Can You Hear Me Now?

About a year ago, I was considering a significant change in my professional world. I teach in a public high school and had been approached by a private, religiously affiliated school in my area to consider teaching there. To say that I was torn is an understatement. I was blessed to be working in a school often referred to as the “best kept secret” in our county because of its small size and close-knit community with a big heart. However, in case you’re not involved in education or have missed the headlines, public education is a mess right now. For teachers, the demands keep on piling up and the funds keep on getting cut in a climate defined by teaching to tests with very little accountability placed on students. The private school seemed to be an easy fix to those problems. More importantly though, the prospect of being able to express my spirituality freely in the process of mentoring youth was quite tempting. Still, I was content where I was, no need to fix what wasn’t broken. As I struggled with whether to entertain the idea of a switch, I prayed over and over again to God, asking for a sign of what I should do.

He gave it to me. As I drove to school the morning after my first incessant series of requests to Him, I saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, a rainbow right over the school I currently teach at. I would like to say I recognized the sign and listened right away, but I can be rather, well, slow at times. A good friend whom I taught with had just been diagnosed with cancer and she lived right by the school, so when someone pointed out that God had sent her a rainbow, I quickly dismissed the notion that God could be speaking to ME through that rainbow.

A week and two more rainbows directly over the school later, I still didn’t get it. I struggled through my decision on my own, deciding to stay put after countless hours of back and forth, pros and cons, worries, guilt and strife. As soon as I made the decision, though, I felt this immediate sense of peace and finally acknowledged that maybe just maybe, God really had been trying to speak to me all along. I simply wasn’t listening. I can just picture Him sitting back and chuckling at me, like what I do when my Little Miss Independent 3-yr-old insists on doing something “all by herself”. I find it slightly comical to witness the irony of her kicking and crying, “I can’t do it,” because she can’t accomplish a task on her own, but boy do those cries escalate to wails if I offer assistance. “No! I do it my own!!!” Yes, I feel sure that I know exactly how He felt watching me stumble through that week. Fine, do it yourself. But it would be so much easier if you would just let me help a little. If only you would LISTEN!

Double rainbow

My Sign

Since that time I have seen countless rainbows. Honestly, I am sure that I have seen more rainbows in the past year than in all of my previous 35 years combined. Is it just because I’m paying attention? Maybe, but I believe it’s much more than that. Rainbows aside, this has been one of the most difficult years of my life but also one of tremendous spiritual growth. I refuse to believe that it’s all coincidence. You see, I’ve not only seen regular rainbows, but a couple of double rainbows and even a triple rainbow! The first double rainbow I had ever seen appeared on my husband’s birthday in June! I saw rainbows on my brother-in-law’s birthday (March), my son’s birthday (November), and most recently my oldest nephew’s birthday in December. I also saw one over my sister and brother-in-law’s house as we went to visit them just after their son’s birthday (August).  I have seen so many rainbows that I stopped snapping pictures of them months ago!

Looking back at the cumulative sum of these rainbows is astounding, but I have to admit that it took me months along the way to really truly accept that there might be a message in them for ME. Confirmation came to me in the most unlikely way. My family and I belong to a small church full of true believers who ooze faith and love. Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, our pastors reconnected with some distant relatives of theirs who are also involved in ministry. They were invited to come to our church one Sunday in August, and after the service they stuck around to pray with people on a personal level. My husband and I introduced ourselves to them only by name, yet as we began, they prayed over us for things that no stranger possibly could have ever known. I will never forget the moment when the wife leaned in to me and said “God wants you to know that it’s Him. He’s been talking to you and you want to believe that it’s Him but you doubt. Don’t doubt, because that feeling that you have that it’s really Him is right. It is.” WHOA!

Are you like me? Are you ignoring a voice that’s whispering to you? Are signs being laid out that you’re missing? Is your soul crying out but being muted by the chaos of the world around you? Is God speaking to you but being drowned out by all the other noises?

Truly Alive In My HOME

My recent post, Willingness… To Do What?, was about how I am choosing to be “willing” this year.  Willing to do what?  Well, many things actually.  My list of big things I am “willing” to do include to practice more patience, be more focused and a super biggy – finish my book.  Heck I’m even willing to cuss less when playing Spades on my IPad (my imaginary partner, Megan really makes D.U.M.B. moves over and over!)  Most importantly, I am willing to be me in all the areas of my life, no longer afraid to completely expose myself.

