Archive for March, 2011

“Find the good.  It’s all around you.  Find it, showcase it, and you’ll start believing in it.”

— Jesse Owens

We are still waiting.  Cheyenne spent a very long day at the hospital yesterday and came home with sedating drugs still making her reel whenever she tried to stand up and play.  She was not a happy camper.  It is very confusing when you’re not quite four and medicine makes you feel weird.  “Don’t touch me!  Leave me alone!  I want to watch a movie!”  In her altered state, she told me that “Flynn Rider,” the hero of Tangled, was “Flynn Riding Hood,” and she got angry when I laughed.  Soon the band-aid on the back of her hand began to bother her.  She showed it to me.  “This isn’t a shot,” she explained, “it is for blood.”  “Oh,” I replied, “is that from your I.V.?”  She glared at me.  Her favorite cousin, Ivy, had just gone home.  “No!” she barked with a mixture of impatience and exasperation, “NOT from Ivy…from the DOCTOR!”  (Duh implied)  I tried to explain again what I meant, but it was lost in the fog of lingering sedatives.

It is really hard to see Chey in this altered state.  Her sunshine was hidden in the fog, and it was hard to find her in the thick pea soup that slowed her body and her brain.  Her mom, exhausted from the long day of stress and waiting that began at 4:30 AM, grabbed a pillow and blanket and curled up next to her daughter on the couch, settling in for a little entertainment and maybe a nap.  Dad stood guard over Cheyenne’s repeated attempts to stand up and walk to her toys, returning his unsteady girl to the safety of the sofa.  “My turn to sleep will come later,” he explained.  I watch my son, the former irresponsible child who couldn’t find his socks and never cleaned his bedroom, and I am in awe at the ease with which he and his wife roll with the waves that seem to come again and again into their little one’s life.

It really is a matter of attitude, I think — of finding the good that is all around you, paying attention to it, and believing that it will triumph.  Cheyenne has had many challenges in her little life, and it is certain that there are more to come; but if she had been born fifteen years ago, she never would have made it home from the hospital.  She would be living a life compromised by the physical differences that have been repaired.  If we lived in another part of the country, her many visits to Philadelphia would require repeated stays far from home; but the hour’s drive allows many of her checkups and treatments to be day trips that allow her family to live a less disrupted life.  With parents who can remain positive and send her the message that this is just a small bump in the road, Chey is able to maintain her sense of humor and feel secure knowing that her mom and dad will make things okay.  She knows she can trust her family to be there for her no matter what happens.  There is a lot of good in that!  And, for the record, she knows for certain that the band-aid on her hand is NOT from her IVY — it was from a doctor.  And we are thankful for them, too.

“God does notice us, and He watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”

— Spencer W. Kimball

How many times have you met someone who questions the existence of God because they are angry about not receiving a miracle?  It always reminds me of the unhappy teenager who feels entitled to having all the material goods advertised on TV and focuses only on what he lacks rather than the abundance of love and care of his family.  We spend so much time imagining that we are entitled to something — either material possessions or miraculous intervention — that we risk missing out on the experience of recognizing the daily miracle of simply being alive and well.  I have heard that there are times when the hand of God reaches through the veil that separates heaven and earth and touches people with the power of Creation so that they are changed and healed.  These miracles serve as good reminders that God goes on creating and has not turned his/her back on his work; but most of the time, it is the spark of the divine that is the essence of human beings that delivers the blessings of healing and love.

I am thinking about this today, because my tiny granddaughter, Princess Cheyenne, has gone to Philadelphia for a bone scan.  You have met Cheyenne here before, and it is likely that today will not be the last time you hear me tell her story.

The short version of Cheyenne’s story is that during the time when she was developing in her mommy’s womb, her body came together in an unusual way.  With her fourth birthday approaching, she has undergone ten surgeries to repair the differences that could threaten her health.  Today will mark yet another chapter in uncovering the mysteries that make up the life of this special little girl.  Through all the challenges, all the repairs, all the treatments, my “favorite Cheyenne in the whole wide world” continues to sparkle and twinkle and shed her light on everyone who meets her.  She is a celebration.  She is a miracle.

