In Search of the Light

I have a saying that I use pretty frequently. I have adopted it from the Pre-K teacher.  She got it from the book of Matthew. Matthew 5:16 to be exact which says “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  To simplify, I go with the Pre-K version and just go with “let your light shine”.  It is such an awesome and powerful statement.

Suffice it to say, I am not perfect (duh) and I struggle to keep this simple and beautiful thought at the forefront of my day. I try to do it everyday and  some days I completely fail.  But I keep trying.  The other night when I was really upset a very good friend texted me 3 simple words. I. love. you.  How awesome is that?  She texted me in the middle of my melt down.  I texted her back and she called me.  I asked her why she texted me, and her response was “that she was just thinking about me”.  Seriously? In the middle of my melt down? Two hours later, my sister-in-law texted I. Love. You.   How did these two people who love me so much know? without any precursor or information? Ladies and gentlemen- that is some really powerful stuff.  I needed them and I didn’t know I needed them. But they knew I needed them. Awesomeness right there and in action.

So what exactly is the light that we are supposed to let shine?  That is the three million dollar question.  I think that it is a responsibility that we have to seek, to be better than what we are. right now, at this moment.  We all have a special part of God in us- a part that knows things and recognizes things without explanation.  The part that radiates goodness and recognizes goodness and wants to project goodness.   We all have this light. We have to let it shine as much as possible because we never know who may need it.

Sometimes we know exactly where we are going and we know exactly how we are going to get there.  Other times we can get completely lost, forgetting who we are, what we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to be going.    You see, when we let our “light” shine, you never know who is searching, who is lost, looking for a light. Our light can be used for others, like a lighthouse is used in the middle of a dark storm. guiding those ships that are lost and warning to not run aground.

Think about how many times in your own life someone has done something for you that made all the difference.  A phone call, a listening ear, a small present, an unexpected visit, a card, a shoulder to cry on, a wise word, a harsh word, a swift kick in the back side-  I know for myself, throughout my life, I have been lost countless times. Operating on complete faith, like walking around in a dark room with my hands out, anticipating when I am going to stumble because I can’t see in front of my face due to the blackness surrounding me. I have had darkness, where I didn’t know what I believed and what I didn’t believe,a time where I have just gone through the motions of the emotions. And then like a miracle someone helps me or something happens because someone cared enough about me to make it happen.  The light in those times is brighter than a thousand suns- it is brighter than ten thousand suns because that light carries with it HOPE.  Hope that someone cares, that things will be better, that things will be ok-  because that is what we all want- is for things to be ok.

The wise men, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (I had to look their names up) knew what they were looking for.  They consulted books, maps, scripture and their own knowledge in search of what they were looking for, which was Christ.  In the end it was the great bright light that lead them to what they were looking for. The light guided them to where they needed to be, the light offered them hope for their future and provided reassurance that they too would be ok.

As you go through your day, try to be selfless, giving of yourself, asking yourself what you can do for someone. Take a risk and be giving of yourself, send that card to the person you keep thinking of, call your friend and tell them how much you miss them, tell the people you care about how important they are to you, tell people you appreciate them, acknowledge others when their kindness has touched you, be kind when it is most difficult, break your old bad habit and force yourself to do that one thing different just one time and most importantly be aware and willing all the time to be of service when you are called.

Because you see my friends, you never know when it will be our turn to be in search of the light.

Seeing Things Exactly As They Are

Tonight is filled with a lot of raw emotion, so if you are looking for something uplifting and light, you might want to stop reading right  here.  Today was emotional for me. I have been thinking a lot about my grandmother. She is still living and one of the most important people of my life. She is 83 years old and has moderate to severe dementia.  She has reached a point where it is hit and miss as to whether she knows your name and it is a bonus if she can remember how she knows you.  She was/is the person in my life who told me I could do it (no matter what it was) when the rest of the world was telling me I couldn’t do it.  She used to have “Carpe Diem” written on her checks because she really believed it. Now, sadly, she doesn’t remember that simple phrase that was placed on her checks almost twenty years ago.  But I do.