As a young girl I “felt” there was something I was supposed to do.  Perhaps many of you knew as kids or teenagers what your vocation in life would be.  I had no clue, only that there was something.  At the same time while growing up, I was a good Catholic.  I used my Rosary, went to Confession and Communion regularly and devoutly prayed daily.  It must have been weird because I’ll never forget one time I overheard my mother telling my grandmother (my dear Nana) that she was afraid I might become a Nun.  In my child’s mind I deduced that I was too religious.  Well, I’m here to tell you my mother worried for naught – I love physical intimacy way too much to be celibate (sorry kids but it’s the truth)!  Through the years I did stay for want of a better word “religious”.  In college I joined Campus Crusade.  As a married adult I was always active in church.  But for all the years and the various stages of my life my faith participation was in mainstream ways that kept me “safe”.  Even my “then” husband kept me in check.  To this day I can still remember him parking at church with our three kids in the back seat each Sunday.  More often than not after turning off the car engine he would turn and look at me.  He would then gently pat my leg and say, “ Now baby, you know you learn a lot more when you listen so please don’t speak up in Sunday school.”  Not speaking up kept me safe from potential criticism (at home and everywhere else) so I would stifle myself, certain that he was lovingly telling me I was too opinionated, particularly when it came to my faith.  Call it poor self-esteem if you want but I somehow saw my devoutness as a negative and wished I could be looser and more fun.  (Silly me!)

Understand that I’m not looking for sympathy here.  I don’t for a second blame either one of them for making me feel like whom I really was needed some toning down.  I’m the one who chose to take their words and let them affect me in a negative way to the point that I kept my deeply spiritual nature at bay.

Beginning at the age of 40 serious trauma-drama began to creep into my life over and over again.  Each new challenge strengthened my faith only I still kept my spirituality somewhat to myself.  So, I guess I had to get a huge roadside flare to get my attention.  That flare came on December 6, 2006 in the form of a woman from my past suddenly there to expose stuff.  To this day I am grateful for her and the far-reaching tentacles of consequences her talk with me created.  Many things in my life changed at that point and I truly, truly began to open up and express my spiritual side.  I started a Blog.  However, even with my Blog I was gingerly showing my true self trying to be ever so subtle with expressing my views.

All that changed when I received the email from Lori.  Lori’s word for me, “WILLINGNESS” reinforced the voice I had been hearing in my head for several months telling me to put myself out there once and for all.  I call it coming out of the closet because to me, I am choosing to tell the truth about myself much like others do when they have something important to say about themselves that they are afraid to share but can’t hold in any longer.  So here’s what I’m willing to say…

I am a deeply spiritual human being. I believe that my body is a vessel for my Soul.  I believe that this vessel should be as free of negative things like anger, hostility, jealousy and fear as possible to honor my Soul.  I believe that my Soul is more important than my Ego.  I passionately believe in God, the Universe and yes, even Angels.  I believe in goodness and want to be an active participant in spreading it.  Though I view myself as a simple Soul, I am an “Old Soul” with a deep understanding of things.  I believe that I have a purpose in life that is meant to be for the greater good of mankind.  I believe that I am a healer and have the gift of healing with my words.  I also believe I have the ability to heal through creating beauty spatially and when I work in people’s homes as a Decorator I feel the energy and know where it needs to be balanced.  I have no desire to attach myself to any specific denomination or creed, as I believe my purpose is to include rather than exclude.  While I will not hold tight to religious rules and regulations, I spend much of my time in prayer and would put on my Bucket List a chance to go on a pilgrimage journey.  (By the way I have no real clue what I mean by that – just that my heart and Soul yearn for it.)  I believe that our world is a changing and people like me want to show a better way through love and care.  I believe that Peace is attainable.  I believe that Love is attainable.  I believe that Harmony is attainable.  It is all a matter of choice.  Most of all my spirituality is part of every moment of every day and at the end of each day my hope is that it has shown in all my actions and yes, reactions to my life’s journey that day – including what I write on my Blog.

I read something the other day that really spoke to me.  “Many of us are struggling to stay true to what we know is the right way for us to be.”  That’s how I was for over 56 years.  I struggled with who I am because I thought I was weird.  No longer.  The rest of the time I have here on this earth I’ll be truly alive in my Home, my vessel for my Soul.  I’m finally free to be me.  Oh and after all these years I’ve figured out what I’m supposed to do as my vocation in life – encourage and promote Peace, Love and Harmony.

