Bright Side of the Road

Bright Side of the Road.  That’s the title of one of my favorite Van Morrison songs that I enjoy dancing to at the Sunday Night Swing Dance.  Sometimes I’m fortunate to have William as my partner.  He’s from Belfast, Ireland and remembers seeing Van Morrison performing in the local clubs before he was famous.  While the song is about a relationship, I give my own meaning to the first two lines that play over in my head: “From the dark end of the street To the bright side of the road.”

Sometimes it’s easier to stay on the dark end of the street.  We can navigate familiar paths on autopilot without having to think about where we’re going, without having to watch for the forks in the road.  That is until we’re forced to change because that old route doesn’t serve us anymore.  Something shifts within us and we want to travel in a different way.  We can be so afraid of the discomfort of a new route that we stay on that dark side of the road.  This reminds me, again, of swing dancing.

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Initially, my husband and I, along with another couple, visited the Sunday Night Swing Dance.  While the people there ‘danced around’ changing partners, we just danced with our spouses.  That night when we left, I commented that the regulars seemed like a friendly group, and I thought it would be fun to be part of that community.  But my husband and the other couple didn’t agree because they didn’t like changing partners.  For a while, I let it rest, but I kept seeing the image of the people dancing that night, how much fun they were having.  In retrospect, I felt the energy pull toward dancing that I talked about in my last post, Follow Your Energy.

Most of the times we’d gone dancing, it was because I’d initiated it by asking for lessons for a Christmas present and giving us ballroom classes for our anniversary.  While my husband was a good dancer, that wasn’t what he wanted to do.  I’d convinced myself that we were alike in that interest, but after our night at the Swing Dance, I saw that we weren’t.  I wasn’t ready to let go of my desire to be part of that community, so I approached it from a different angle.  I took classes with one of the owners of the dance company that hosted the event.

It was a risk-free way to check out the group to see if they were as amiable as they seemed.  Eventually, I got to know some people in my class and they urged me to join them on Sunday night.  I’d never been to a dance alone and felt weird going without my husband, even though I knew others came without their spouses.  But with my husband’s blessing, I drove myself to the Sunday Night Swing Dance.  At first, it was awkward, waiting for someone to ask for a dance, knowing only a few people to talk with.

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With Friends at the Halloween Dance

But I stuck with it.  I kept pushing past my uncomfortable feelings, making one new friend at a time, learning names of my partners, smiling when I made errors in following the lead.  Eventually, I was able to relax and laugh and dance just like the others that I’d envied the first time I visited.

Now, when I dance to “Bright Side of the Road,” I feel happy that I took the risk and crossed “from the dark end of the street,” refusing to stay in the shadows and learning to dance with confidence under the mirrored ball.

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Mirrored ball hanging over the Bright Side of the Road!

 

How about you?

Are there areas you’re drawn to but afraid of because they’re unfamiliar?

What would help you move out of the comfort of a familiar path through the discomfort of the unknown road in order to reach the destination you desire?

 

Follow Your Energy

Follow Your Energy.  That was one of the big takeaways from my Life Coaching course.

What I found interesting was how to help clients when they were deciding on a course of action but were conflicted over their options.  Prior to my training, I would have probably encouraged the client to write down their options, list the pros and cons, and then logically make their way through their list to come to their decision.  My course with the Wisdom of the Whole (WOW) Coaching Academy was based on an integrated body-mind-spirit approach.  Before the academy, I came from a logic-based perspective in my work, as well as my personal spirit-based view, but I had little acknowledgment of bringing the physical into the mix.

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Energy’s pull

But with WOW, I learned to ask, “How does that feel in your body?”  “What are the physical clues to what you really want to do?” I was doubtful at first, feeling it may be a hokie way to make a decision.  I think now that my life had been one of ‘soldiering on’ and that I’d never developed an awareness of bodily clues.  As I thought about it, my very decision to enroll in the program came after excitement over what I’d learn, feeling my heart quicken and my mood lift.  After years of working as a psychiatric and then a school nurse, it felt like a new, more dynamic way to help people.

Now I pay more attention to my body when I need to determine how I really feel about a situation.  Instead of my habitual insistence that everything is fine, I notice my tight muscles, my clenched jaw.  Instead of following a usual path of doing what I think I should do, I pay attention to what naturally pulls me.