My grandmother was raised in an orphanage (which is a completely separate post) because her father died of black lung when she and her twin brother were nine months old.  My great-grandmother, who was left in a wicker basket with a note, was left on a door step when she was three days old.  With my great-grandfather having passed, my great-grandmother was not able to keep my grandmother and her two brothers because she was too poor to support them. So she placed them in an orphange, and I have discerned from my grandmother’s stories over the years, it was horrible and necessary all at the same time.

After my hearing today, I was invited to go to Krebs Oklahoma for lunch. Hardy har har. uh no. oh wait. yes. In the process of cleaning out my grandmother’s house I was able to salvage one of the few pictures of my great grandmother and great-grandfather – it was published in the local Krebs newspaper proudly announcing the baptism of my grandmother and her twin brother. I had been able to recall the small detail from the newspaper article in that moment my grandmother was born in Krebs. I absolutely will take the trip to eat italian food in Krebs.

So off I go with a few of my colleagues, following a caravan of cars to travel ten miles further to the birth place of the most important woman in my life.  The town is run down and is poor- My senses are heightened, perhaps I am trying to tap into my ancestry and allow my mind to wander regarding the possibilities fo where they used to live and whether my grandmother even knew she was born in Krebs. The food was awesome to say the least. Strange occurrence-the girl who served us looked just like me. promise. It was creepy. So creepy I couldn’t even ask her to take a picture.  We could have been sisters. It was verrrrrrry strange. I promise. She looked very much like me. I’m not even kidding.

I drove back home with all sorts of remodeling on my mind, looking forward to moving towards putting the new flooring in, and even perhaps placing the furniture back in the rooms before the beginning of next week.  I stop at the flooring store where I have a lead on the out of stock flooring that we were supposed to be getting. Ugh. I get home and let me just sum this part up. My husband took the liberty to instruct the texture people to go ahead and redo the already just finished texturing. Like it was already painted. and he had them redo it. and Redo it they did to the 1960’s with big gloppy loads of mud and a little feather and fan action. EXCUSE ME….DID I MISS THE MEMO? THE MEMO WHERE YOU SENT OUT SOMETHING SAYING WE HAD CHANGED THE PLAN? To say I was or am upset is a complete understatement. In fact I am pretty sure it will be the understatement of the whole entire year, and it is only of course February 16, 2012.  I was so upset and disappointed I decided to load up and go see my grandmother.

The shrunken lady who came to the door of her assisted living apartment was playful as she had heard my youngest on the other side of the door knocking and saying “grandma?” “ohhhhhhh grandma??” She is so little now, small and vulnerable.  She gets irritated easily when she realizes she can’t remember what happened earlier in the day.  She asked me who my number 3 child’s brothers were. I pointed to the wall where we had taped number 1 child and number 2 child’s school pictures with their names underneath them.  As I watched her go through a photo album with my number 3 child on her lap, I was grateful and sad all at the same time.

She had been my rock for almost my entire life. I told her everything.  I wanted to tell her right then of the struggles of January and how much grief had come into our home because a friend of my number 1 child had shot and killed himself at the young age of barely 14.  How I had to parent my children through suicide- how number 1 had just played football with this beautiful kid the afternoon of his death.  I wanted to talk parenting with her, marriage with her, politics and my difficulties of semi-sort of losing someone close to me. I wanted to talk religion and soul talk with her, so she could do what she had done hundreds of times before, which was to give me a scripture to study, or a life story or wise words to contemplate.  I wanted to tell her about my trip to Krebs, wanted to be in her home where she would cook something or watch british comedies to stop all the noise in my life.

But as I looked at her it hit me like the same ton of bricks that hits me over and over and over when I realize that, for the most part, that is gone.  The grief that comes from losing someone slowly. One piece at a time. We spent the rest of the evening looking through pictures, we did a small puzzle, and she talked about what she wants to do when she gets home and what kinds of food she is going to get when the kids come over.