To being alive…

Willingness…To Do What?

I got an email from my dear friend, Lori Saylor Milan the other day. We’ve known each other for many years and although she lives in Portland, Oregon and I’m in Chicagoland we have a bond that’s tight. You see we met at a very traumatic time in both of our lives through a Bible Study back around 1996. Since then when we talk or write to each other it’s as if we can both feel the deep connection and by the way, we both know it is a connection made by God and the Universe. No doubt about it.

Anyway, months can go by in between our emails to each other so when she wrote to me the other day it was wonderful to hear from her. Little did she know the incredible inspiration her words were for me. Here’s what she wrote:

“I wanted to tell you Happy New Year and also to see if you are doing all right. I had not seen your blog for a while. I hope David is doing good. I know you have lots of coals in the fire and just might be plain ole busy but I do hope that is all that is going on.

I started a new tradition several years ago. It involves having friends and family pick an angel card from a deck when we meet at Christmas or New Years. I have all my co-workers, children, siblings and friends take one. The angel cards have words on them. During the year each person is supposed to remember their word and meditate and think about it on and off. Look all around you for the meaning. I drew a card for you.

Your word for 2013 is: WILLINGNESS

I’ve reread this email several times that she sent on January 16th. Each and every dang time goose bumps erupt on my arms; tears form in my eyes and incredible warmth heats up my heart. Lori picked the perfect card for me. And just because I am obsessed with defining words, here’s the definition of Willingness:

Willingness: of or relating to the will or power of choosing

What an awesome word for me to have for the year. And, it couldn’t have been timelier. You see, I haven’t been able to write for a good while now. Yeah sure, I’ve been super busy with work. But truth be told, since September my life has been inundated with really tough stuff. I’m talking gut wrenching, heavy stuff – or maybe I’m just too sensitive. (N.O.T.) If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a gazillion times that my life is crazier than a Lifetime movie or daytime Soap. And these last several months have had some doozie sagas!

Hence, the desire to write was gone. Kaput. Besides loss of desire I was afraid. Afraid? Yep. Afraid to accidentally (or worse, on purpose) say something that had to do with one of the several trauma-dramas going on around me. Too risky for sure. Funny thing though – even though I wasn’t writing, my mind was going, going, going. Thoughts, ideas and words were whirling and twirling through my mind all day long. All of it needed to go on paper- well, actually onto my computer. And all the while this nagging voice in my head kept saying, “Write what you are led to write and NOT what you think you should write.” Interesting.

Timing is everything. Lori’s word inspired me to be willing. Willing to open myself up once more, willing to be risky, willing to put myself out there without fear of loosing readers with the direction my posts will take, and willing to share my stories with others NOT to inform but to inspire. Inspire what you say? Peace. Love. Harmony.

So here I am writing again. Lori’s word willed me to get back to my computer. Joy, oh joy! I forgot how much I love it! There is some kind of deep pleasure I get in writing. In fact, for me it’s much like doing a puzzle – it is cathartic and calming all at the same time and I simply loose myself in it. And most importantly, at the risk of being bold, I know that I’m a good storyteller. I believe God and the Universe gifted me in this way. Which leads me back to that nagging voice in my head. But more on that in my next post…

Roadside Flares

Somewhere recently I read something about messages we all receive. The author called them “roadside flares to get our attention”. Thank you Lori for your email message. For sure it was a roadside flare for me. It got my attention. It inspired me to willingly throw caution to the wind and do what I love to do and what I believe God and the Universe had in mind for me all along. Besides that I have also discovered multitudes of ways the word “willingness” can be used in my daily walk. I will forever be indebted to you my dear friend!

I’m paying it forward

Lori honored me with taking the time to choose a word for me. It means a lot to all of us to know someone wants to give us a gift of his or her time in a way such as this. So I’m paying it forward. Dear readers, consider the word “willingness”. How does it speak to you? What could you be willing to do in 2013?

  • Right a wrong?
  • Resolve a conflict?
  • Spend quantity and quality time with your family?
  • Loose a few pounds?
  • Go green?
  • Get back to that hobby you love?
  • Play more?
  • Join a club?
  • Do charity work?
  • Pray more?
  • Stretch yourself?
  • Start each morning with a smile?
  • Sleep more?
  • Laugh more?
  • Feel free to be you?

