Sunday, May 25, 2008

whispers ...

It’s healthy to have time to just be,
to listen to the rhythm of your heartbeat,
the wind sighing outside the window.

It’s good to have that time to listen
to the inner voice of God Within.

Our spirit selves crave peace and calmness
amidst the chaos of our physical lives.

It is said that prayer is us talking to God;
quiet meditation is us listening to God.

Be still and listen.

Be ...


Sunday, May 18, 2008

entertaining angels

Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to
entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares". (Hebrews 13:1-2)
Saturday mornings as a kid were spent at Catechism classes, learning our Baltimore Catechism lessons by rote, the nuns with their giant crosses displayed on their habits, teaching us the difference between venial sins (the kind that would leave stains on my pure soul) and mortal sins (the really bad stuff). They did a great job, at least with me. Although I couldn't recite a bit of the Baltimore Catechism today, those Saturday mornings were not wasted. I developed a rich and full faith life, one that has continued to evolve, sometimes a bit stagnant, others times growing with a fervor.

Kneeling in church, praying, my young self was overwhelmed at the very idea that I could be loved unconditionally, that I could seek forgiveness with a sorrowful heart and receive not just that forgiveness, but unconditional, non-judgemental, all-encompassing love. It filled my heart with a genuine awe, similar to the awe I would feel when I'd try think of the vastness of the Universe.

Humbled by that love, I would pray to God to show me how I cauld express my love for Him, how I could show my deep appreciation for the life I'd been given. I asked Him to give me little opportunities to do some kindness for another, as a way to show my love for Him, by serving one of His children whenever I could.

Over the years, He has graciously granted me my wish. Little opportunities to help a stranger here and there have always had a way of materializing in my life. Each time, I recognize God's Hand in giving me that opportunity, sometimes through a friend's call, or seeing a random stranger who could use a bit of friendly help. Each time, I give thanks to God for letting me show Him in some small way how very grateful I am each day.

Last week - Mother's Day - the grands and I went to the cemetery to take flowers for my mom, clean up her headstone and pray in the beautiful, shady cemetery. When we were done, the girls went back to the car while I knelt at the grave for a bit more.

As I later walked back to the car, I noticed a slender Vietnamese woman at a nearby grave. I saw her pour a cup of water on a headstone, tear off some paper towels from a roll, drop them on the grave and, still standing, begin to use her cane to clean off the headstone.

Approaching her, I asked "Can I lend you a hand?" and I knelt down and wiped the paper towels across the headstone's surface. She happily thanked me and told me that I would be amazed at how she uses her cane for all kinds of chores and housecleaning. My oldest granddaughter knelt, too, to help me with the clean-up.

There were pictures of three women on the headstone: her mom and two sisters, she responded when I asked about them. As I worked, we chatted about her hometown in Vietnam and her family. I asked her about the inscription on the stone, written in Vietnamese, learning the message was about how they would be forever loved. I finished up my work, she thanked me again and the girls and I headed to the car.

I sometimes wonder if these little opportunities are real people ... or if perhaps they're angels on a mission, angels answering the prayer of a little girl so long ago ...

Thank you, God.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blessings on Mother's Day!

Happy Mothers' Day to all the moms! I feel so wonderfully fortunate to have been given the blessed gift of a child, a child who could make my heart get all melty and mushy when she was a toddler. Even today, when I see her smile, my eyes see an adult woman, but my heart sees my beloved girl.

And Happy Mother's Day to my mom! If my mom was still here in the flesh, my two brothers and I and Dad would take her out to brunch, to a place with an omelette bar and waffle bar where you could add whipped cream and fresh strawberries to top your waffle. There'd be
a variety of breakfast foods kept warm in trays under heat lamps, slices of canteloupe and other melons and fruits and trays of pastries temptingly displayed.

Mom would put on a pretty, colorful top, wear her favorite lipstick and perfume. Dangling earrings would swing with each turn of her head. Her skin would be beautiful and fresh, her cheeks always so soft. One of my favorite things to do was to press my right cheek against hers, breathing in her scent as I felt the rose-petal softness of her skin. And Mom would smile that cute smile of hers, the one that said she was delighted to be gathered together with her famly ... and just a bit thrilled to be fussed over. We'd all chat and gab the way families do, going from one subject to another, sharing the events of our lives with one another, talking about current events; not pop culture, but about events in politics and religion; music and film; economics and ecology. Mom and Dad always encouraged our intellectual curiosity, spurring some lively mealtime conversations.

After eating, we'd all give Mom her gifts. I'd probably get her a cute top ... or earrings that would dangle and swing with each turn of her head. She'd be happy. I'd be happy. We'd all be happy just to be together and to be together for her.

I'm smiling, thinking of these things, delighted that I've been so lucky to have such a terrific, encouraging, supportive mom. And tomorrow morning, I'll go to the cemetery and take a big bouquet of pretty, colorful flowers. I'll clean off her headstone, trim back the grasses a bit and arrange the flowers in the vase. I'll kneel and say prayers, with the ocean's breeze lightly blowing through the trees, grazing my arms so lightly, like the touch of Mom's cheek against mine.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

driving with the grands ...

"Sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watchin' the ti-i-ide roll away .... "

I smile as my granddaughters sing a little Otis Redding from the backseat. "That's one of my favorites, Nana!" sings Jasmine.

"I ... I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair .."

We try to take the different harmonies of the Beach Boys in "Good Vibrations." When I'm driving with the girls, Jas and Bri, we're usually talking up a storm, the girls chattering about school, friends, TV shows, their thoughts on various topics from cars to music. Sometimes they talk over one another and I have to guide them in letting one finish before the other shares. They've gotten so good about that the last few months, and I have to remind them less and less. Progress!

"ONE ... is the loneliest number that you'll ever do-o-o ... "

We get off on tangents while we're talking, making up stories, each one picking up a different thread to create funny outcomes that have us all pealing in laughter. I love to hear the girls laugh, like sparkling, silvery little bells ringing in the air, making me smile, filling me with love and amazement at having these dear little ones in my life.

"So happy together-r-r-R-R ... "

Three Dog Night, The Turtles - one of the neat things I've discovered is that they enjoy the music that I was listening to in jr. high. I just think it's so great that we can share the same music. When we need a break from talking and laughing, Jas and Bri ask me to put in "Good Vibrations," a compilation of classic 60s songs: The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, The Monkees ... and soon we're all singing and having a grand time in the car. And I think how very cool it is that they know the music (usually from animated films), my music, music from years before their mama was born, when I was only a few years older than Jas is now.

They both love singing from my piano sheet music book from Elton John's Yellow Brick Road; they heard "Bennie and the Jets" when we saw 27 Dresses and now have a passion for the great Sir Elton. Jas tells me one of the boys in her class is a big Elton fan. Imagine!

I recently saw an auto ad in a magazine, touting the two separate video screens in the vehicle, the separate audio jacks, the ability to watch DVDs or play games within the car. The tag line was something like: 6 Hours to Grandma's and never heard a peep.

To me, that's not a selling point. When I'm with my girls, I take absolute delight in hearing their "peeps", and their laughter, and all about their day. Making up stories, teasing, noticing things we pass as we drive, playing word games or quizzes ... just like my family did when I was a kid and we took long road trips together, sharing together as family. I don't want to miss out on all this wonderful togetherness with my girls and I'm so glad they're not locked into a DVD, headphones separating them from me.

Instead, we roll down the highway, talking or singing away ... "Take the last train to Clarksville and I'll meet you at the station ... you can be here by 4:30 cuz I've made your reservation ... don't be slow ..."