I won’t lie.  There have been many times when I have watched her endure treatments and recoveries and asked myself whether it would be too much trouble for God to extend his hand — or maybe just a pinkie finger — and remove the pain and insecurity from the life of this beautiful child.  Then I stop and think again; and I realize that in the midst of it all, Cheyenne shines; and her very existence calls on the essence of God that is our true identity as we respond to her needs.  One of my favorite quotes, by Charles Dickens, says that the difference between something that is created and something that is constructed is that you love a created thing before it exists — you can only love a constructed thing after it is completed.  Cheyenne was loved long before we met her.  She was loved from the moment she existed as the surprising but very much wanted first child of her parents.   She was loved as her body was forming in its unique way and an ultrasound revealed that she would be differently made.  Not once have her parents, the instruments of God’s miracles, allowed this little girl to feel less than she is — a perfect creation of God.

Many times the hand of God has reached out through the hands and minds of doctors and nurses and therapists; and Cheyenne has exceeded every expectation anyone has had for her life.  So far the limits have not been reached; and she continues to grow and develop and to amaze and delight us.  As we see her go again to the Children’s Hospital for another difficult day of testing and anesthesia and recovery, we pray for another miracle.  If the hand of God reaches through the veil and touches her directly, we will celebrate.  If the hand of God reaches out through the miracles of technology and medical knowledge and loving care, we will celebrate that, too.

God notices Cheyenne, and he meets her needs.  We are thankful today for all the wonderful people who allow the essence of God to shine through them and touch our little Princess.

“You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush.”

— John Burroughs

One of the things I love most about my early morning walks is the time I spend in the company of birds.  To some extent, I have been fascinated with the feathered ones since I was a small child.  My great-aunt, Essie, shared a bedroom with me; and our window looked out on the backyard.  She loved watching the birds, and often she would take out her Audubon field guide and show me the picture that matched a new visitor to our house.  I suppose you might say that she had me at, “tweet!”  My curiosity about birds and their habits has stayed with me throughout my life; but it is only since I began my daily forays into the magical world of sunrise that I have developed such an affinity for following a bird call, looking up through the branches of a tree, and spotting the tiny creature responsible for the huge sound.

I guess you could say that I’ve become that cartoon caricature of the birdwatcher — camp shirt, shorts, hiking boots, and safari hat — although my costume tends more toward sweats, sneakers, and a hooded jacket.  The binoculars of old now have been replaced by a digital camera with zoom; and the benefit of this change is that I am able to bring the birds home with me and sometimes share them with you in my photo blog.

My morning walks have allowed me to see the personalities of different birds and to know how close I can stand before they consider my presence an intrusion and fly away.  It takes some patience to befriend a bird, and only when you know him well enough to love him and respect his world will he allow you to approach and get to know him better.  The crows like acknowledgement for their vigilant behavior in the tops of the trees, and they greet me with an announcement as though I were some visiting dignitary who deserved recognition.  The sparrows practically insist that I come to play.  They allow me to walk close enough to touch them, but I love them too much to destroy their trust.  The robins love to be heard, but they also like to keep their distance.  I talk to them quietly as I pass; but I give them plenty of room to hop along, keeping the space between us distant enough to assure they do not feel threatened.

Probably it could be said that I’ve developed a way of thinking like a bird.  In my world, the term “birdbrain” is a complimentary one, because it has grown out of the love and respect I’ve learned from the little ones who sing my days into existence.  I must finish now and put on my sneakers.  There is a bird roosting in my heart, and he is waiting for me to come and find him.  I will walk gently, speak softly, and wait patiently for him to consider me safe; and perhaps, on my way back home, I will whistle his song.