Have fun with this word and heck, take the time to pay it forward to someone else. And, write to me if you feel led to and let me know what you choose to do with this word!

Just be willing…

Spring ~ The Season For Strawberries

As I’ve written in earlier posts this spring, I love this season and all that it brings.  Trees with new leaves, grass greening up and flowers popping out of the ground are all part of what makes me feel “twitterpated” for sure.

One of my favorite things about spring is that the Strawberry fields begin to bloom and by late April and May beautiful red berries are ready to be picked.  Throughout the years my children were growing up, I took them strawberry picking every year that I could.  Dressed in our grungiest clothes and shoes (besides strawberry stains being a hassle, the fields are notoriously muddy) we would make an outing to pick strawberries.  Once home I would make jam from much of what we picked and of course, we’d eat them for days popping them into our mouths, mixed with other fruits for breakfast or as the crowning glory for dessert.

Heading to the fields

Heading to the fields

Something comes over me when I arrive at a farm to pick strawberries.  I’m giddy, excited and oddly nervous – clearly full of mixed emotions.  I’m giddy with knowing the sheer fun I’ll have, but the excitement about getting to pick mixes with worry that too many people will show up and “crowd” my space in this wonderful task.  You see, I like to imagine myself in the fields as if I’m Laura Ingalls on the prairie; picking berries so that Ma can make dessert for dinner.  Or that Mary and I (Laura’s sister) can take some of our own delicious strawberries in our baskets and go sit under the tree by the banks of Plum Creek and just laze the day away eating till our tummies and hearts are full.  (By the way, somehow Melissa Gilbert’s exposed Tattoos on DWTS just ruin my Laura image!)  I’m much this same way at Christmas Tree Farms, Pumpkin Patches and other “Pick your own Farms”.  So what I have to do is chatter inside my head to myself to remember to just enjoy the moment and not worry about how many strawberries I can take home.  After all, I can always go again!

At work picking strawberries

At work

This year I’ve already been strawberry picking and I have to say, it’s the best time amongst the strawberry plants I’ve ever had.  Why?  This year I got to go with my granddaughter, Ansley (God’s Littlest Angel).  Oh and we did let her mom, Sammi go, too by the way.  I happened to be in Charlotte working and so we set aside this particular morning for the simple pleasure of picking strawberries.  Now Ansley’s only seventeen months old so, we had no idea what to expect of her in the fields – especially since we opted NOT to take the stroller. But Good Golly Miss Molly, the child is a reincarnation of Laura Ingalls.  She knew Just. What. To. Do.  Totally serious about the work, she picked and picked – OK, she also ate and ate.  Sammi figured she ate at least 30 juicy strawberries.  But, she was precious to watch.  Ever so gently she would pick the berry and then plop it into the basket.  Each berry she put in the basket brought a smile to her face as if she was saying, “Ta Da, I did it just right.”   So, this wonderful excursion to the strawberry fields this year got me to thinking…

The time is Ripe

Having had such a wonderful time with both Sammi and God’s Littlest Angel, I knew it was a moment in the big picture of my life that I would always treasure.  I was reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The time is always ripe to do the right thing.”

Sure, the strawberries were ripe, but what was really ripe was the moment.  It was the right time to take the time to do the right thing – which was to spend time with my loved ones and especially not worry or obsess over who else drove up to the parking lot of the farm to pick strawberries, too.

And then it hit me.  The time really is always ripe to do the right thing.  We don’t have to wait.  For me, this means making the most of every single moment of every single day to do what is right in that moment.  Powerful words by a powerful man that I need to live by.  Think about it yourself and really digest the truth of this statement.  Yep, the time is always ripe to do the right thing.  We just have to do it.  Oh, and while writing this post I happened upon another wonderful quote, so perfect for this message about spending time with my granddaughter,

“Children are God’s Apostles, sent forth, day by day, to preach of love, hope and peace.“
James Russell Lowell

It’s true.  No matter what’s going on in the great big world, to a child it becomes condensed very simply to the moment and they are guided by a desire to love and yep, live in perfect harmony with those around them.  Hmmmmm…

Ansley eating a strawberry

Yum!