In a previous post, “Follow Your Whim,” I wrote about how I hesitated to strike out on my solo journey to the San Juan Islands after seeing a movie because it seemed illogical.  That thought came out of using a mental, logical lens in my initial evaluation.  As I moved beyond that limited perspective and paid attention to my body I noticed I was energized, and my world felt like it opened up as I proceeded with my whimsical plan.  Later, I was so glad that I’d listened to my body, and my spirit as I felt my life was enriched from that pilgrimage.

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Feeling like I could soar from the Summit of Mt. Constitution

In my last post, “Dry Well” I shared with you all, or y’all as we say in the South, about how I was feeling uninspired and depleted.  Now I see that I was tired in my mind, body, and spirit, not just in the mental ability to create a post.  You gave me so much encouragement that I needed.  It was a great reminder for me, and I hope now for you, that when we are feeling a need, we should call out to others.  Being aware of how we are feeling requires that we pay attention not just to our thoughts, but to how we carry that in our body and how it presses down on our spirit.

My hope is that we’ll all use a more tender approach and honor all parts of ourselves. When we make choices let’s take into account all aspects of our lives, including the wisdom that is stored in our bodies.

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Cairns by Lake Huron remind me of mind-body-spirit #solojourney Michigan

How about you?

Could you use a mind-body-spirit approach to a decision that you need to make?

Let’s try it:

What are the choices or options you see that are involved in that decision?

When you say aloud each option, what response do you notice in your body?  Scan each system and see what you come up with.

How does each choice speak to your spirit– including your values, beliefs, life purpose?  Which option resonates with your spirit?

Dry Well

I’m staring at the screen and searching for inspiration and knowing I have a post due. But what can I write, when I’m feeling tired and my well has gone dry?  What do you have for me to inspire others’ with, Lord, when I’m wondering if I’m inspired myself?  I trace my tiredness and think about the last twenty-four hours; a text from a friend who’d just finished a doctor’s appointment with her mother who’d learned she has breast cancer; a family reunion with so many conversations; my husband diagnosed with flu after recently having pneumonia; me hooked on my first podcast, a true crime investigation that has me going back to listen every chance I get.

Maybe I’ve worn myself down from my own intensity.

My last twenty-four hours hasn’t been unusual; they’re the kinds of things that any of us could have.  But for some of us the way we live our lives, the way we think, and perhaps overthink situations is part of what leaves us feeling depleted.  This reminds me of another time.

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Bike path at Jekyll Island, Georgia

It was a few weeks before my fiftieth birthday.  At that time, between my work, family, and volunteer activities, I was overwhelmed, tired from my over-scheduled life.  I wrote in my journal, “All the good parts of me are dying.”  It was time for me to change the way I was living.

After a lot of thought and prayer, the counsel that came to me was from Psalm 46:10: “Be stilI and know that I am God.”  It was time for me to let go of all that I could so that I had the time and space to be still.  For my birthday present, I’d take a solo journey like the first one to Sedona.

I headed to Jekyll Island, Georgia and now think of the ways I was renewed there.  I drew away from others to be alone.  While I love spending time with family and friends, I can also feel drained, finding it hard to moderate my energy, having a tendency to take on their concerns more than necessary.  I need to balance time with others and time with self, like a human equation.

Much of my day at Jekyll was spent in quiet.  I’d ride my bike on the path around the island, walk under the shade of the live oaks and mostly encounter the sounds of nature or people talking when they passed.  At night, I could watch television in my hotel room, but like my podcast, I had control of that noise.

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Marsh loop

The other thing I remember about Jekyll was that I had to remind myself, “Slow Down.  You don’t need to be in a hurry.”  I was so used to feeling like I had to be on a schedule, constantly productive, that it was hard for me to relax.  While I’m at a different point in my life now, retired from full-time work and writing at home, it’s a different kind of busy.  But still, it’s the same me who tends to wear myself out.

So, I come back around to my starting point and think about how my Jekyll Island journey applies to me now.  I do a post-mortem of the last twenty-four hours.  Like it is for everyone, some days are more intense than others.  But tomorrow’s a new day when I can find ways to balance the equation.  There will be time to be alone, relax in silence, and fill my idea well.

Now, I’m thankful for what my Jekyll Island Journey taught me and that this post is written!

