Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Emily's quote collection

re·sil·ience noun \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\
: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

Emily walked Lady out of her stall and warned not to touch the pony near her face. “She flinches,” The 14-year-old added, “She was abused too.”

It was my first time visiting a group home, although I have volunteered for more than a year with the Heart Gallery, an organization that promotes adoption of foster children. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised that they had a pool, basketball court and stables for equine therapy. There was a normal kitchen, living room, and family room too. But make no mistake, this was not a home. Emily was taken from her home when she was four and half. She’d been living in various foster situations like this for a decade.

“I just want a childhood. I want to be taken care of. I want to be able to be silly and play and run until I’m so tired I drop,” She told the TV anchor featuring her for an adoption story.

I don’t recall her saying anything about being loved. Maybe she did and I missed it or maybe that was too much for her to hope for all at once.

Later, after the TV crew left and the cameras weren’t rolling, she showed me her room, or rather her bed. It was in a big room filled with lots of beds. But Emily’s little corner was different. My host proudly flattened the adhesive flowers peeling from the wall and wanted to show off her quote board. It was filled with inspirational messages and verses about faith. Her favorite came from baseball legend Babe Ruth.

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”

Did you know resiliency is not considered a trait that people either have or they don’t?  According to the American Psychological Association, “It involves behavior, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

It’s a choice. It’s Emily’s choice.

How will you practice resilience?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Heaven Is For Real, Really.

Faith is a grand cathedral, with divinely pictured windows- standing without, you can see no glory, nor can imagine any, but standing within, every light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendors.
-Nathaniel Hawthorne

I really want to go see Heaven Is For Real, but I won’t. I won’t read the book either. Here’s why.

On Easter Sunday when my daughter found her basket, she sheepishly told us, “these roller skates didn’t come from the Easter Bunny, they came from your closet. I saw them in there.”

Oh, the mom guilt. Why hadn’t I hid them better? She just smiled sweetly and nodded as we all gave her elaborate explanations about how Easter Bunny doesn’t have the staff of Santa and he needs to drop things off in advance because he works alone, etc. etc.

This past thursday after Easter, she was coloring on the sidewalk and wanted to explain her pictures. She pointed to a red dot and explained that it was the magic blood from the tree of life. Then she pointed to colorful circles and explained how once four people died and they were brought to the tree and then they became little circles of light. Then she pointed to a big circle filled with every color in her chalk collection and said the circles became part of one circle and when God’s son died they all got to come back to earth and be human again.

I smiled sweetly and nodded as I fiddled with the sprinklers and pulled weeds in the yard. I was only half listening, figuring this was just her take on the story of Easter taught at church.

Later that night, as we ate our sandwiches alone in the kitchen, I asked her where she heard the story about the tree. “Nowhere. I just knew it.” Then she sighed and said in a slightly frustrated voice, “Am I going to have to explain it to you again? Write it down this time.”

So I did.

She said, “The tree is still alive too. It can’t be cut down. You can go there, but it’s at the edge of the world and it would take like a hundred years or something to get there. We probably don’t have the time. But it’s real. It’s really real.”

This isn’t the first time she has shared some pretty profound “stories.” Dozens, in fact. A few months ago she woke up around 4 a.m. and yelled for me to come in her room. She wanted me to see the angel over her bed. She described blue circles of light that just sort of merged into the shape of a person, but it wasn’t a person, it was pure blue light. I referred to the angel as a she and was corrected. My 5-year old couldn’t tell if it was a she or he, but it had short hair with curls on top and it perched on the chandelier above her bed.

When I was tucking her in this past Thursday night, she mentioned the angel again and wondered if she will ever get to see it again.

“I hope so,” I said as I grazed her forehead with my lips. “Why do you think it let you see her?”

Without pausing, she answered, ”So I would keep believing.”

Yesterday, I woke up and wanted to get a closer look at the drawings on my sidewalk. The ones I hadn’t really been paying attention to. But they were already gone. The sprinklers overnight had washed them into a blur.

Oh, the mom guilt. When I see an angel in my midst, why am I so quick to dismiss it as my daughter simply repeating what she’s been told?

I will not see the movie or read the book Heaven Is For Real. Not because it got bad reviews or even because I doubt it’s authenticity. Part of me doesn’t want to be corrupted by someone else’s miraculous story. I don’t trust my brain to not “fit” my daughter into some category because my brain needs validation and explanation. Maybe, I don’t want to see the cynics on the big screen and really see myself.

Are you paying attention? 

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Hand to Hold

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
-William James

No one got his name. Not sure anyone else noticed the man in the orange shorts. But my friend who took this picture will never forget him.

“He held his hand. He dropped to his knees and just started praying and held his hand,” Michelle Nault's voice caught in her throat as she recounted the horrible story of witnessing a fatal drowning at Fort DeSoto Park this past weekend.

The news reports say the 64-year-old victim became distressed during the swimming portion of a triathalon. Fellow athletes and lifeguards pulled him to shore and began CPR before medics arrived. Everyone did what they could, and when there was nothing that could be done, the man on the right did something anyway.

“I was mesmerized by the awesome, selfless random act of kindness. At that moment, I felt like the world was full of kindness and love and I was glad I was paying attention,” Michelle recalled.

I like to write about childlike virtues and glimpses of wonder on this blog. Occasionally, I get to write about both.

Who was this stranger? Does he know that another stranger, who wasn’t even there, is thinking about him today, and looking for hands in need of holding because of him?

Have you ever caught a glimpse of people at their best?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spiritual Awakening at a Stoplight

A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Look it’s a rainbow!” my 5-year old daughter shouted from the backseat while pointing up. This image was so surreal that I got out of the car and sat on the ground to get the best picture. Amazing. Wondrous. Spectacular, I thought. Then I continued with my errands and forgot about it. An hour later, while carpooling my son’s friends to a field trip, I caught a glimpse of a reflection in a car window that reminded me to look up again. It was still there. That original sense of wonder captured my imagination once more. Later that night, Facebook was filled with pictures and speculation. Eclipse? Alien invasion? The news reasoned it was a halo caused by ice crystals refracting the sun at a 22-degree angle. It's a sign that rain is on the way. With the explanation, the mystery was gone.

On the same day, a writer friend of mine was talking about her book project and my book project and hoping that someday we might experience a “spiritual awakening.” She said it like it would be some big dramatic movie scene or at the very least a recognizable climax and resolution in her life story.  The definition, cause and description of spiritual awakenings, synonymous with religious experiences, have been debated since the 18th century. Google the term and there are nearly eleven million takes on it. I particularly liked one description of it “being like going from a noun to a verb.”

Nearly a year after my year-long life experiment in which I tried to be more childlike, I would describe the experience like that glimpse of the sun. Is it some powerful cue-the-music-as-the-flock-of-birds-takes-flight place we arrive at or is it a journey filled with errands and carpooling and stoplights? Was my spiritual awakening a near-death experience that first prompted the experiment idea or was it the incredible coincidences that happened along the way? Could it be categorized as the twelve months I spent studying childlike virtues and looking inward or the healing crisis I experienced when the experiment officially ended? Can it be all those things? Can it ever be fully defined without losing the mystery?

For me, it’s about remembering to look up. It's about being in awe of who we are, aw-are, and then completely forgetting as soon as we look away. It is squinting because the brilliance is too much for our earthly eyes to take in all at once.

How would you describe a spiritual awakening?
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