Sometimes, We Miss The Whisper

Spring is bursting out in all its glory, SHOUTING rebirth!  What a welcome sight to see barren branches resembling sticks suddenly sprout colorful buds that eventually sculpt a majestic tree.  What a welcome sight after the black, white and grey of winter to be greeted by a kaleidoscope of color enveloping us.  But, sometimes, we are so focused on the majestic beauty bursting forth from meticulously manicured plots, that we miss the miracle of a tiny, maybe not so brilliant flower, quietly, but steadily, poking its way out of a pile of neglected weeds.  Sometimes, we focus on the shouting and we miss the whisper.

We miss the whisper in so many areas of our lives.  We Christians are currently rejoicing in one of our most significant celebrations — Easter, a time of  spiritual rebirth and renewal.  The Easter liturgy is my favorite of all and I have been known to sing the ALLELUIAS at the top of my voice while reveling in the trumpets, guitars and drums accompanying these choir alleluias.  But, sometimes, I have been deeply moved and found peace in the quiet, meditative musical moments as well.  As church goers, we have an almost endless opportunity for the joy and strength found in communal prayer and liturgy throughout the year.  But, I have often found the most peace, come to grips with my own strengths and shortcomings and found a sense of direction from the time spent in the silence of space inhabited by only God and me.  It’s in the silence, I hear the whisper.  It’s in the silence I hear the beat of my inner soul.  It’s in the silence I learn to walk in harmony with my soul.

Life, religious and secular, needs both noise and silence.  Life needs balance between the two.  Sit in the silence from time to time … hear the whisper … for the whisper speaks volumes more than the shouting.

Peace,
Kathy Marie

 

A Broken Hand, Josh & Matt

Sometimes, it takes a perfect storm, so to speak, to slap you in the face with answers you have been seeking for quite some time.  The process began when my free falling body, loaded with heavy bags, forcefully met the ground beneath my feet after a failed attempt to break the fall with my hands.   Breaking the fall broke the hand.  My worst fears were confirmed in the local ER and reinforced a few days later when I left the orthopedic office sporting a new cast immobilizing my left hand.  Life with a hand in a cast for 4+ weeks curtails the majority of the ambitious plans and activities on a crowded calendar, freeing up a LOT of time to just sit and THINK.  I was forced into a long overdue period of reflection about life and my passions.  The answers I had been seeking were always right there in front of me — waving, shouting, jumping up and down to draw my attention.  I just didn’t see them and my arms were a tad too short to reach out and grab them.

Around the same time, I heard a new Josh Groban song (Granted) about making the most of life and never taking a moment for granted.  I played it over and over again, with lyrics poking and prodding me into realizing I needed to wake up to the wise use of time and the pursuit of passions.  The song also immediately reminded me of a young family friend named Matt who had been battling brain cancer for ten years and was rapidly losing his latest battle.  A few weeks later, sitting in a church pew awaiting the start of a funeral for a 30 year old, I had to ask our Creator “WHY? He was much too young and fought so valiantly.  He brought so much living to life.”

However, in spite of the sadness, the mass truly turned into a celebration of Matt’s life and the joy and legacy he gave to his family and friends.  Matt did NOT teach us how to die.  Rather, he taught us how to live while dying.  And live he did!  He probably crammed more living into his life from the age of 20 to 30 than most of us do in a much longer lifetime — doing it with enthusiasm, joy, generosity, gratitude and grace.  He worked as long as he could.  He embarked on family trips and adventures.  He got married.  He started a blog.  While honestly confronting the realities of his diagnosis, he governed his life with determined eternal optimism and hope.  “Keep On Steppin’ Up”  became his motto.  I remember attending a fundraiser for him at our church a few years back — not a sad affair by any means, but, rather, an event that resonated with joy, laughter and comraderie with a truly gracious and genuinely grateful Matt circulating to EVERY single table to converse and thank for attending … all the while beaming with his trademark Matt smile.  Throughout his illness, he stayed in tune with his passions and inner zest for life.

Gradually, during my months of downtime, reflection opened doors I hadn’t noticed before and, like an overloaded closet, ideas and decisions tumbled out. So a broken hand, combined with the inspiration of a song and a young man’s powerful lesson on living, motivated me to get back in step walking with my soul, in tune with my passions and stirring up my creative juices.  

Peace,
Kathy Marie

 

 

 

The Jesus Hug

Note:  Published a few years ago on an older blog of mine.

For over sixty years, I’ve looked at the nativity scene as I celebrate the birth of Jesus.  As a child, I was fascinated by the figurines and studied each component carefully with the curiosity of a free and imaginative mind.  As I grew older, I became somewhat oblivious.  Don’t get me wrong — the nativity scene has always remained special and inspiring and the story behind it has always guided my life, but, somehow, I lost the freshness of childlike wonder.  I merely took it for granted.  It was always there…always looked the same.

