Hope Comes with Onesies

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Two days ago I did my weekly walk-about at the Naples Botanical Garden, but when I arrived the garden was blanketed under low cloud cover. An unusual occurrence. I felt edgy, reminding myself to take deep breaths and urging myself to find beauty. OMG, did I just say I had to work to find beauty in a botanical garden?

The impeachment trial of donald trump is stressing me. It is plummeting my sacred belief that if facts are presented in a clear and logical manner, people will understand. Adam Schiff has been outstanding in arguing the evidence presented by creditable witnesses during the hearing in the House of Representatives that led to the impeachment the president. The president’s defenders in both houses of congress have not produced a single piece of evidence to argue against the facts to impeach and remove him from office. I’ve watched most of the hearings in the House of Representatives and the “trial” in the Senate. What I have heard are a continuous stream of lies and irrelevant arguments from the Republicans. It has grated on my nerves and I’m not in a good spot this week. And my brain keeps screaming, “I must be able to do something.”

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This is the shroud I carried into the cloudy garden on Tuesday. I was trying to find a glimmer of beauty, of goodness, of hope. I watched as the light would become a little brighter as the sun shone through a thinner (very small) patch of clouds. I had my camera on the tripod, all the settings were where I wanted them, and I watched – ready to push the shutter. And I looked from where the clouds were coming, and to surrounding sky and didn’t see many areas of thinning clouds. When I looked through the viewfinder, I saw the grey reflection of clouds on the water and the dulled colors of the lilies. Yes, what I chose to look at reflected the shroud of clouds within my brain and soul.

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The sun did come out but my mood didn’t brighten much. I thought that a scone and ginger limeade would help but it didn’t. The limeade refreshed my dehydration and the scone was a little warm and full of berries but joy was lacking.

When I downloaded my photos these stood out. The water lilies seemed to be gentle instead of muted grey, they seemed to tell me that there is hope and beauty even if I am feeling betrayed and threatened. I liked them, drew pleasure from them but had a hard time starting a blog about them. I had to live with them as my brain and soul searched for a way to live in the political turmoil as I watch more of the trial yesterday.

Last night Jim spoke through my turmoil and asked what was the best part of the day. We laughed because he knew. There is a kitchen worker at our favorite restaurant who is pregnant. We only notice her because we sit at the counter across from the beverage station and she brings clean cups and glasses out. I had bought some long-sleeved onesies to take to her but realized her baby is due in March, and the weather will be hot by then. Jim came home from breakfast with his ROMEO buddies (Retired Old Men Eating Out) all excited that there is a children shop next to the restaurant he went to that has lots of short-sleeve onesies for $1 each. We went there on our way to exercise and I got lost in onesies heaven. I bought a whole pile of them for her. When I think about that experience, my life is full of joy, beauty, and hope.

Maybe God didn’t call me to fix the Republicans or the president or scumbag lawyers who lie and tell distorted truths. God did call me to seek and support truth and justice. Most of all God called me to touch those who are in need. Maybe I can be satisfied with being one of the millions of rays of light in the darkness.

Finding Joy in our Faith

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Our faith traditions and stories give our lives meaning – they guide us in our living and give us hope for our futures. When the world around us is off kilter and scary we know we can look to the stories we have heard since we were children for comfort.

As Christians we are remembering and celebrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and our Jewish neighbors are celebrating God leading the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. May our shared belief in one God bring us together and give us the courage to lead lives that are compassionate, loving and joyful. May we all work together for justice and equality.

 

Christmas Reflections

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I am half way between our celebration of Christmas and the celebration of the beginning of a new year. We had a fun and joyful Christmas Eve celebration and I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on whether we provided an appropriate celebration of a religious holy day of such magnitude. I have struggled as long as I can remember with trying to keep the season holy while surrounded by the hyped up commercialism that begins weeks in advance. Advent is the season of preparation of your spirits, our souls, for the coming of the Christ child into our lives, bringing renewal and meaning into what it means to be Christian.

This year we had 19 people celebrating around our Christmas Eve dining table. We had to snuggle in tight for all to fit around the table but there was lots of laughter and conversation bouncing from one end to the other, back and forth. Fate has given our Christmas dinner a measure of Russian/Kyrgyz culture in the past few years, and even more so this year.

Our daughter-in-law is from Armenia, previously a part of the USSR, and still enjoys speaking and hearing her native Russian language. She also gets great joy from cooking for others, including the foods she enjoyed while growing up. Our middle off-spring lived and worked in Biskek, Kyrgyzstan and became very close to a colleague and her daughter who are now both working on degrees from Kent State University in Ohio. They came to stay with us for five nights, both are ethnic Kyrgyz, but also fluent in Russian and English. During their stay she made us plov (the v pronounced like ff), a Kyrgyz dish of rice, vegetables, and lamb.

A couple of years ago our youngest daughter met some new children when she walked her youngest to the bus stop. There weren’t playmates in the neighborhood so she went to their house to introduce herself and possibly arrange a play date. The mother had just immigrated from Kyrgyzstan with her husband (a U.S. citizen who did contract work for the military in Bishkek) and their three children. Her in-laws have not accepted her and the marriage is failing – it has been a rough couple of years. I invited them to our celebration because she is ethnically Russian and I figured she would enjoy having adult conversations with other Russian speakers. I understand this because our native tongue is the one we use to speak from our soul, what our spirit uses to express who we are.

