The First Day of Spring

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” 

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

I’ve been able to get outside and into my gardens these past few days. Honestly, there is so much to do I don’t know where to start. The rains we had this past fall and winter blessed us with a bumper crop of wild flowers along with an even larger array of weeds.

My understanding of  the cliché, “Growing like a weed,” has advanced to an entirely different level.

As I walked our yard doing weed assessment, it was appropriate to find St. Francis surrounded by a huge patch of blue bonnets.

For me, the patron saint of ecologists, provides a perfect antidote for the very difficult winter many people endured this year. Now, on this first day of spring, the aftermath of all that snow is causing epic flooding all through the Midwest.

Our weather continues to rage at a magnitude we’ve never experienced. As with all the unrest in our world, we find ourselves caught off guard and completely unprepared.

There are many questions in my mind on this first day of spring. I don’t have any answers but I do know prayer helps.

May the Prayer of St. Francis bring peace to all battling hardships today.

 Lord, make me an instrument
of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred,
let me sow charity;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Hugs

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 

Anne Lamott

What a beautiful time to be in Texas.

God was indeed generous when He created this state. Our heavy rainfall over the fall and winter months set the scene for some of the most amazing wildflowers.

Michael and I have been working very hard in our yard. I have to tell you, it is very hard for us to know what’s a weed and what’s a flower. I’m beginning to see that it really is a matter of taste. What I call a weed I discovered today Michael thought  was a great looking flower. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he probably wouldn’t be seeing many more of that particular type of flowers.

Another great thing about this time of year is it is the perfect temperature to have a fire in the evenings. Michael built a fire a couple of nights ago which gave us a chance to sit and watch for satellites while being hypnotized by the fire itself.

It was still light enough for a few pesky bugs when I noticed a small little butterfly skirt across the fire and land upon my lower chest. She rested there and extended her wings as if she were giving me a hug. Both of us saw her and commented on how we hoped she was okay and had not burned her wings in her flight over the open flame. She remained on my chest for a minute or two before she flew off and landed between the two of us. To us she looked like she was doing her own little self assessment. We watched her–and watched her–and watched a few minutes more. We were starting to wonder if she was okay when in one quick little bit of movement, she simply flew away.

I’m not positive  who came to give me that hug. The memory of it is so powerful I start to cry every time I see those little wings spread widely over my chest. Whoever it was, my gut tells me it was someone very very special.

A Prayer for Living Up to the Best in Our Souls

You have blessed me with many gifts, God, but I know it is my task to realize them. May I never underestimate my potential; may I never lose hope. May I find the strength to strive for better, the courage to be different, the energy to give all that I have to offer. Help me, God, to live up to all the goodness that resides within me. Fill me with the humility to learn from others and with the confidence to trust my own instincts. Thank You, God, for the power to grow. Amen.

Levy, Naomi. Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Showing Up

“Love does not cost anything. Kind words and deeds do not cost anything. The real beauty of the world is equal for everyone to see. It was given by God equally to all, without restrictions.   

Everyone, was given a beautiful vehicle in which to express love to others. Feelings are free to express and give to ourselves and each other through our willingness to give and care. 

What is complicated about this… Why have we made others feel they have to climb mountains and swim oceans in order to make a difference. 

All we need to understand my friends, is that human life was given equally to us all, not partially but in totality. 

The sun was given to all. It does not shine on the few. So, just has nature is indifferent to our station or situation, we need to know that we are all equal. We need to focus on the things that are constant and not place our values on things that can be blown away with the next, great, wind.

Value life in what ever house it dwells. For when it comes time that we are all stripped to bare bones before the divine and facing eternity, we will understand that the only law we were meant to follow, was to love ourselves and each other. Nothing more…nothing less.” 

Carla Jo Masterson

Today is the day of the week my friend, Mary, calls Thankful Thursday.

I thought about this today as I ran here and there.

One special set of experiences played around in my head all day.

I remembered people who showed up.

I remembered my Uncle Howard and Aunt Theresa showing up at my dad’s funeral. I can still see Aunt Theresa stretching across the people on the outside of the aisle so she could make eye contact with us as we walked out of the church. To see their familiar faces and looks of concern were salve to my broken heart. They did not call and ask if we wanted them to come–they showed up.