She is not going home. I used to be dedicated to telling her the truth about how it wasn’t safe for her to stay at home anymore. Now I go along with her and fantasize about the dream of her returning home and I go right along with her.

There no longer is a need to contradict this hope. It is not necessary.

As I got ready to leave, I was almost desperate to share my current struggles, my life with her. I absolutely hungered for her wisdom. I wanted her to feed me spiritually like she had so many, many times. I even went as far to ask her if she likes to pray the rosary- she didn’t really respond. But to no avail there was nothing- until something caught my eye.

For the last few weeks I have been trying to figure out a way to incorporate the fruits of the spirit in a piece of artwork for me to hang in my  house. I have looked at a few things online and just gave up until things are more settled.  I saw a beautiful poster with the fruits of the spirit in my children’s godparents house. I had never, never, never, never ,never heard my grandmother speak about the fruits of the spirit-until tonight.  Above the pictures of my children this was at the top.

Fruit of the Spirit in grandma's room

My instant thought was thank you god.  I knew that I knew.

As I kissed her and hugged her and kissed her again, she said to me “you sure are growing up, becoming a nice young lady now and you are so smart”- I told her that no matter what she forgets, to never forget that I am the person I am today because of her.

As I walked away choking back tears, I think she had forgotten who I was, as I am today, a grown woman with three children- and she was seeing me as a little girl stuck maybe twenty years ago.

As I am writing these words, I am thinking …. you know what?  She saw me for EXACTLY what I was tonight- a little girl scared to lose her grandmother.

KNOW THYSELF

Our home is a wreck. From top to bottom. It looks like something straight out of hoarders. The rooms have been emptied into other rooms on top of the stuff already in the room. It is true insanity.  Remodeling is an adventure that you have no control over.  You are at the mercy of people you don’t know and you find your life reduced to rooms of piles and material things and oh yes…don’t forget the color swatches. It is nuts. Put it this way, I have a queen size mattress in one of my bathrooms.  I have to remind myself, that at the end of this project I will have something so much better than what is there, but getting there is going to be a REALLLLLLLLLLLL Challenge.  We have knocked out walls, ripped out cabinets, ripped out base boards, and thrown out the old carpet.

As the old stuff is getting ripped out I cannot tell you the anxiety I have. Perhaps it’s the hammer, pounding away at the existing structure or the pop of the boards giving way to something new. Whatever it is I have to close my eyes, plug my ears and look away.  I think my anxiety is from the unknown, how is going to be put back together, what if the new idea turns out worse than the old existing structure.  What if I am wrong and I should have left it?

And then it comes to me.  It doesn’t matter. The old stuff wasn’t working for me and it was making me miserable.  The same old, same old, the same complaining about not enough space, old scratched up baseboards, dark colors and drab depressing woodwork was not working anymore.  I was complaining and not doing anything about it.  Time to reassess and take stock of the stuff I wanted to keep and the stuff I wanted to trash.  I was complaining about being tired of complaining. Isn’t that nuts?

Our lives are much the same way.  As I looked around my bedroom tonight I thought to myself…you know at one point in my life, I think I looked this way. I think to be the best people we can be, we have to constantly assess which wall to knock down in our lives, which ones to build and how much trash to take out. I am sure that my parents at certain points during my life had to look away, as life hammered at my existing structure to break me into submission. I have had to look away myself when people I love have gone through the same process. It isn’t pretty. In fact, when we go through these periods of personal growth it is usually ugly and if the lessons aren’t learned, they can drag on for months and sometimes years.   If we don’t go through this process, I think we end up as debilitated specimens of what could have been.  And honestly, sometimes, we have to take ourselves down to our foundation and get real with who we are.

Who we are means going down deep, without the distractions of others to define who we are.  We gotta know at least from a minimalist perspective of what we believe and the truth of the things we know.  What may be true to me may not be true to you.  But that is ok. I can love you, you can love me and we rest in the peace of knowing God made us each different and placed a part of him in each of us to recognize truth. The danger is losing sight of this.  Floating along in a sea of disparity for long points in time and not recognizing a higher calling. We all have a higher calling. We were all made for greatness. Each and every one of us has greatness within us and can achieve whatever it is we are called to do.  The real question is are we willing to accept the mission?