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View of the Atlantic from a driftwood beach

What about you?

How do you handle feeling depleted, uninspired?

 What patterns do you see in your life for how you arrive at that point?

What ways have you learned to restore yourself?

 

 

The Plans I Have for You

January is a month of looking ahead and planning for the year.  We make work goals and vacation plans.  I dream about where I’ll take my solo journey, my pilgrimage.  This year, I have the excitement of anticipating the birth of my first grandchild, a baby boy – a new chapter of life about to unfold.  I pray for this baby that’s being knitted together in his mother’s womb.  I wonder, will he be like his father, my older son, Brooks?  I think about how looking at a newborn we see all of life ahead, hope swaddled in that baby bundle.  But it’s hard to see future with a person at the other end of the life cycle.  It reminds me of how I felt that day when we had to place Mama at Parkview.

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Like I described in my post, “Carry a Song” (Dec. 20), our hearts were broken when we three sisters had to move Mama to Parkview.  Once her dementia progressed and she started falling, we couldn’t provide what she needed at home.  I remember a woman’s comment after I told her about our situation.  She responded, “Well, we were lucky that we didn’t have to put our parents in ‘one of those places.’”

How that added to what already felt like a defeat.  The day we took Mama to Parkview, my sisters settled her into the room while I completed the medical information.  When I reached the final section, I wasn’t sure I could go on; What is your funeral home preference?  Mama was eighty-nine-years-old and of course, you think of the end of life.  But what it reminded me of was the woman’s comment.  Were we guilty of placing Mama in a dumping ground?  My heart broke.

Next to where I stood there was a bulletin board.  Thumbtacked to the bottom right corner there was an index card with a Bible verse written in ink; “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

I remembered when I’d first read that verse many years before.  It was on one of Brooks’s high school graduation cards and was perfect for launching an eighteen-year-old.  But to be posted in a nursing home, how did it fit for their residents who were very advanced in years?

Then it was as if the still small voice of God said, “Your Mama has a future, too.”

That truth applies to everyone; No Age Limits.

I thought about how Mama had always been a woman of faith and had never voiced any fear of growing old.  When I’d ask her what age she’d enjoyed the most, she’d always respond, “Every age has good things.”

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Brooks visiting Grandma Rosser

Now, Mama has been a resident at Parkview for over five years.  She is loved by the staff and fellow residents will comment, “She always has such a sweet smile.”  One of the nursing assistants discovered that Mama was the “Mrs. Rosser” that was kind to her when she was a child.  She had a wistful expression as she recalled how Mrs. Rosser had welcomed her and the other day camp kids to her farm and provided great food and a wonderful place to play.

One day I came in and found a woman custodian singing to Mama.  When I commented how nice that was, the woman responded, “I always come in and sing to her.  Mrs. Rosser likes me.”

It’s been sad to see the decline in Mama from dementia.  But, I have witnessed how God has worked.  Her future has continued her rich legacy of a life well-lived, without fear, where every age has good things.

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Madison talking with Mama

How about you?

How have you experienced times when you couldn’t see hope and a  future for yourself or someone else?

What has helped to move beyond that?

Prayin’ Trees

I didn’t know what to say to her, my nursing director who’d found her husband after he’d committed suicide.  What can words do when someone has had such a tragic loss?Later, when I was driving home from work, riding through the country, I noticed a huge oak tree in the middle of a pasture.  Underneath the summer leaves, I could envision the limbs stretched toward the sun and that reminded me of knotty fingers reaching heavenward, as if in prayer.  That stately tree was probably over a hundred years old.  I imagined the oak holding my prayers for our grieving director, lifting them to God.  In time, my prayer was that she would heal and be sturdy, like the oak.

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That day I made that oak a Prayin’ Tree.  Each time I passed, it was a physical reminder to pray for her, to be open to ways I might help her through a rough time.  It occurred to me that while I went about my day, that tree remained in the same position, holding my prayer, lifting her up.  I wanted to tell her about the Prayin’ Tree.  But everything was so raw so soon after her husband’s death that I thought it would be better to write her.  On a notecard with a tree like the one in the pasture, I told her about the oak and my commitment to pray for her.  At least she could read it in private.  Later she told me how much it meant and that she had come to look for large oaks that now provided some comfort.

