I had to lift up my arms to keep it out of the water. The letters seemed so black against the bright white paper.

I was not actually reading the words they were just there upon the page. Letters near each other forming words spread apart with white empty space. Some of the letters pushed into the top of the empty space, while others pushed below the invisible bottom line.

Just when I thought I could actually read what these letters had formed together they slowly began to slide into the bath water. They did not disappear or dissolve; they just floated about aimlessly in the water. Some of the letters gradually sank into the water, but still retaining their properties of color, shape and size.

What these letters had lost was their coherent ability to communicate. You see they needed to be with the other letters in order for me to decipher their message. Each letter alone could not convey the same message. Sometimes I feel like a letter that has fallen off the page searching for the rest of my word.

I think that is what it is like when a loved one is gone. Either their letter is missing from the word or you have dropped out of the word. I do not know which.

There are certainly times in a relationship when you can just ‘be’ and words are not necessary. Silence in a relationship is often thought of as a sign of mature love. We do not always speak words that convey our deepest feelings and emotions.

Returning to my dream; as the letters floated about the tub it came time to let the water out. From here I do not have a clear memory so I will create my own ending. I guess it is called artistic liberty. Here is the ending I would have wanted.

When the letters had all slipped down the drain, having no other choice; there were four letters remaining in the bottom of the tub.  Somehow these four letters manage to remain because when all else is gone these four letters find a way to cling to whatever they can. I know you can guess what four letters…L…O…V…E

They will always remain because they are fixed in the soul of the one who loves and fixed in the soul of the one who is loved.

The greatest of all is love. Love never dies or fades away. Love spans fathoms.

When there are no words to be spoken there is love. When no words can be spoken there is love. When the ears can no longer hear the spoken words there is love.

Sometimes the best way love can be expressed is through music. I am listening to Michael Hoope’s  CD Solace. Music has this magnificent ability to wrap around you and sneak into your heart.

I have not run out of words, they have just taken on a different context. Today the words are not on a page or on the bottom of the bathtub. Words today are in the silent recesses of my heart. There they are safe and will not fall from a page or slip down the drain.

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)

Do You Ever Feel Stripped?

Romans 8:28, 31 “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Throughout life we are stripped in many different situations. Daily we strip from our clothes in order to cleanse our body. Thus we have the sanitary reason for stripping. Whenever I make my annual gynecological visit stripping is also required. Thus we have the medical reason for stripping.

Refinishing furniture requires stripping off the old finish. A stripped screw can no longer function properly. And of course we have the whole adult entertainment industry where stripping is used to attract and tempt men and women.

There are other examples of stripping I could include, but I want to focus on feeling stripped as a result of a death. A stripping you cannot control; more on that a little later.

The idea here of feeling stripped is about loss; not of clothing but of emotional support. Since losing my friend I have felt stripped of her presence. It is like I do not have my complete wardrobe.

Looking into my ‘closet’ I am not able to find an acceptable substitute. I get dressed, but always something is missing. I feel things do not coordinate together. Something I highly valued has been stripped from my life.

Throughout our lives we are involuntary stripped of things we hold dear…material things….money…personal security…peace of mind…hopes…and dreams…health…the list could go on.

I know in my heart that it is more about how I react than to what I perceive is being stripped from me. This realization requires vigilance.

I often try to connect situations in my life with a familiar biblical story. When I think of being stripped I picture Jesus being stripped of his clothes. He chose to submit to this humiliating act allowing the soldiers to strip him and cast lots for his garments. No greater Love!

Without clothes you are naked and vulnerable to the external elements. Without clothes you lose some protection. There is nothing to cover your sensitive skin. The death of my close friend to me is much like being stripped.   I feel vulnerable.

Being stripped of your soul friend leaves you without familiar cover. Not that you can hide inside your clothing, but the friendship provides a safe place. Within friendship that which is less than perfect and hidden from others is accepted by your friend. Inside the clothing of friendship you are not preoccupied with what others think. You are accepted and loved for just being…you. You can actually be better at who you are.

Occasionally I have left home without something as simple as my earrings. It seems ridiculous, but I feel naked without earrings. I know it makes no sense. Earrings are a very small part of being dressed.

I feel stripped and vulnerable without my friend, but at the same time there is this sense of freedom. This sense of freedom almost makes me feel guilty. Freedom seems to contradict the loss and feelings of being stripped. A freedom from being stripped is the freedom from expectations.

Piet Mondrian

As we approach Lent I invite you to consider; what you can strip from your own life. During Lent we have the freedom to look at our lives and decide what we can strip away in order to have a closer relationship with the Lord.

We can ask ourselves these questions, “What am I hiding behind?

What is compromising my acceptance of God’s plan for me?”

“What am I clutching onto for dear life?”

Like St. Paul I often do not know how to pray as I ought; especially when I feel stripped, vulnerable and sometimes even deserted by God.

Great Treasure

The Veggie Tales Company has this infectious song called ‘Where is My Hairbrush?’ Several years ago through my dear friend’s grandchildren I was introduced to this song. For days I could not get the silly lyrics and music out of my head. Even now as I write this music is swirling around in my head. It got to be such a joke that I did not want anyone to so much as mention just the title because that song would begin playing in my head… The human brain works like that; something relatively insignificant will trigger a memory.