We can all get lost. And we can all be found. Even if it means ripping out the walls, repainting or knocking ourselves down and starting over.  No matter where you are in this journey, just remember one of the most important lessons, which is to Know Thyself.

Be Ready

Ok so I pray and pray. And pray.  My home is a work in progress. We save money, we do a home improvement project. We save money, we do a home improvement project. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  We have been waiting since Thanksgiving for the texture, sheet rock people to show up and do a little (insert major sarcasm here) popcorn scraping. I have a love hate relationship with the construction industry.  It’s like a secret society or something with secret handshakes and code language.

As for my contractors I have cried because of them. I have spastic texted them. (yes spastic texting is a real term AND it’s an art) I have cursed, freaked, given up, gotten excited, thrown things, threaten to move out and live in a tent or van down by the river, pondered the thought of buying a Winnebago and threatened to do the projects myself in the course of this home remodeling process.

Did I mention to you that I prayed? and prayed and prayed, and lost faith and gotten faith and….. you get the picture. Frustration at its best.  Did I mention to you that this has been going on for ohhhhhhhhhhh about one year. ONE. YEAR.   Did you know this stuff is crazy expensive?  oh you want tile you say? well let’s see tile, grout, perma whatever you call it and labor.  I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she goes into the dress store for the first time to price an outfit every time I am pricing a new project……well if you have to ask…you can’t afford it.  Am I rambling? oh yes….. I am and I’m not apologizing. I want in the club with the secret handshake.

So last night I get home, my husband informs me that the general contractor was able to get a crew (finally) and oh yes they want to do 5 rooms. At the same time. Did you hear me out there? At. The. Same. Time. Well I suppose I didn’t really register the gravity of the situation due to my giddiness of the idea of moving forward with updating the house.

Then 8:30 a.m. came and with it 5 guys ready to scrape, mud, bullnose demo and spray. In 1 hour, my family (sans the oldest child-who was taking the ACT) emptied 2 bedrooms, 1 playroom, 1 utility room, one bathroom, 2 halls and 3 closets. As my frustration heightened, the piles grew and the panic began to set in, I realized that there is a lesson to be learned. I wasn’t ready. Here I am praying and praying and praying that something would happen and then BOOM. It happens.

Think about all the times in your life you have prayed, only if, I will, I promise, I won’t… and you pray and pray. And then “it” happens. Just not in the way you wanted it. But you got exactly what you asked for. Right?  I think I had a moment of truth today as I was thinking how am I going to live in this house of chaos and smelly mud –

My Kitchen, The Art Studio

and I realize. I have gotten exactly what I have prayed for. I just wasn’t ready.

I spent the rest of the day meditating on this revelation. How many times have I prayed, and gotten down on my knees asking for something to happen and I wasn’t ready for the responsiblity that came with it?  My Husband used to tell me that if I ask for a sack of potatoes I better have a shovel in my hand.

Are you ready? for whatever you are asking for? I find that honestly, I probably am not ready most of the time because being ready means accepting a greater responsibility. I don’t care what it is that you/I have asked for. It WILL require more responsibility on your part. It will require more growth, more faith, more trust, more work.  You want a child? a better job? more money? better grades? a more peaceful life, a better relationship with God,  lose weight, better health, better friends, mending relationships almost all of it will require more from us.  I do understand that there are a few exceptions but for the most part it will require more.

Take the first step

I also realized in this lesson, that most of the time we are delivered to the place where we want to be. In my life, it is usually not in the manner I thought it would be. Think about all the twists and turns your life has taken and how you have arrived at your destination. You thought you were taking the plane and somehow you took the one man boat.

I laugh to myself at how much patience God has with us. How many times has this lesson been presented to me and I totally failed. Totally.  So tonight as I look around my abode and see the piles and piles of mud, clothes, toys, books, dirty clothes, luggage and laundry baskets I have to remind myself I asked for it and now, 14 hours later I am ready.