I’d always loved trees, like the ones I mentioned in my last post that I discovered in the Pacific Northwest.  As a child, we had a chinaberry that was a treehouse.  The bottom limb was so wide our dog could follow behind us.  I loved them in landscape paintings and especially liked their silhouette against a blue sky.  But now, trees were companions in prayer, a way for me to be reminded of my commitment to go from worry to actively praying, leaving the burden of concern on that tree.

Over the years since that experience with my nursing director, I’ve developed a habit of finding a tree on my morning walks to represent a specific person who needed prayer.  When folks share with me concerns about finances or job security, I’ve chosen pine trees with their rich green needles reminding me of money.  For those dealing with infertility, I’ve found trees with many branches that represent an extensive family tree.

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People often share with me when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer because they know that I’m a survivor.  Unfortunately, there have been so many that I’ve had to pick a very large tree and give each woman her own limb.  Sometimes after thinking about each of them, praying for their successful treatment, I imagine the woman sitting on that limb swinging her legs like a girl that’s climbed to her favorite perch.

For me, Prayin’ Trees are powerful because they are part of our bountiful earth and remind me of our gracious God.  I’m always happiest when I’m outside, and when I’m taking my walks I feel most open to God working in my life and the lives of others.  Now with close friends and family who know about my Prayin’ Trees, they’ll say, “I need you to pick a tree for me,” then they tell me what’s in their heart.

That oak in the middle of the pasture with its roots running deep became the symbol of praying for others, depending on God to make them strong.  Now I pray that we can be like sturdy oaks, ready to help bear that burden when those around us are in need.

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What about you?

Do you have a symbol or method of remembering those you’re concerned about?

How has that helped you to honor your commitment to be consistent in praying and thinking about them?

Follow Your Whim

Just three days into January and I’m starting to feel boxed in.  It’s not the record cold weather, or my Christmas decorations losing their luster.  This is the season when I start to ponder where I might go on my solo journey, my yearly pilgrimage.  The snow in the forecast reminds me of a similar time some years ago when I had a whim about that year’s destination.

My husband and I watched the movie Snow Falling on Cedars about a murder trial in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State.  In the story, the reporter for the newspaper had once been the boyfriend of the wife of the man who was accused.  What fascinated me, was not only their love story and that it was a period piece from the forties, but the huge fir trees and the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  I’d always loved trees – the large pecans, walnuts, and oaks on our farm.  But I’d never seen trees like the ones in the movie.

“I want to go there,” I told my husband, wondering if he’d think that was impulsive.

“Well, you should,” he said.

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The images of the movie stayed in my mind and I wondered if wanting to go there was foolish: a girlish idea for a grown woman.  Besides, my yearly journeys had become like pilgrimages—a Spirit-led trip.  I’d always prayed that God would lead me in the direction I should go.  Could God honor such a whimsical idea?  Would that be foolishness to God?

Eventually, I felt like it was right for me to go.  I booked my stay at a hostel in Friday Harbor and arranged all the details.  After a long travel day, I arrived and moved into a small dormitory-style room with several other women, all much younger than me.

My first morning, I caught the island shuttle bus to all the sites.  It was fantastic taking a prayer walk through the rows of Pelindaba Lavender Farm (see post-Lavender Field Morning).  On my return trip, I talked to the woman bus driver and learned she’d moved to the area after seeing Free Willy.  We laughed at how a movie had been the impetus for us to travel there.

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Luscious Lavender

The next day, I took a hike up Mt. Constitution and found I had to depend on God each step of the way.  I went deep into the forest that looked so much like what I’d seen in the movie.  What grace I felt when I safely made it to the summit and beheld Puget Sound.

I traveled for an overnight in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  There I stayed in a Bed & Breakfast next to Craigdarroch Castle—a Victorian-era mansion.  I arrived too late to take the castle tour, so I stood outside and observed the full moon casting its light on the turrets.  A security guard came over to me.

“Mam, are you part of the tour group,” he asked.

“No, I’m not with them.  I just wanted to take in the beauty of that moon,” I told him.

“You from down South, eh,” he said.

“Yeah, and how about you?” I asked, detecting what might be a Scottish accent.

“Well, it’s a long story,” he said.  “Came here years ago from Nova Scotia in search of my father.  We’d had problems but when I became a Christian, I wanted to make things right.  Fortunately, we did before he died.”