I remembered an old friend of Michael’s showing up at his mom’s funeral. I remember seeing Mike and Judy walking up to the casket to pay  their respects and giving words of comfort to Michael’s sister Neva as she stood at her mom’s side. They did not call and ask if we wanted them to come–they showed up.

I remember coming home after my sister’s funeral. My sister Sue, her husband Al, and my husband Michael had just finished a very long day. We were exhausted, hungry, and so very sad. As we walked up to the house, a group of my sister’s co-workers walked up beside us with bags full of food. They did not call to see what we needed–they showed up

On this thankful Thursday I was reminded how important it is to see where we are needed and simply show up.

“It’s funny how, in this journey of life, even though we may begin at different times and places, our paths cross with others so that we may share our love, compassion, observations, and hope. This is a design of God that I appreciate and cherish.” 

Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I am…

B…simply being.  

~Peace~

Looking Out

“It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us…on the inside, looking out.” 

Jonathan Safran Foer

It has been a glorious day in the hill country of Texas.

Michael and I walked the dogs and came home to start cleaning up the yard. I learned last year the window to do this type of work is pretty narrow.

The thing about doing yard work is my mind if free to think–I don’t have the ability to work and filter thoughts. The result is all kinds of random memories float unbidden in and out of my consciousness.

Today thoughts of my dad hung out with me as I pulled weeds and examined the surviving plants and shrubs. As I dug out clusters of weeds I remembered clearing off his huge desk top.

I was probably five or six years old and I thought I was such an excellent helper. As I looked over his desk, it was obvious, he needed some help.

The focal point of the desk was a large dark glass ashtray. This was where I’d start because it was always over flowing. I knew from my frequent visits this office was the meeting place for sales people, people with questions about supplies, and anyone in need of help figuring out what was needed for a special project. I knew many of those conversations were at least two or three cigarettes long which explained the condition of that ashtray.

With the focal point polished and replaced in its prominent position, I’d polish the glass top and begin repositioning papers. I’d dash around the desk, placing neat stacks next to the next neat stack, carefully making each stack the same height as the next while aligning all edges perfectly to the edges of the desk.

It was a work of art and I was so proud.

I learned years later my hard work created even more hard work for my dad. What appeared to be unorganized was actually carefully and very personalized paper placement. It took him days to find things after my surprise cleaning visits.

The most amazing thing about this memory is I realized just this morning my desk top has ALWAYS looked exactly like my dad’s–before I showed up to help him out–minus that big ashtray.

I’m thinking I may need to wave the white flag at some of my decluttering attempts.

“When the remembering was done, the forgetting could begin.” 

Sara Zarr

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Winters

“Wisdom comes with winters” 

Oscar Wilde

Aging is an interesting thing. I’m beginning to see this getting older stuff provides me with challenges and opportunities which may or may not help me gain some wisdom along the way. Some of my lessons are definitely easier to accept than others.

One of the most fascinating things I’ve observed over the past few years is how I’ve become invisible. I’m not sure exactly when that happened. I began to notice it took much longer for people to notice me–whether I’m at the store waiting for someone to ring up my items or walking down the street–the steady stream of people around me seemed to simply glide right by me.  A less pleasant awareness occurred last week when my femininity took a reality check square on the nose. As I sat in a lecture I began to notice the person presenting the talk scanned the room very nicely and had great audience connection EXCEPT he never once made eye contact with me. I have to tell you this took some time to accept and I had to mentally brush off my pride. As I thought about the last few lectures I’d attended, I realized this was not the first time I’d been “looked over” both literally and figuratively. I was not at all impressed with this latest bit of aging insights.

I may be less visible but my new awareness has helped me see others who are in need. At the store this past weekend I noticed a little man with a cane trying to push his grocery cart, a woman with a walking cast struggling to open a heavy door, and a man in an electric cart struggling to make it around all the aisle displays. These proud souls are the true invisible ones.

It only took a minute of my time to help them. It’s something we can all do and it certainly made me feel better afterwards. After all, believe it or not, in the not so distant future, that may be one of us in need of a helping hand. What a nice way to continue to observe Lent–helping our fellow invisible people.

Oh, yes, I’ve reached those golden days

You hear so much about;

I don’t feel any older yet, 

But will one day, no doubt.