The Angels

This painting is by Thomas Blackshear, titled Watchers In The Night.  I saw this painting about five or ten years ago and fell in love with it from the moment I saw it.  I didn’t buy it.  In the short time that I stood in front of the corner where this painting was displayed I was somehow able to memorize every detail of this painting.  When I had saved enough money to purchase the painting it was no longer available at the little gallery where I had found it.  The sales lady was able to help me find the artist’s name and from there I began my hunt for this painting.

There are plenty of cheesy replicas of this picture out there. But that is not what I wanted. I wanted this painting in its rare form-canvas, no elaborate frame, no gold, glitter, crosses, or the any of that religious relic stuff that can become a distraction.  Art is art. It should speak for itself. In my humble opinion, art does not need the bells and whistles of a frame or any type of embellishment for that matter. If it is good, then it will stand on its own.

Tonight I found the painting and purchased this for my Valentine’s gift to me.  There is something that speaks truth in this painting.  I did a little research on the symbolism within the painting.  The light in the angel’s hand symbolizes the holy spirit. The artist is quoted as saying “I hope you are reminded each time you look at this painting, that no matter what you are going through as God’s child, there are angels under the Lord’s command who are close by and ready to assist you.”

I love the child peacefully asleep in the bed, the strength of the angel’s wing around the bed and the stoic stance of the angel.  Maybe this is what I would like the angels to look like. Ready for battle- strong and sure of their mission.

About ten years ago my husband’s best friend was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.  “John” was a sweet man with a kind heart. My husband had been best friends with him for thirty years.  He was at the birth of our children, in our wedding and more importantly we shared countless hours of laughter, tears and youth with him. When we got the news of his passing it was a blow to say the least.

The night after his death I was at home by myself. I was standing over the sink doing dishes and in deep thought, very deep thought about John, and trying to picture our lives without him. I was trying to grasp the gravity of the hole that would be left in my husband’s heart as a result of John’s passing.  And then I felt a presence. It was a strong sensation. I turned slowly around and heard something to my left.  Just then my son’s remote control Hummer started up and traveled across the dining room, across the kitchen, past my feet and into the kitchen wall. The Hummer had traveled about twenty to thirty feet. No kidding. Seriously.  The remote was nowhere to be found and nobody was home other than myself.

I wasn’t scared. I was rattled, but not scared.  I decided to say something out loud and said something like, “Hi John. Ha, ha very funny.” I wanted to acknowledge out loud that I knew he was there with me. I think he was saying goodbye. But I am sure it was him.

I have had one other encounter with him through a dream several years ago. John was happy.

The night I had a dream about John, my husband had dreamt about him too. I hadn’t told my husband that I had dreamt of John for fear of the sadness that it may have brought with it. As soon as my husband woke up he declared to me that he had just dreamt about John and described the almost identical dream that I had that night.

That’s when I knew.

A Dog Named Ivy

Last night I think I dreamed about my grandfather. I’m not sure. But I think I did. He was my best friend in the whole world. He was a simple man. Luckily my memory has still allowed me to recall specific parts of him.  The texture of his hair, the wrinkles in his skin, the blueness of his eyes. I remember holding his hand as a young girl and tracing the ink deeply embedded in the cracks of his hands. He had hard working gracious hands. I can remember how he smelled, the hitch in his walk and how he used to hug. He was the greatest man ever. To me he was perfect.

I was 21 when he died in his sleep.  The night before he died, I was at my apartment in the town I was attending college. I was supposed to go into the city to visit him but I had fallen asleep on the couch.  Strangely enough my now husband woke me up and tried to talk me into going to the city with him. My husband was going to the city to visit his best friend and told me he would drop me off at my grandfather’s and pick me up when he was finished. I declined. I called my grandfather and told him I was too tired to come make the forty five minute drive. My grandfather said “so you are too tired to come see your old grandfather huh?” I told him I loved him and we hung up.  He died that night.