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

— Marc Chagall

Mondays are such special days!  They appear out of nowhere and offer us the opportunity to begin another week of doing after the weekend ends.  I know the calendar shows Sunday as the first day of the week, but I always think of Monday when I think of beginnings.  Last week is done; and even if its end left some tasks undone, we cannot find our way back to the days that have ended.  The weekend has afforded us opportunities for regrouping, for recreation, and for rest.  When Monday comes, we find ourselves staring down the path to a future filled with possibilities.  We get to choose what it is that we will bring to our world.  We get to choose the spot where we will next plant a foot as we forge our own route through life.

Our minds can think, solve, plan, and execute as we face the problems and puzzles that come our way.  The value of a sharp mind is indisputable.  But the excitement we feel at the prospect of a whole new week grows from the heart.  It is the heart that dances to the music of the universe.  It is the heart that allows us to embrace the energy of ever-evolving creation.  It is the heart that opens to the dance of all that is and leads us to find our own place amid the harmony that is the backdrop for all we do.

Today is a great day to awaken with excitement, to live with joy, to celebrate the wonder of being alive.  It is Monday — the day to seize a new opportunity to be alive, to bring light to the world, to create good things.

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

— Thomas J. Peters

Later this morning, I will shed my jeans, put on my girl clothes, and go to a celebration.  My favorite oldest granddaughter, Ivy, will be gathering with her basketball teammates, their families and their coaches for a brunch banquet to celebrate their accomplishments on the court this year.  They have a lot to celebrate today — most of it included in the list above — and I am excited to be a part of good food, good friends, and good memories.  Ivy’s team had a winning season, and they will celebrate their success.  Success is a good thing when you play sports.  It is the goal of each team to come out on top, and our girls have achieved that goal.  They will celebrate the friendships that grow close and strong through practicing and facing challenges and learning to encourage one another.  They have done well in this area, too; and girls who began the season as strangers now share a bond that has made them a special sort of friends.  They will celebrate the dedication of their coaches, whose small stipends cannot begin to compensate them for the time, the teaching, and the love they have shown for their players.  We, the parents, celebrate the example they have shown our girls and we know that the things our players have learned from these fine adults will follow them throughout their lives.  There will be speeches, awards, and pictures taken.  There will be farewells to the three graduating seniors.  There will be awareness of growth as the younger girls realize that soon they will be the ones who move on toward the next stage of life.

Then it will be over.  There will be a week to savor all the good times, and then the next season of play will begin with an AAU team that will keep the girls playing through Spring and into Summer.  The best part about celebration is the way it clarifies our goals.  We always strive to create more opportunities for celebration; and I am glad that Ivy and her friends will get to see us celebrate their accomplishments.  It will help them to stretch their goals to the next level and continue to challenge themselves to improve.  It is important to take time to celebrate the good things in our lives.  Whatever you would like to see more of, be sure to celebrate it!  Recognizing our success gives us energy to keep improving.  Celebrate!

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path.  Your own path you make with every step you take.  That’s why it’s your path.”

— Joseph Campbell

Sometimes it seems as though every time we know where we are going, we find ourselves headed in an unexpected direction.  Is it true that when we can see the path neatly laid out it probably is not our own?  I think of the poem by Robert Frost — the one about taking the road less traveled — and I feel a sort of excitement well up in myself.  Paved roads are great conveniences.  They get us from Point A to Point B with no muss and no fuss, and we arrive with time to spare.  When I think of Point A as birth and Point B as death, I’m certain that the paved road is not the way I want to travel through life.  I think I’d rather blaze my own trail; and I think I would like it to be one composed of gentle steps through the underbrush that leave the places I’ve walked still intact.  That way, if another traveler is drawn to a similar road, he also will have the pleasure of being drawn by the wonders that lie ahead.  She also will know the excitement of blazing a trail, one step at a time, through unexplored places.

Paved roads are a necessary part of our lives.  They allow us to care for practical matters like going to a job that supports us or driving to town for food and clothing.  The well-cleared path belongs in the world of what we do, and it certainly makes the time we spend on practical matters productive.  It is the path we share with others, and it belongs to us all; but as I move from my own Point A to my personal Point B, I would rather step away from the straight, cleared road and take the path that winds through my growing awareness of what lies beyond.  I want to follow the song of a new bird and scan the treetops with my eyes until I meet him and discover his name.  I want to follow the colors of a thousand wildflowers and take in the nuances of beauty that defy reproduction in our manufactured world.  When I reach Point B, I want to be able to look behind me and see that there are no footprints where I have walked, except for those that run from my heart to the heart of all creation.