The sky is still a lovely blue, 

The rose is just as sweet. 

Each day is like another chance

To make my life complete.

Sure, there is hardship, sorrow, and pain,

Who thought there wouldn’t be? 

But now I know it’s just a test

To find the worth in me. 

~Betty Irean Loeb

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Wings

Oh, to catch the winds of flight

And soar where eagles go, 

To leave the woes of troubled souls

Behind me far below.

I’d listen tot he song of birds

And sail in endless flight,

Then chase the sun through cloudy paths

And play with stars at night.

The boundless heavens for my home,

The breeze to lift me high, 

To rise a one my mortal bonds

And never have to die.

Knowing I have found the way

To trails where angels trod,

And when my wings could fly no more—

I’d take the hand of GOD!

~C. David Hay

I had a very simple day.

I took my computer, my iPad, and my phone to the kitchen table and spent the day reading, writing, and watching birds swarm our bird feeders.

From my inside perch, I quietly observed as the neighborhood feral cats slyly prowled the fence line while different flocks of birds staged themselves in nearby bushes. Each little cluster of birds flitted from branch to branch as they awaited their turn to storm the stations. Close at hand was my quick, fold-out bird guide of Texas along with a pair of binoculars. I was prepared for a little work and a day of bird watching. I was not disappointed.

It was the best therapy.

Soul searching is hard work and I’ve roughed up some old wounds. This hearty dose of Mother Nature was just what I needed.

“Be kind to your body, gentle with your mind and patient with your heart. Stay true to your spirit, cherish your soul and never doubt yourself. You are still becoming, my love, and there is no one more deserving of the nurturing grace of your love.” 

Becca Lee

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Worry

“..when someone says “please pray for me,” they are not just saying “let’s have lunch sometime.” They are issuing an invitation into the depths of their lives and their humanity- and often with some urgency. And worry is not a substitute for prayer. Worry is a starting place, but not a staying place. Worry invites me into prayer. As a staying place, worry can be self-indulgent, paralyzing, draining, and controlling. When I take worry into prayer, it doesn’t disappear, but it becomes smaller.” 

Sybil MacBeth, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God

I am a champion worrier. I doubt that surprises anyone.

I worry about every single thing.

Michael does what he can to lighten my mood and lessen my worries. Today he brought me in the cutest little bouquet from whatever was blooming in our yard. I have no idea what these little gems are–doesn’t matter to me–to me it helped me see someone I love was thinking about me.

As suggested yesterday when I talked about what to do for Lent, I’m working on myself. There is no better place to start than with worry habits.

So–I did another little experiment. Not to worry all of you who are not science people–this is the Barbara Burton method of testing which has extremely broad, non-specific perimeters.

Right now there are several people who have me very worried for various reasons. So I took a few moments this morning to think about them, said a little prayer, and released my angst to God/the Universe–poof–gone—done.

As the morning went on I realized I hadn’t thought about that particular situation at all. I had gone about my day efficiently, easily accomplishing all I needed to get done before my morning appointment.

Okay–it was only one “experiment” with many other concerns sitting on the worry shelves. That’s okay in my data analysis book. It’s a strong start and one powerful enough to get my attention and keep the trial running.

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

– Matthew 6:25-34” 

The Holy Bible: King James Version

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

 

Ashes

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19” 

― The Holy Bible

I had trouble putting my story together yesterday so today it’s all coming together with the help of my friends, Judi and Glynis. They may be just as surprised as I was!

For the first time in many years, I went to a Catholic Ash Wednesday service. I, like many of my fellow Catholics, am very frustrated and unhappy with many of the things The Church has ignored. Every time I start to lean into the thought of going back, some new bit of dirt is uncovered. I mentioned this to Judi–a Catholic who regularly attends church services. After a few moments of thought, she shared her thoughts–

She, too, had and has issues with The Church. BUT, she told me, she attends church not for the church, but for herself. She goes for the feeling of peace it gives her.

Interesting…

I believe that God, Spirit, The Universe–whatever terminology you want use–is everywhere. A Church is simply a building–do I really need that?

Today Michael and I decided to check out St. Paul the Apostle, our local Catholic Church. The noon service was a short service for the distribution of ashes only. It was the perfect opportunity for us to visit. Situated at the top of a high hill in the hill country of Texas, the building and setting were spectacular. We sat in the back row, taking in the unobstructed view of Lake LBJ and surrounding waterfront.