I have dreamt about him a few times since his death. I believe each time he has brought me specific messages.  I know people don’t believe in this-but I do. I know. I mean really I know. I don’t care if other people don’t believe in this or don’t want to believe in that sort of communication, but I do because it happens to me.  It is different when it happens to you. You no longer become the audience who judges- you become a participant. 

Last night I felt his presence in my dreams. I never saw him I don’t think.  In the past when I have seen him in my dream, I wake up and experience the grief again.  It wasn’t like that this time.  There was a young irish setter named Ivy. I remember the dog’s face very clearly. I think I remember hearing my grandmother laugh, but I’m not sure. My grandmother is still living.  I think it was late spring or summer-everything was green and comfortable, set on sort of a farm type setting. I knew he was there. I knew it. Somewhere he was there.

My dream was interrupted, unfinished. I woke up to the all the Superbowl noise in the other room-disturbing the peace.  In the ten seconds following  consciousness I could have recalled all the details of the dream, but it was not to be. The world came rushing in to skew any memory I had attempted to piece together from the night’s slumber.  But I knew it happened. I knew I had seen a dog named Ivy and that he was somewhere in that dream.

Can You See

The funny day started with the family, gathered around the television in their various states of mismatched pajamas and morning hair, flipping through the various horrid Saturday morning tv programs. The wide range of misshapen puppets, singing songs about I do not know what- footnote one-what happened to bugs bunny? What happened to the good old-fashioned looney toones? These programs are deranged and very strange. One set of puppets were dark purple with misplaced eyes throwing their puppet wired arms up and saying praise Jesus in a hysterical sort of way. The next channel brought puppets that look like nuns. While these puppets had much better craftsmanship than the previous channel, there was something sort of creepy watching puppets that were supposed to look like clergy. And then they all broke out in song. Next channel.

As we continued assessing our options we came across an old friend-Mr. Rogers. Strangely enough the family immediately became entranced with the wholesomeness of Fred. His kind singing, the sweater changing, shoe changing, clashing curtain decor and the final question of “Won’t you be my neighbor?”. In this particular episode a theme quickly developed surrounding recycling and the abundant creation of trash. Fred shows the kids how he cut a box out, placed lids with tape on the outside of the box as nobs to create a cardboard TV. Fred then proceeded to show everyone how to create puppets out of balls and handkerchiefs. Mr. Mcphealy (sp?) the mailman who looks likes someone we all know but can’t place, shows up with a goat. Yes a goat. All this wholesomeness bonding time with the family was really quite amazing to me. Well at least until the goat pooped. On camera. Ok. Great.

Of course commence instant rewind and laughing and DVRing and Tivo. Over and Over. Ok everyone. Next thing please.

Later we all load up for a basketball game. We walk into a gym where I see an old highschool teacher/basketball coach. I make a connection.

At about my bed time we all decide to load up again to go watch a high school basketball game. As I take a look around I could almost make a timeline of my life by the people in the gym. And the gym is packed.

When I was a young person watching Mr. Rogers I can honestly say I could have never predicted watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood with my children, some 30 years later. (or the goat pooping)

When I was wandering the halls of my highschool some 25 years ago and sat in the class of this particular teacher/coach, how could I possibly even entertain that one day his grandson would be playing basketball with my son and be on the same team? 25 years ago I could never have imagined such a thing. But somehow, someway the universe has aligned and allowed this intersection to take place again.

When I looked around the gym later in the evening at the highschool basketball game, the gym was littered with people who have touched my life in one way or another. Some of them have taught me how to love deeper, some of them have taught me patience, some have taught me friendship. I wonder what I have taught them? I wonder how many of these people will come across my path in the future, ones that I don’t even know. And even more so, why have we all been brought there together in this particular moment.

What we can’t see is how far and deep each one of our lives really matters. None of us know all the people who may be impacted by our existence, for the better or for the worse. We can’t see how important we may be to so many. In everything we do we can impact someone’s life. Can you see?