“I’m glad you were reunited.  I’m a Christian, too.”

“I know you are,” he said.  “It’s right that you’re here.”

I marveled at the interaction with the stranger in my path.  Walking back to the B & B, I felt amazed by how God had worked in and through me during my ‘whimsical’ trip.

Now, I know that God can honor a whimsical idea.  Guess it’s time to start thinking about where I’m being drawn for this year’s pilgrimage.

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preparing for a pilgrimage

How about you?

Have you followed an idea that seemed foolish?

Were you rewarded for taking that risk?  If not, what impact did it have?

 

 

 

 

Things You Leave Behind

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m remembering that day in September when I stood with the others on the shore of Iona Sound.  All forty-one of us from the Abbey were invited to take a pilgrimage to all the important sites on the island.  That portion of the beach was where St. Columba and his followers landed their boats in 563, bringing Christianity from Ireland to Scotland.  The sand was covered with rocks, all rounded and smooth, the most I’d ever seen.  We were asked to pick one, to symbolize something that was burdening us, and throw it into the sound in an act of leaving it behind.  Without the weight of that rock, we could move forward to be all we were created to be.

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St. Columba’s Bay

I chose a large black one, holding it in my hands and feeling the heft of it.  Standing in the sun, I thought about what burdened me.  Soon the answer came.  Much of my energy was spent trying to protect myself– from embarrassment, from making mistakes, from being less than perfect.  It was hard to freely move as God’s spirit led when I was having to keep up my defenses.

What if I let that go and just live in the moment, trusting that God will make up for my inadequacies?

I stayed with that question and walked on the rocks, holding the one in my hand, considering how fear had been at the base of my defensiveness.  I was tired of holding the rock, and I was tired of holding on to my need to defend myself.  It was time to let go.

Standing at the shore, I threw the rock into the water, waiting to hear the “thunk” when it hit the surface, a reminder of the weight that I’d let go of.  Others from our group were doing the same, quietly walking out to their own meditative spot and dropping their rocks on that Scottish shore.

We gradually returned to the trail and continued on with our pilgrimage.  I wondered if I’d be able to leave that burden back in the sound.

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Island Pilgrimage Iona, Scotland

I kept that thought with me as the week progressed.  The next night at dinner, staff from the Iona headquarters in Glasgow joined us, including one who was a videographer.  They had come to get footage of participants sharing what it was like to live in the Abbey community.  The two men and woman happened to sit at the table I hosted as part of my evening meal duty.

As we were clearing plates, the woman, who’d sat next to me asked, “Would you mind being interviewed?”

“Right now?” I asked, remembering I hadn’t had time to brush my hair or freshen up before dinner.

“Yes.  We’ll go out by the cloisters,” she said.

Let it go, Connie, that still small voice of God seemed to be saying.  Just be yourself.  Don’t worry about how you look or how you sound.  The sound part was the ongoing self-consciousness I had when people made comments about my Southern accent.  While most were good-humored, they still made me uncomfortable at times.  This would be my first test of letting the rock sink in the sound.

I found myself relaxing as the interviewer helped me stand at the best angle for the camera and told me the questions he’d ask.  It felt good to be part of their project and to express my gratitude for how that week had enriched my life.

There would be many more tests since that September day.  It occurs to me that I needed to leave that burden behind so that I can move forward into 2018.  Now I’m free to be fully engaged in whatever God puts in my path in the new year.

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Iona Abbey Cloisters

What about you?

What burden do you need to leave behind before you step into 2018?

How would that impact your journey?

 

Your Favorite Things

I spotted the Santa holding the globe on an after- Christmas sale table.  That’s mine, I thought and wasn’t sure why I was so attracted to it.  But then looking around my house, I was reminded of the globes and maps I’d collected, drawn to the landforms of the earth and the blues of the oceans.  I remembered the first globe I was attracted to– the one in the wooden stand in Miss Harrington’s fourth grade.

It was located near the large casement window in our classroom in the two-story brick building of Jonesboro School — the same one where my father had graduated.  I remember how I loved her geography class where we learned about faraway places.