As I sat and prayed, an overwhelming feeling of connection passed through me. From my hilltop seat I felt incredibly close to my departed family members. It was difficult for me to listen as the Priest read the passages and shared his Lenten messages. Is there more power in prayer when two or more are gathered in His name? Maybe Judi has a valid point–maybe I DO need to go back to church–for ME. Was this the feeling of peace she talked about–was this the “grace” I’d learned about as a child?

Glynis attends New Hope Baptist Church and shared her pastor’s Lenten message with me earlier today. I was impressed with the words her pastor chose in this teaching. The advice seemed so much healthier–mentally and physically–in ways to observe the Lenten season. Let me share some of the highlights:

  • …”What is Lent? Lent is the 40 day period in which many believers in Jesus reflect, repent and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter.
  • …The choice to observe Lent is a personal one–the whole point is to focus your heart and mind on Jesus during the journey to Easter.
  • If you are planning to participate in Lent this year, we encourage you to begin your journey not with the question of ‘what should I give up for Jesus?’ but instead ‘what is Jesus’ invitation to me right now?’ How does He want to renovate my character, my marriage, my work, my life? If you can answer that question, Lent will take on a deeper meaning for you.”

Thanks to Judi and Glynis, my Lenten season has taken a much different course than it has at any other time in my life. May the following prayer serve to guide as well.

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from worry; feast on trust.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.

Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with your presence, so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work. Amen.

– Attributed to William Arthur

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Texas Independence Day

“ I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. it is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feelings that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a high cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section in America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.” ~John Steinbeck, 1962

Saturday, March 2, was Texas Independence Day. On that date in 1836, the Declaration of Independence from Mexico was signed, officially separating Mexican Texas from Mexican rule, creating The Republic of Texas. Yes, the story Michael told me about Texas being the only state that was once an independent country is really true.

Last Friday, my friend Judi and I attended an author meet and greet at our local library. Judi is from Nebraska and I’m from Iowa so we both know we have a lot to learn when it comes to Texas. We try but it’s a long process. Even after years of living and learning “Texas,” we both experience moments when complete strangers walk up to us, looks us up and down, shake their heads, and makes the loud proclamation, “You ain’t from around here, are ‘ya?”

Time flew by as we listened to the stories shared by W.F. Strong from his book, Stories From Texas. His presentation was a mixture of history class, personal memoir, and stand up comedy. He impressed us both enough we waited in line to get our very own signed copy.

Along with the quote from Mr. Steinbeck, let me share a few others that are Mr. Strong’s favorites:

  • Davy Crockett: “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” Crockett said this angrily after losing his Tennessee bid for U.S. Congress. (I think he said, “Y’all can go to hell,” but grammatical purity likely corrupted the original transcription.)
  • Conrad Hilton: “There’s a vastness here, and I believe that the people who are born here breathe that vastness into their soul. They dream big dreams and think big thoughts, because there is nothing to hem them in.” Hilton launched his empire in Texas with his very first hotel in Cisco in 1919, going on to open Hiltons in Dallas, Abilene, Waco, and El Paso before expanding beyond the state.
  • Larry McMurtry: “What my whole body of work says…is that Texas spent so long getting past the frontier experience because that experience is so overwhelmingly powerful. Imagine yourself as a small hopeful immigrant family, alone in the Staked Plains, with the Comanche and the Kiowa still on the loose. The power of such experience will not sift out of the descendants of that venturer in one generation and produce Middletown. Elements of that primal venturing will surely inform several generations.” McMurtry wrote this in an essay for the Texas Monthly several years ago. In more accessible language, he also famously said: “Only a rank degenerate would drive 1500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken-fried steak.” 
  • George W. Gush, reflecting poignantly on his years in West Texas: “Those were comfortable, carefree years. The word I’d use now is idyllic. On Friday nights, we cheered on the Bulldogs of Midland High. On Sunday mornings, we went to church. Nobody locked their doors. Years later, when I would speak about the American Dream, it was Midland I had in mind.”

Okay, y’all, on that note, I’m fixin’ to head out and pour myself some wine.

I am…

B…simply being.   

~Peace~