Today I will continue to blaze my trail, and I will leave my machete at home.  If our paths should entwine or intersect, I will be pleased to share your company for a time and carry our shared humanity along the path I choose to walk.

“Life has loveliness to sell, all beautiful and splendid things, blue waves whitened on a cliff, soaring fire that sways and sings, and children’s faces looking up, holding wonder like a cup.”

— Sara Teasdale

The snow has stopped falling and the temperature outside has once again moved above the freezing point.  Soon Spring will return to stay rather than to taunt us with promises that get buried beneath a layer of white.  When the mercury climbed to 70 degrees last week, I was excited.  My mind was filled with thoughts of the surprises of Spring that lurked in every corner of the land.  I found myself scrutinizing every twig to see whether buds had begun to sprout.  Yesterday afternoon the sun appeared after two days of clouds that sent sleet clattering against the windows.  As though they melted in the sun, the clouds grew smaller and smaller, leaving bright blue sky in their place.  I felt my spirit grow light as I dreamed once again of the green days that lay ahead.  A flash of light drew my eyes downward.  The ground now was brown with splashes of green beginning to show as the first blades of grass put on their springtime color.  Here and there, small patches of white remained where only a day ago the whole yard was snow covered.  It was one tiny crystal of ice on one small patch of melting snow that reflected the sun’s rays and captured my attention.  My dreams of Spring were interrupted as I realized how lovely it can be to see the snow glisten with the light of the sun.  I stood silently, taking in the treasure of glistening white and earthy brown and just-born green.  I cherished the moment of seeing all three at the same time, a well-orchestrated reminder that each season of the year has its own particular beauty.  Each has its own particular sort of loveliness that stands in contrast with the beauty of the others and allows us to see them all as spectacular in their own right.

This morning the snow has vanished.  Perhaps I will not see it again until another cycle turns to winter; but I will carry in my heart the glistening light of winter, the light that sparkles when snow crystals dance with the rays of the sun before their brief beauty melts and turns to Spring.  Each day of each season of our lives, like each day of each season of the year, has loveliness to sell.  What will your heart buy today?

“Listen to your mind, and you’ll tire quickly of its discourse.  Silence your mind, and you’ll connect straight back to source.”

— Gariella Goddard

Sometimes opportunities come in unlikely disguises.  I remember the first time I came home from college and used the “s” word in front of my father.  It was shocking for Dad to discover that his little girl knew such language!  I felt regret as soon as I saw his reaction, since I really had no idea that it would impact him so strongly.  We live and learn; and I lost my need to use the word as Dad lost his need to see me as a little girl.  My life hardly ever is touched by that sort of s**t any more (sorry, I couldn’t resist); but the past week has had its share of two other “s” words.  The first is “snow,” which is a little shocking when you consider that we enjoyed a 70-degree day only a week ago.  The second, which is the opportunity in disguise, is “sick.”

Oh, no!  I’ve said it out loud!  I’ve been sick this week — not knocked-down, dragged-out, in-bed-with-a-fever sick, but a sort of sickish version of the flu that sometimes hits those of us who had the shots.  Being sick is something rare for me.  There is part of me that wonders how I got unbalanced enough physically to allow this to happen.  There is another part of me that understands that “sick happens” even to those of us who choose wellness.  It is in the times when I tell myself to just lie back and close my eyes that the opportunity of the “s” word has shown itself.

One of the great benefits for me of being sick is that my mind gets kind of foggy.  I have to strain my brain to keep track of my day and I notice myself actively thinking about doing simple tasks that usually require only cruise control rather than an accelerator and a brake.  When I lie back to take a break, my tired brain just sort of steps aside; and this is where the opportunity arises.

