A recent visit to the Memorial Garden at The Congregational Church of New Canaan where I grew up. My dad designed the garden, where he, my mom and my brother-in-law are remembered. I continue to know that I have so much for which to be very grateful.
As I have explained previously, sometimes I have thoughts about God to add to my cottagebythesea post. Since its focus is on silence, solitude, and simplicity, and speaks to those who are ‘spiritual but not religious,’ however, I add them here on aprayerdiary before repeating the CBTS blog post.
Today I have more to say about a rainy day.
I believe that those who long for solitude, and then make a concerted, consistent, and serious effort to attain it, are called to a spiritual/religious way of living. Examining childhood memories of times alone, helps crystallize this call. As we know, our childhood is not separate from our life today; we are now reaping what was sown.
As a child I was most content playing alone on a rainy day. In fact, playing alone were my happiest times. I didn’t use of God language, but I felt peaceful, free, open, accepted, loving, and whole; all qualities God wants for us. Now in my seventies, I feel the grasp of those same qualities when I walk with God. I am the person God wants me to be when I take extended periods of time alone. That’s why I come to Florence. For that, I am very grateful. And once again, I am very grateful for my mom.
It’s raining here. Hearing the rain this morning while sitting in Santa Trinita activated vivid memories of those rainy days of my childhood, those days called latency before imaginative play becomes tempered by hormones. On such Saturdays or summer days I always knew my mom would give me the entire rainy day to live alone in my world. She never pried or spied; she had deep respect for the individual’s journey and knew that privacy was a necessary ingredient.
A rainy day continues to catapult me back to childhood. Those memories energize the spiritual longing I have now. I have always been walking with God, knowing that rain is serious, rain is profound, and rain is hopeful. I walk and play in it, and then embrace a sunny day.
I woke up this Thanksgiving day remembering my mom, who began each day offering gratitude for family, her health, and her life; and my dad, who, as we stood around the table, offering a toast to family and friends not present with us.
Sometimes gratitude starts as a way to cover up sadness and fear; at least that can be so for me. But then I hear God still speaking, shifting me away from the pettiness of today’s problems. I am aware that that can sound like a privileged position, but it’s the best I can do to start the prayers of compassion flowing. Prayers for immigrants, the GLBTQ community, the unemployed and underemployed, for those effected by war, and for those have trouble being grateful for family, health and their life. Thanks Mom and Dad for give me a lift today.
This Thanksgiving season it seems that expressing gratitude is the major theme out there in the public world. It ought to be, given the name of the holiday, but this year it is taking hold in a new way, as if it were a new idea. Undoubtedly some of this has to do with the fear brought to consciousness by the terrorism in Paris less than two weeks ago.
I smile, because Mom always knew that gratitude was the foundation of faith. She was on the cutting edge! Every morning she would express gratitude for ‘my health, my family, and for my life.’ She also prayed for peace in the world, and for difficult situations around the world.
So this morning, I suggest you offer the same prayer. Pray for your health, family, your life and for the world. Even it things aren’t perfect, which of course they aren’t, find the good things, and lift them up to God with thanksgiving.
Here is today’s cottage-by-the-sea blog.
Four years ago my mom took her final breath, died, passed away. There are myriad ways of saying it. Died feels final and clinical; final breathe softens it. For me, however, passing away feels more like what my mom did, but I want to add ‘to a better place’, whatever that means? I don’t know, no one knows, but many of us believe that something beyond this earthly exist, and that it is good. Christianity declares it, and those of other faiths, as well as agnostics and atheists, have a sense that death is not final. For many believing that death is a big black hole is too frightening. For everyone, there are the memories.
As a Christian I want to add that I definitely believe that physical death is not the end. I have no idea what this means or what it is like, other than to say that it is of the spirit, not of the mind/body. Afterlife is not for the living to know, understand or experience. Having hope and faith is enough. It is the peace of God that passes all understanding.
I just listened online to a sermon given at my mom’s church this past Sunday. The minister tells his version of the story of Mom during her last years when her hearing was poor joining in on the unison prayers. He remembers her being a line behind everyone saying The Lord’s Prayer. My memory is of the Call to Worship during her last visit to church and which I wrote about in Very Grateful. Regardless of the situation, Mom slowed everyone down as she spoke the words with heartfelt, faithful commitment .
I believe that is what many people who knew Mom in her later years will remember about her. But also, as the minister indicated, all the people around the country that have heard the story from him in his current role as a visiting minister are benefitting from this faith witness.
In the past week two Scottish friends have asked me the same question, using the same words: “How are you going to celebrate the publication of your book about your mother?”
“Oh, I’m not going to,” has been my quick response. Then, “Hum, maybe I should.”
Why this resistance? The easy answer is that celebrating implies celebrating myself and my accomplishment, whereas the book is about celebrating Mom, and that is celebration enough.
There’s another celebration, however, going on inside of me that perhaps I don’t want to publicize. I sense that with the book’s publication, my grieving will be over. That’s important to me, but how widely do I want to expose this personal truth? More to the point, do I want to admit to myself that my job of making Mom happy is complete? If so, and I know that it is, what is my next job? I'm hearing that I am being called to pray for people and be with God—to wander with God-- and THAT is where the fear lies. Is that what a doer like me is supposed to be doing now? Is my next job just to BE?
You may wonder why I am blurting this out. I believe human beings need to confess their truths out loud to other human beings and this feel like a safe place for me to do so. With the exception of a few of you, I have no idea who reads this blog. I do know, however, that you are safe.
One hundred five years ago my mom was born. What became clear to me as I accompanied her during her final years, and as I finished writing about her in Very Grateful, is that Mom’s entire life was filled with gratitude. As I move on, I become more and more aware that gratitude is one of the cornerstone of Christian faith, with love being the foundation of it all.
What if, throughout our day, we expressed gratitude for all that passes our way? Here’s my list for today, and it is only mid-morning: I’m grateful that I didn’t hit the deer by the side of the road early this morning, that I didn’t run out of eggs for breakfast, that I heard from a friend I’d been thinking about, that I had a good night’s sleep, that I have time to write this, and that I’m having lunch with a long-time friend today.
Here’s yesterday’s gratitude walk.
Today I return to 'Very Grateful'. I am wearing the light pink Carpe Diem t-shirt that my nieces had made for the family for Mom's memorial service. My morning coffee is in my "Book Woman" mug. I will be writing in the front room where I keep all of Mom's papers. I have faith that I will know what to say. In fact, during this week of waiting and listening to how God wants me to proceed, I have heard that this is a book about faith, and specifically about Mom’s faith that inspired mine.
“There is nearly always something deep in our hearts about which some special word has been told us by our Lord, or about which we have some inward assurance that we know it is from Him.” So writes Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India from 1895-1951.
I appreciate Amy’s language, language of another century. “Our Lord” isn’t a term I hear very much in my UCC church. In fact, I don’t hear it at all. But no matter, I get the point. What is it that God is placing in my heart? What word do I hear? Honing it down to only one word helps me clarify what inward assurance God is giving me. Today it is patience.
The final draft of “Very Grateful”, the memoir I’m writing about my mom is almost completed. I am impatient with the little details that I have to attend to before I send it to my editor tomorrow. I pray for patience, trusting that the work will be done, and accepting that this isn’t the last time that God will have to send me that special word.