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Now I consider how as an adult I started taking solo journeys, pilgrimages to places that my heart is drawn to.  At first, I thought it was surprising how I’d found this path during that first trip to Sedona.  But now I feel there were clues in my childhood that I’d forgotten as an adult, especially once life became so busy when I entered my profession and then had a family.  My focus shifted to my sons’ favorite things, trying to provide them with what they were uniquely drawn to.

Sometimes we lose ourselves along the way, that child within us pushed down under the weight of adulthood.  During the holiday season, I think we have glimpses back to what we loved them.  Sometimes we can get clues from childhood photos.  When I found an old black and white of me, along with my two sisters and kids from the neighborhood, I realized there were three things that made me happy in that picture: being outside, my dog beside me, and my bike that was my pretend horse.

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Me at six years old to the right of our dog.

Years later, when I took my first intentional journey to Jekyll Island, Georgia, I realized I’d been drawn there because of the extensive bike trails.  Hopping on that bike to explore the island made me feel like I was the same age as that girl in the picture, riding the sandy roads of our farm.  It didn’t matter that at Jekyll Island I was fifty.  When you do the activities you love you can be transported to any age.

Because things we love can ground us, it’s important to have them all around. I think of how these can appeal to our five senses.  When we’re sick, we want that cozy blanket to swaddle us, the feel of the cloth settling our nervous system.  I have a tan-colored corduroy coat that immediately calms me.  Touching it reminds me of favorite clothing from childhood.  I’ll probably wear that coat until it’s threadbare and my family forces me to get rid of it.

The smell of lavender reminds me of the gentle care of my lymphedema massage therapist, how she uses lavender lotion, a healing balm.  When I’m having a tough day, slowing down and inhaling the scent of lavender calms me.

Tasting cinnamon feels like a special treat.  I put it on cereal, coffee, yogurt, and everything that I can.  It doesn’t even have to be paired with brown sugar to be satisfying.

Listening to certain songs immediately improves my mood, or makes me want to get up and dance, or elevates me to a state of praise and thanksgiving.  I also find that listening to silence anchors me in the present, mindful of what is before me.

I remember now how my eyes first encountered the Santa before I picked him up and made him mine.  My prayer for you as we prepare to enter the new year is that you will surround yourself with your favorite things, and take the time to do your favorite activities in 2018.  I hope you will make all those things yours.

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Jekyll Island bike path

How about you?

What are your favorite things?

Is your home filled with those things that are special to you?

What activities did you love as a child?  Are you doing them now?  If not, how could you start?

 

 

 

 

 

Polly’s Gift

I first saw the painting in December of 1992.  My Aunt Polly invited me to come to her house and pick out presents for my sons for Christmas.  She loved all her great-nephews and nieces and had purchased toys, books, and candies to give the seven of them.  I was surprised to see paintings lined up on her mantle and hearth– flowers, southwestern landscapes, and one that stood out; Joseph leading Mary through the dark night to Bethlehem.

“You painted these?” I asked, remembering her stories of taking art classes.  “I love the way you illuminated Mary’s face.”

She seemed surprised at how I was drawn to the painting.  Polly had always been a perfectionist and had difficulty receiving my complement.

“I painted it for Mama’s Christmas present in 1954,” she told me.  “But she died before Christmas and I never got to give her my gift.”  Something I didn’t know, a new discovery of another way that Polly and I were alike.

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painted December 1954 by Polly Rosser

Polly and her younger sister, Eula, had moved to Denver in 1950 where Polly took art classes at the University of Colorado and Eula worked as a nurse in a children’s hospital.  My Aunt Polly, my Daddy’s older sister, had mostly been known to me through letters and cards.

But then she moved back East in the fall of 1965, when I was in fifth grade, and lived with us.  I saw ways that I was like her– unlike how I felt toward most of my family.  Polly was artistic and a dreamer, impractical by the Rosser family standards.  She relished setting a beautiful table, enjoying nice dishes and serving pieces versus the everyday plates and bowls we normally used.

Before Christmas, I’d tromp with her through the woods to gather cedar, holly, pine, and magnolia to decorate our home.  She used some of the evergreens to create small woodland scenes on pieces of plywood, tucking in ceramic rabbits and birds and spraying snow on her creation to give the feel of a winter wonderland.