I know there are Buddhist monks in Tibet who spend years trying to achieve a state of “no mind;” and all I have to say is that they should expose themselves to the “sickish” brand of flu.  After putting so much mental energy into thinking of things to do, eat, and drink, I think the best recovery time came during those breaks from action.  As I would lie back and let go of the activity, my mind would grow silent.  Before long, it seemed as though my body was no longer a part of who I am.  All the symptoms would disappear and I simply was.  “Was what?”  It really didn’t matter, because I found my wellness in the deep, non-physical part of me that existed long before my body became an issue.  I felt airy and light — maybe because Light is what I truly am — as my body seemed to dissipate into fog with only the glow of my true being shining in the center.  The clock says I lay in this state for an hour, but it felt like only a minute or two.  In this timeless place of peace, I began to find my way back to wellness.

Today I feel quite a bit better; and my mind will focus on trusting the energy of good health that is central to my being.  It is good to have opportunities that call us back to understanding who we truly are.  Live life fully today; and if you feel overwhelmed by many things, remember that there is a light — an energy — at the core of you that will ultimately get you where you need to go.

“…joy and sorrow are inseparable…together they come and when one sits alone with you…remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

— Kahlil Gibran

Spring has arrived, and even the wet snow that falls this morning cannot dampen my joy.  I do think of the little robins and bluebirds who have appeared recently, and I wonder whether they have found a warm spot to hide in a world of leafless trees; but even these thoughts do not trap me in concern, because I know the snow will disappear more quickly than it has arrived.  The long, cold winter has ended.  The frozen streams have warmed, and winter’s ice now dances merrily over the stones in the creek bed, ever changing its liberated shape as it glistens in the sunlight.

Like the ice of winter, the joy within me moves from its quiet state of rest into an awakening, leaping, dancing entity that twirls and swirls and leaps around me everywhere I go.  How wonderful it is that the rebirth of Spring expresses itself in this sort of exuberance!  It calls out to my own need for rebirth and liberates my own joy as the cycle of the year begins again.  As memory and newness blend together, I look with anticipation to the year that lies ahead — the wonder of life bursting out of the snow of Winter as Spring begins its dance; the lush growth of Summer that fulfills Spring’s promise, the fulfillment of Autumn and its abundant harvest, and the silent rest of Winter that will once again lead to Spring.

In each time of year there are joys and sorrows — they are the contrasts that teach us to balance ourselves in a sometimes chaotic world.  Some would say that sorrow feels heavier in the midst of the dark, cold winter.  Today I celebrate the elation that comes with unleashing joy amid the rebirth of Spring.

“Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature.”

— Michael Faraday

What a great reminder it is to hear the words of a 19th-century physicist express a sentiment that could easily come out of the mouth of a mystic.  In science as in the spiritual realm, we all are bound by the laws of nature.  The more we investigate either of them the more we continue to learn that being bound does not mean being confined.  Rather, we find that we exist within a framework that aligns us with all that exists and sets us free.

For several years now, I have pursued the study of Energy Medicine.  The more I learn, the more I realize that this practice which is focused on human healing and wellness is simply a small and integrated part of the universal order that defines all existence.  As I have learned more and more about the complex system of energy that not only affects all that exists but indeed IS all that exists, I find myself marveling at the way that science, healing, and spirituality seem to overlap as each strives to learn what it is that defines the laws of nature.  Energy is the tie that binds.  Science seeks ways to define and use energy in the physical realm.  Spirituality seeks to know the Creative Energy that is the Source of existence.  Healers look for ways to align the energy of people with the universal energy that includes us so that we may find wellness by being consistent with the laws of nature.  What I think is exciting is the way that all these disciplines seem to arrive, again and again, at the same conclusion — energy.

I might wish to offer you a conclusion at this point; but the fact that there is none is the most exciting thing of all.  Each day offers us opportunities to learn more and more about the energy that defines every part of existence.  As Faraday said, so many years ago, nothing is too wonderful to be true; and as we continue to discover more and more, it fills us with the joy of knowing we are integral parts of something infinite.  How wonderful!