There will always be those simple things throughout your life that become special for only you, such as the memory of this little song. Maybe it initially touched me because the children took such delight in singing it and later teasing me with it. I am not sure. But it brings a smile to my face now.

Since the death of my friend I have found myself being more attentive to those things she had given me over the years. They mean more now. They remind me of her. They conjure up precious memories. I have thought about creating one special place to collect these memory gifts…a ‘friendship collection’, but that is probably not going to happen. These gifts were given to be used not to be displayed and become dust collectors.

One of the last physical pleasures  I was able to do for my friend before she died was to brush her hair.

I never would have thought that brushing her hair could have made her so happy.

She would say, “Brush it harder” or “that feels so good”.

Sometimes I would ask her if she wanted me to brush her hair and sometimes she would ask for me to brush her hair. I loved to brush her hair in every direction imaginable…from the front to the back…from the back to the front, which made it stand up and look wild. I would carefully guide the brush around her ears not wanting to hurt them.

Her lovely gray hair was so dry and thin. I worried that I would scratch her scalp, but that never happened.

You just do not know what will become dear to you.

It was a means for us to connect in an intimate way. Having someone brush your hair is almost a luxury. Much of the time she was too weak to lift up her tiny arms to brush her hair. I want to always remember how much joy that brought to her. Each stroke of the brush touching each strand of hair was a simple expression of my love. I am so thankful that she let me brush her hair.

I consider myself to be moderately sentimental. I cherish a few meaningful items belonging to loved ones both living and dead. I have my grandmother’s pound cake written in her own handwriting, given to me at wedding shower. I have my mother-in-law’s pearl necklace, given to me one Christmas after she died.

But I have never wanted someone’s hair until now. I had this strong desire to clean the hair from the brush I had used to brush my friend’s hair. I went to the drawer where she kept her brush and it was missing. My heart skipped a beat at the thought that I would not be able to collect this great treasure.

Keeping her hair with me protected in a small baggie is literally having a piece of her physically with me. It is so strange that I would want to carry this with me. So unlike anything I have done before. A single strand of hair contains a storehouse of information about the person…the essence of whom they were, at least physically.

I already possessed the essence of who she was spiritually…it quietly resides within my heart and soul. She shared it with me on numerous occasions. Long lasting friendships become a great treasure when you have risked enough to share your essence with one another.

I will cherish the few strands of hair I have;

along with the tender memory of brushing her hair

the day before she died.

Inside the Bubble of Grief

As I prepare your funeral services my heart is not unlike your delicate skin… Bruised purple, black, and blue…weeping from tiny almost invisible pores. My deep sadness seeps out almost unseen by others. One droplet at a time with each beat of my heart. I have spent the week mopping up the grief within. This grief is rising; this grief swells and creeps up around my heart. Will the waves become turbulent and drown my heart? I must quickly seal these invisible wounds before they become too serious to be restored…to be whole again.

I watched your tiny frail body be ravaged by something bigger than life. The sheer power of your death, beloved, seems to be worse than we could possibly imagine. Perhaps our hearts are protected so that we cannot fully grasp the power of death until it comes and knocks you over. I was prepared to let you go, to surrender. We were blessed with so many precious moments. We could see and feel death coming like a tidal wave.

Death crashes like an angry wave around your heart. You cannot escape; you can only collapse under the power of this wave. You can only submit and let it knock you down flooding completely over you. The water will recede, but things will never be the same. What remains will be partially devastated, like a hurricane stricken town. It takes time to rebuild. I will be patient.

The days immediately following death are as if you exist, but not in the real world.

Normal things are happening, but you are in another state of mind. You are in a bubble like state of mind. You see and hear everything around you but it does not seem in focus…sounds are muffled. You frequently forget what you are trying to do.

 When I remove my glasses the world is a very fuzzy and distorted place. That is what enduring the death of a loved one feels like to me. It is as if I am inside this invisible bubble looking out. There is a thin membrane…the view of life is distorted…but I am somehow protected by this delicate fragile membrane.

Bubbles can remain intact for only as long as they can retain their surface moisture. It was always exciting when a child would discover; it is actually possible to put something inside of a bubble without causing it  to pop.

Bubbles reflect brilliant colors. These colors come from reflections of the white light that falls on their surface. Science tells us that white light, whether from the Sun or from a light bulb, contains light of all colors.

We are children of THE Light!

Reflected light separates into the colors of the rainbow. Even the tiniest bubbles show the full spectrum of colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet — just as a rainbow does.

This rainbow of color shimmers across the surface of each bubble.

Next time you have the chance to blow some bubbles I invite you to think about how you reflect the light of God to those around you.

The Holy Spirit guided, lifted and carried my bubble these last few days. The Holy Spirit created the brilliant reflected colors of so much during this time. Inside the bubble I could not see the reflected light. But I continue to be overwhelmed by so many things both big and little that have happened in this past week.

Others have come inside the bubble with me to stay for awhile. We have held each other close in shared consolation. We have lovingly exposed our grief to one another.

 

We cannot stay in our bubble of grief we must emerge renewed and restored by all that God has blessed us with.

We have been called to shine the light for all to see; not to just peer out from within our little bubble of grief.

My dear friend you could not have loved me any more than you did.

I hope and pray that I loved you back equally as well.

You will forever be in my heart. Love has power over death!