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Eula and Polly (left to right)

She loved to read and I admired the stack of books beside her bed, knowing that she always read before falling asleep.  She gave me books of poetry and prayers and wrote memorable comments in my cards.  Polly was considered ‘too sensitive’ by some, and again, I could see that same quality in me.

Polly died the May after I first saw her paintings that Christmas.  Mama remembered how I’d loved the one of Mary and Joseph and made sure it was earmarked for me.  Now, when I look at it, I think of the sadness that can be part of Christmas, longing for those who are no longer present.  My Daddy died of a heart attack on December 13th when I was twenty-two.  I remember how my heart ached and how I always associated his death and Christmas.  I hadn’t poured myself into making Daddy a present, but I’d bought him a pair of tan-colored corduroy pants that were already wrapped and under the tree.

While I was the unintended recipient of Polly’s gift, it has been a present that I’ve been blessed with every holiday season as it hangs on my wall.  I feel connected to the intended receiver, my Grandma Rosser who died that Christmas before I was born in March.  It reminds me of Aunt Polly’s bravery in moving across the country and studying art– not something she’d been prepared for in her farm family.  When I tromp through the woods to gather greenery for my home, it’s as if she’s beside me, anticipating the joy of making our home festive, celebrating that special family time of year.

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How about you?

How do you remember special family and friends who are no longer with you during the holidays?

Are there activities in which you feel they’re present, participating in spirit?

 

 

 

Carry a Song

I crossed over Jordan Lake listening to one of my favorite songs, “God of Wonders” in what became my ritual for preparing for radiation treatments.  I followed the same pattern in an attempt to make the unfamiliar seem routine; leave home at the same time, put in the Third Day CD when I pulled out of the drive, sing to the chorus when I crossed the lake in the early morning beauty.  By the time I reached my radiation altar, I felt empowered by the song.  Months later, the same chorus played when I drove into Sedona and caught my first view of the massive red rocks.

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Jordan Lake, central North Carolina

There have been other songs that have carried me through difficult times, crying out for me when I had no words.  Sometimes we have that experience with scriptures, poems, or mantras, but somehow when the words are put to music it seems the song settles into our souls.  That’s what happened some years ago when I took my journey to Chincoteague Island at the Assateague National Seashore in Virginia.

When I left on that solo journey, I was very tired and struggling with the after effects of an allergic reaction.  The day before, I’d been working in my flower garden and chopped into a bed of red ants that quickly climbed onto my ankles.  When I tried to rub them off, they got onto my arms and several lodged under my compression sleeve that I’d worn to protect my left arm with lymphedema.  My bites had made my whole body sluggish and itchy.  By the time I pulled into my hotel at Chincoteague, all I felt like doing was sleeping.  That wasn’t what I wanted from my solo journey.

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Beachfront Assateague National Seashore, Virginia

The next day, I spent the morning on the beach and felt the cool salt water wash those itchy bites, the perfect balm.  But too soon, a fast- moving storm sent me to my car for cover.  Feeling the gift of not having to be anywhere, I sat there and watched the storm move across the water, listening to a CD that was like a companion for that trip, Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons.  The song, “Never Once,” played as I watched a man get out of his jeep and walk with his head down into the storm.  The image was so strong—the man going into the storm while Redman sang, “Never once did we ever walk alone, Never once did You leave us on our own, You are faithful, God, You are faithful.”

When I left Chincoteague Island, I wasn’t sure what I carried home, my ‘boon’ or blessing from the trip.  I’d had less energy the entire time for interacting with the people in my path.  But within weeks, I had my answer.

We three sisters had struggled with Mama’s decline from dementia.  After managing a couple of years with nursing assistants in her home, that was no longer enough.  It was apparent that we had to place her in a nursing home– something we’d feared.  On the day I drove to my hometown to meet my sisters to move Mama into Parkview, my heart broke.  Driving down the familiar road over Jordan Lake, I listened to Matt Redman’s song Never Once and could see the man from the jeep.  I felt like I was him, going head first into the storm.  While I didn’t have the words to say a prayer, the song said it all for me.  As much as it hurt to reach this point with Mama, I wasn’t alone, God was with me, and with Mama.

I was glad I’d carried that song.

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Sunset at Assateague National Seashore, Virginia

 

How about you?

Are there songs that have given you voice when you were unable to speak?

What songs, scriptures, poems, mantras could you store away to be pulled out when you need them?