Lulled into this complacency for years, I was suddenly awakened when smacked in the face with awesomeness the first time I laid eyes on the creche in the U S Steel Plaza.  An authorized replica of the Vatican creche, its sheer magnificence in size and sight dominating a huge urban plaza was enough to stop anyone in their tracks.  It’s larger-than-life magnificence contrasted with the magnificence of the very simple story it told.  As I arrived for work each morning, the striking stillness of this lifelike scene shining a beacon of light in the pre-dawn darkness of winter gifted me with a comforting sense of peace with which to begin my day.  A stillness which can block out the deafening sounds of the city’s busiest street during morning rush hour can surely restore calm to a chaotic life — a reassurance the day will be ok — kind of like starting the day with an encouraging hug.

But I didn’t think of it that way back then.  I just knew I felt good every time I started my day with a walk by this haven of peace in the midst of urban chaos.  In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity once again to pay more attention to the nativity scene residing right in front of my favorite seat in church.  The outstretched arms of the infant Jesus captivate my attention more than any other figure in the stable.  To me, it appears He is opening His arms and reaching out to give us a hug  — a welcome to my house kind of hug — a welcome home after separation kind of hug — an I Love You kind of hug — an I’m Glad You’re My Friend kind of hug — a forgiving kind of hug — an encouraging kind of hug — a sharing the joy kind of hug — a sharing the sorrow kind of hug.   Looking at the life of Jesus, I realize His whole life was one great big hug from God — from the baby in the cradle of a dirty and cold stable to a man tortured and hung on a cross — one great big hug!

The Jesus Hug –  accept it — give thanks for it — pass it on!

Peace,
Kathy Marie

Don’t Get Your Tinsel In A Tangle

Note:  Published 2 years ago on an older blog of mine.

We have once again reached the Christmas season, supposedly a time set aside for love, sharing, kindness, relaxation and all the other positive synonyms you can think of to describe what we SAY this season symbolizes.  But, often, we don’t see a whole lot of the spirit of the season in ACTION.

People have come up with all kinds of creative and athletic moves to cut you off in checkout lines and parking lots and to just about steal the last “must have” gift of the season right out of your hands.  Sitting in a blockaded traffic jam can, within a matter of seconds, wipe out any resolution to practice patience.  Stress and exhaustion overtake overschedulers who conjure up a filled calendar that even a superhero couldn’t survive.  All of this generally results in emotional outbursts that are anything but the positive ones we are striving to meet.  It sometimes seems as if the whole world has gotten their tinsel in a tangle, as the old saying goes.

However, I have been pleasantly surprised so far this year!  Venturing out into the holiday shopping jungle, I tried to prepare myself for the warfare ahead.  BUT, it has been a most pleasant experience with … people smiling … holding doors …chatting in a friendly manner with total strangers while waiting in line as every one of the checkout center’s four registers crashed … letting people out ahead of them in parking lots and intersections with fast-changing traffic signals … helping to locate a gift item for a fellow shopper (usually a total stranger) … taking the time to wish everyone around them a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

While I have been basking in this unexpected joy of the season, I seemed to detect an increased level of stress and a little less kindness in the air today.  Let’s not give in … we’re almost there … let’s keep the spirit of the season going … take a deep breath, relax, listen to some Christmas music and don’t get your tinsel in a tangle… let’s not spoil it now …

MERRY CHRISTMAS and goodwill to men and women everywhere!

Peace,
Kathy Marie

Finding Peace In The Chaos Of Opposites

Note:  Published 4 years ago on an older blog of mine.

It’s Christmas — the season of opposites — a time when one faces a whole range of emotions and experiences, from one end of the spectrum to the other, often simultaneously.  Joy to see family and friends, but sadness thinking of those unable to be there.  Anticipation of events, but anxiety over a long to-do list.  Love of Christmas music, but anger at hearing it begin in October.  Looking forward to shopping at the mall and meeting dear friends for lunch, but discovering patience is definitely not a virtue when stuck in a holiday traffic jam or tossed around in a holiday bargain hunting crowd. 

At some point, all the joyful anticipation turns into the season’s best imitation of Mr/Ms Grinch.  Burl Ives and Brenda Lee might have been favorites years ago as they rocked around the tree with their idea of a holly jolly Christmas, but, after hearing them nonstop for two months, somebody is just gonna scream!  Same goes for seeing the Chia Pet commercial for the gazillionth time or the incessant ads for sales that are the same everyday, but only change the name.  You soon wise up to the fact this really is NOT “your last chance” to get a Chia Pet at this low, low price.  And, why do Christmas decorations HAVE to be up before Thanksgiving?  Jesus wasn’t born till Christmas Eve.  As much as one vows to practice kindness, patience, thanks and generosity in the spirit of the season, it all gets sucked up in the tornadic winds of holiday chaos swirling out of control all around us.