The gathering was joyful, high energy, and for me exhausting. I went to bed very tired, with achy body, but with a warm glow within. I have also been pondering if there was more I could have done to make this a celebration of Christ’s birth. I realized that there were only about 6 of the 19 who are practicing Christians, and a maybe a few more who identify as Christian but without church affiliation. I set out the manger under the upstairs Christmas tree and had traditional carols playing. As people arrived, choruses of “Merry Christmas” rang out, along with excited proclamations of “So nice to meet you.”

Was there more we should have done? We planned the menu to meet the needs of all who attended; young and old, Western & Central Asian, family and guest. We do very little gift exchanging – mostly gifts to nieces and nephews, and the new children were included. And most importantly all were able to participate in our 15 year tradition of ‘the Christmas stocking pile’. JB and I spend a whole year looking for items to include for people of all ages and life stage, I spend hours wrapping, and all have the excitement of taking their turn picking items. They then welcome the challenge of bartering for items they would like that someone else picked. JB and I love shopping for this tradition, and all look forward to the event – from our 50-ish old children, young adults, teens, right down to preschoolers. And even guests from distant lands learn the tradition quickly.

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Come on – you really would prefer the Tag-a-Moji game in trade for that boring paint brush.

Everyone leaves with gifts, and from my perspective the gifts were purchased and wrapped for the baby Jesus. They are given to family, friends, and new guests with love, good-will and the wish that the gifts will bring joy in the new year. It is a way to include all in our celebration of the coming of the embodiment of love and inclusion in the form of a holy babe. We are successful in our celebration of Christmas to the extent that all who enter our home and participate in our traditions feel welcome and cared about. This includes the old, the young, the ones with lots of tattoos, with green hair, and especially those who bring gifts to us of stories of far off places that have different ways of celebration. This year I feel more whole because of all the gifts of laughter, love, and story that were brought into our home and wrapped around me. Yes, Jesus has been celebrating with us.

Update on my hat making: I think I made over 60 hats for people getting meals at the local homeless shelter but only 40-some made it there. As people were making noises of having to leave (it was snowing and everyone had a one to two hour drive home) I brought out the box of hats for anyone who would like one. What fun they had trying on different ones in front of the mirror until they found the perfect one – or in case of the children who couldn’t decide, it was the perfect two. The day after Christmas we took the rest to the shelter and it felt so good knowing that family, friends of our family, and people I don’t know will feel some comfort in this very frigid winter. I have ordered more yarn on-line to be delivered for hat knitting in Florida next week.

A Good Match: Cuban Friends

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I never met these women – didn’t even get closer than across the street, looking down from my hotel window. But I know they are a good match – close friends. Look how they are talking, how relaxed they are. And the biggest clue that they are a good match, is that they are humble enough to give and receive a pedicure from each other. I don’t know if they are religious, living here in Havana, but I know that the Holy Spirit I believe in is sharing this beautiful moment with them. After all, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

As I am growing older, I am less sure of some of my beliefs – and at the same time I am more sure of other beliefs. I am less sure of the breadth and width and depth of God because of the limitation of my comprehension, but more sure of his central message of love. I have grown to believe that the God I worship is bigger in her acceptance and forgiveness than I ever thought possible and thus maybe calls me to be more accepting and forgiving of those around me. Maybe I am being called to see God wherever I see love. Another benefit of aging is that I am better able to recognize when love is present, when things come together in a good match. A good match is respectful and allows one to be all it is meant to be, like when a plant or animal or person is well matched with its environment.

This photograph and my reflections are in response to The Daily Post: A Good Match.

Spiritual Time with a Camera

Julie and I went on a photo shoot last Friday morning – a beautiful morning with low temperatures, cool breeze, and a blue sky. Because it is just after the Summer Equinox, we got an early start – but not early enough to get that magical morning light.

That didn’t bother us much as we set out to the southwest of where we live, south of Homer where there are Amish farms and a couple of good bakeries. If I am honest with myself and you, I will have to admit that we had a bakery in mind that directed our drive as much as our search for interesting subjects.

Decisions were made at each corner depending on what would move us towards the bakery and whether the road was gravel. We have a preference for dirt roads that we can drive slowly, watching for something to pull us over or just because it brings peace to slow down. And we talk about small stuff and important matters; we trust each other.

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We made a few stops, but nothing really exciting. And we found the Amish bakery, buying some goods to take home and a cinnamon roll to eat. We took some photos that will be featured in another post, but didn’t take the best photos because of the wish of the Amish to not be photographed.

After enjoying the roll, we hit the road again but by then the sun was really high in the sky and time was running out as Julie had an appointment in the afternoon. We had yet to find that special place where time stands still, we stop talking, and beauty is evident in everything. I was already looking forward to our next outing. We decided to head for home.

Then the dirt road to the right, with the sign warning of “road closed ahead,” beckoned us. There wasn’t much on it but it kept getting narrower and narrower, and very hilly and curvy. I could feel my excitement build as it does when I experience a new adventure. Just around that next bend would be something to excite our photographic eye. And we came to the end of the road – with a turnaround. That was it. I started back.

We went up the curvy, steep hill and there on our left side were some day lilies and soon-to-be-ripe berries. Not exciting but still they seemed like a good reason to pull over.

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Without speaking we picked up our cameras and moved into our own world, into our personal sacred space. The birds sang to me while the breeze cooled my sun-dappled skin. I saw things that I normally would have ignored. But in this place and time they revealed the beauty of their existence. I almost captured it with my camera – but the beauty of existence can be elusive.

I love what I did capture, and look forward to finding another sacred place on our next outing. I look forward to finding another place where God and I can be together without words and I can see if I can come closer to capturing Her beauty.