To grandchildren, the best dessert in life…

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Then, on the heels of Thanksgiving starts the busiest season of the year – the Christmas season.  For me, both holidays signal a time of not just fun and family gatherings but a time of giving to those not as fortunate as I am.

Glorious fall leaves

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

Everyone has traditions for the holidays.  My family and I certainly had our own while I was growing up.  Most of my Thanksgivings were spent in Roanoke, VA with extended family.  Two of my aunts, Aunt Mary Ann and Aunt Becky were members of a Woman’s Club that always served a Thanksgiving dinner to the less fortunate the night before Thanksgiving Day.  In many ways, this set the tone for the entire Thanksgiving weekend.

This tradition of serving food to the less fortunate left an indelible impression on me.  I can see that it helped to shape me and instill in me the value system I have today.  It is my heart’s desire to carry on a tradition such as this with my daughter Ansley who is a week away from her first birthday.  From the time she was just a little bump in my belly I have thought about how I wanted to teach her the important things in life.  Reverence to God and the Earth as well as Stewardship to others are some of the core values to name a few.

Ansley was due to be born last Christmas Eve.   Funny, growing up and as a young adult thinking about having my own children, the only month I thought I would never want to have a child was in December.  God has his own timing I guess!  Once I knew her due date was Christmas Eve, I knew I was being given an angel.  So what if it would be in the month I had always said I would avoid having a baby in!  Not that I really thought she would come on her due date.  And, guess what?  She didn’t.  Ansley came a month early.  She was born on Thanksgiving Day.

I don’t want to relive the details of why Ansley came early.  Suffice it to say I don’t remember much of that day and didn’t get to see, touch or hold my daughter until a couple of days later.  The first time I “viewed” my new daughter was on a camera.  No celebratory Thanksgiving meal for me and as for my family- well, Ben and Kathleen brought it into the family waiting room and everyone except me ate there.  I couldn’t even get out of the hospital bed.  I have to say though that looking back I realize this last year has flown by like the speed of light.  And although that particular Thanksgiving was not the most traditional Thanksgiving, I can now say it was not only the most memorable, but also the most special Thanksgiving I have ever had.  I have a healthy, happy and yes – beautiful little daughter that is thriving.  For this I give thanks.

Beautiful fall day

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

I also give thanks for having the opportunity to help my stepchildren learn the importance of stewardship.  Recently, my stepson, Austin had a food drive at his school.  It actually lasted the entire month of October.  While doing my normal weekly grocery shopping I bought items for the food drive.  I got enough food to fill a grocery bag for almost every day of the food drive.  At first Austin didn’t understand why in the world I would have bought so much- I took this as a teaching moment to explain about giving to the less fortunate.  I talked to him about how blessed we are and that we get to pretty much eat whatever we want at our meal times.  I told him that many kids throughout the world and even right here in our own city don’t sit down to regular meals.  I explained to him how important it is to help others in need.  Since that conversation there have been several times when Austin has talked about people in need and the other day he even reminded me about how he got so much Halloween candy while Trick-or-Treating.  He asked me if he could share his candy with the less fortunate.  I explained to him that it was important to provide nourishing food to those that need it.  To say that his desire to give even his precious candy to others touched me would not even cover the emotions I felt during this conversation with him!  Austin’s heart is in the right place.  For this I give thanks.

The Christmas season was another important season of stewardship I was taught growing up.  I can remember at least one year adopting a less fortunate family and giving gifts to them instead of getting many gifts for the three of us kids.  Doing this in your own family might seem a bit extreme.  You might even think your kids would rebel.  I challenge you to try it – the outcome might surprise you.  I can remember only feeling good about getting less and giving more.  For this I give thanks.

I myself need to do more for others.  I do know though that doing one small thing can always lead to another.  I challenge anyone reading this to start a tradition of stewardship with your own children and keep it going through the entire year and then, through their entire lives.  Teaching them stewardship is giving them a gift that keeps giving.

I give thanks for so much.  I truly am blessed in more ways that I can begin to count.  May you be as blessed.

To giving thanks.  Oh, and Happy Birthday my precious daughter…

Ansley

Photo Credit: Sammi Blake

Our children are our future.  We need to teach them to reach out and help others in need.  Start planting the seeds of caring in your own family when your children are young.  Instilling the value of stewardship never begins too soon.