So, how does one find peace in the chaos?  Maybe it comes in the smile of a stranger, the unexpected visit from a friend, the reunion with family, the singing of children, the message of faith.  All of a sudden, one is happily singing Christmas carols as a tree is decorated … or watching a sappy Hallmark Channel Christmas movie … or joyfully wishing everyone a merry Christmas while plodding your way through a Christmas Eve crowd at the local grocery store … praying/meditating/refocusing in the brief space of quiet time carved out for yourself.  I find my holiday peace in friends, family, faith and music.

How do you find yours?

May you be blessed with peace this Christmas and throughout the coming year!

Peace,
Kathy Marie

The Silence Of Time

NOTE:  Published 6 years ago on an older blog of mine.

Time is senseless.  We can’t see, smell, hear, taste or feel time.  Oh, we see a sunrise or sunset, light or darkness, the hands on a clock.  Oh, we smell the morning’s bacon frying, the leaves of autumn burning.   Oh, we hear the chiming of a clock, Christmas carols being sung by the choir.  Oh, we taste the ice cream cone of summer, the pumpkin pie of fall.  And, we feel the stress of incomplete chores at day’s end.  But, these are only signs of time, not time itself.  Time is silent.  I learned that yesterday.

My Godson went to the Homecoming Dance.  Didn’t I just take him to church to be baptized last year?  Time has silently crept up on me.

A friend with Alzheimer’s was moved from her home to a new home where she will be cared for as the disease deliberately, silently steals her communication skills from her.  Wasn’t it just yesterday we were laughing and partying together?

The silence of time!

Peace,
Kathy Marie

The House Is Gone

NOTE:  Published several years ago on an older blog of mine.

The house is gone … just found out this week that it has been torn down.  The house hasn’t been in the family for four decades, but occasional trips back to the old hill indicated a sadly serious case of neglect by subsequent owners.  So, the news was not exactly unexpected, but still a shock when you first hear the words.  There’s a quietly regrettable sadness that I can never go back and a low-key emptiness, a hole so to speak, in the first two decades of my life history.  The timing of this news, coupled with yet another birthday reminding me that more than half my life is behind me, makes me wax all the more nostalgic.

The small house, which at times seemed so much larger to a small child, would never make the local community house tour listing or the cover shot of a major interior decorating magazine.  The trademark 1950’s style floral wallpaper with coordinating window coverings were most likely bought at the local five and dime or community hardware store.  Humble furnishings were added as a limited budget permitted — cash, as available, not credit cards, governed what and when this immigrant family purchased.  Family portraits, nick knacks and signs of faith provided the accessories that broadcast the character of the occupants.

But, now, the house is gone.  Gone are the few, small kitchen steps that, somehow, beyond belief, held a number of generations of kids, eating, playing and happily singing while observing the innumerable festive celebrations from the most advantageous viewing spot.  It was like having seats right on the field during a baseball game — you were part of the action.  The house didn’t have a “family” room, “game” room or parlor for entertaining.  The kitchen served as all three, with spillover crowds meandering to the little “living” room at the top of the steps.

Those same steps provided the prime spot for a very talkative little girl who tried so hard to patiently and “quietly” sit for endless hours during traditional nut bread baking days.  The Croatian tradition was a day long event — Grandma, mom and aunts busily, methodically mixing, kneading, baking, cooling and packing in a harmonious system that large-scale factories would envy.  A very clever Grandma promised to reward the little girl for her patience and good behavior with her very own mini loaf of bread. 

Gone is the porch which served as the outdoor entertainment center of the house during the warmer days of spring, summer and fall.  The long, narrow, covered extension of the house somehow managed to accommodate a crowd which would certainly violate modern-day occupancy limits for such a structure. It was filled with gliders, chairs and a swing that nearly gave a Grandmother a heart attack when kids swung out too high and over the railing overlooking a drop off that tickled the pit of your stomach and made you delightfully dizzy.

Gone is the house, as well as too many of the people who gathered there and shared decades of laughter and tears and the love and security of being surrounded by loved ones.  Gone is the house, but not the memories that are filed in the mind or the tons of pictures taken in the crowded kitchen, the porch or in front of the garbage can that help to preserve those memories. 

Grandma’s house is gone, but not the essence of a love that continues to nourish generations who never set foot in the house or knew the original occupants.

Peace,
Kathy Marie