It all matters. Really.

Over the last month I’ve been a student.  I’ve attended an Oprah (The Life You Want) weekend conference – and then a few weeks later attended a silent retreat for 3 days.  Next, we held a Walk for all of us bereaved families that have lost a child–  then Todd and I celebrated our 15th anniversary by renewing our vows in our Catholic Church and then we went on to Gatlinburg with family and friends.

I noticed that if I allowed myself to be present, as a student, in any of these moments, something holy awaited (It awaits for you too, I’m certain!)  If I allowed it to touch a place deep inside of me to teach me that this moment matters – and not dismiss it as a random act or coincidence or get lost in the mystery – I find something of weight.  A piece of heaven.  In a world that seems weightless at times.

The second day of our Oprah retreat – the plan was to have everyone get out of our stadium seats…so she enlisted the help of  Soul 15 to get all of us moving.   Here’s a part of my very amateur video where the instructor is yelling to grab faith, and pull it down.  Here we were a group of diverse women, standing shoulder to shoulder, in unison, reaching both hands to the heavens…and as I repeated this exercise my thoughts began to change to a belief that I was pulling a tangible holy down – the perception of the room shifted.  I was no longer a separate individual  – on a pilgrimage to find the holy.  The holy was here.  Now.   The blinking of our wristbands was synchronized and it looks as if we were all a single heart beat…strengthening my faith in humanity as we tugged on the hem of heaven. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elf8RQRONPM&sns=em

The hundred year oak tree stood tall in the backdrop of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue.  The grounds of The Sisters of Mercy Convent felt like holy land…filled with country critters and countless moments to be still  – perfect for a silent retreat.  As the sun was setting, I sat on the ground in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary statue that was missing a few fingers – watching ants feverishly carry the remains of yesterday’s croton.   I heard a frenzy of birds’ overhead…the sherbet sunset sky began to darken by a swirling formation of hundreds of starlings.    One flock flew in from the west and another flock came from the east – - roosting on the hundred year oak tree.  The chirping and chattering was deafening…but I was grateful that it hid the excitement of my yelling.  It was one of the most aesthetic pleasures nature could have given me in that moment.  And all I could do is say “thank you God”.

The winds swept the clouds across my view – making the sky anew.  I imagined it took all 75 balloons to the doorstep of heaven where a child stood on her tippy toes to tug the hanging string of a balloon baring her name.  No two pictures of the sky were alike.  No loss is ever alike.  No grief is ever alike.  But I felt an “alikeness” in that moment that all of us shared.  That it mattered.  Each life mattered.

The pictures tell the story…as the balloon floated in the thin space between earth and heaven…through the rainbow – bridging the promise- as it moves closer to the sun.

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Fifteen years ago, we were married on a golf course on a very hot autumn day in Florida.  We were married ten months after we met.  We were both 29 and knew that we were  MFEO (from the movie Sleepless in Seattle, MFEO meaning MADE FOR EACH OTHER).   At the time, marrying in a catholic church wasn’t an option.  Shortly after college when I was 21, I married a childhood friend.  This marriage ended within a year of its start – and the process of annulment was complicated (as it should be) and it would take years before its ruling.  I suppose we decided that Love couldn’t wait…so there I was on the porch on a golf course on a hot autumn day, wiping sweat off my big polish forehead saying I do.   The annulment eventually came…and so did babies, trials, trips and new homes.   The calling was always there to celebrate the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic Church.  We wanted Jesus formally in our marriage.  We openly and full heartedly (and for me, finally – deservingly) asked Him to be present with us last Thursday, October 9th as we celebrated the sacrament of marriage.  My brother-in-law, Richard, took this picture of the blue October sky before the ceremony.  The initials J.C. came into our view– and it reminded us how this moment mattered.  Really mattered.  We are so grateful to our family that gathered to celebrate the sacrament with us and to remind us – every day- that this matters.  It doesn’t just take two in a marriage.  It takes a village.  I can say that the moments of where our children touched the tip of heaven were when I need the counsel the most.

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We arrived at Roosevelt Lodge and I felt the breeze on my face as I looked over the panoramic view of The Great Smoky Mountains.   I felt holy.  There were many honeysuckle bushes that were starting to decay but it wasn’t December yet.  They had just enough sweetness to feed a handful of monarch butterflies.  One butterfly danced and dashed over Noah’s head, and I reach up my arms – and as my brother, Richard, said “she flew right into your hands” (picture was taking after butterfly flew off….holy doesn’t wait for a camera :) .  So, surprisingly – here I was standing on the top of Roosevelt Lodge, overlooking land that’s nationally treasured, holding a treasure of my own.  A symbol of what we see Hannah as.  A butterfly.  The boys huddled around, and as I uncupped my hands…her little legs stretched out and she flirted her wings and danced off to the meadow.  Touching the delicate wings of a monarch butterfly mattered.  Life is as delicate as her wings… but remember that it all matters.

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Holy awaits for you.

 

 

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There’s something about Mary. And silence.

photo-67I am on a silent retreat for three days, on the holy ground of missionaries, the Sisters of Mercy.  I sit criss-cross apple sauce at the feet of a Mary statute that stretches 50 inches towards the sky.  I make a mental note that this will be the same height of the Angel of Hope statue that will be erected soon at Pinkerton park to honor babies.  Our babies.  Hannah.  I notice on Mary’s right hand she is missing her thumb and index finger – and the others are glued back as best as it could be.  But it’s broken, and pieces are missing – true to us all.  She is standing forcefully on a snake, wrenching an apple out of his mouth.  This is my courageous Mary – where evil can not be fruitful or have any fruit.  Nor the last word or death.  And when she said “YES” to the angel Gabriel, she lived yes through it all in full belief and obedience.  Her face is now being warmed by the sun that tilts into its second day of Fall.  It creates a shadow on the pavers and sets a scene in black with just Mary and I.  I beg the scene to come alive….I then gaze up to see white feathers blow across her bare feet from the wild turkeys that are pruning the grass for next season.   I believe in angels.  And feathers.  There’s something about Mary………

I fidget through my journal and look at years of doodles and notes.  I read a string of words in capital letters from the Global summit meeting that was held at The People’s church a few years back…. unearthing great inspiration spoken by encouragers…these words lay dormant until this very moment….waiting for fertile soil.  I read…THE WORLD NEEDS OUR CHILDREN TO MAKE THE WORLD BETTER.  OUR LEGACY IS TO SELL HOPE.   (I think of our dear Missy, who is the best sales person for HOPE, and God’s promise.  Here’s her beautiful blog: http://coopertrooperandthecooks.blogspot.com).  I read on…PLANT MORE SEEDS TO MAKE MORE TREES. I hope my words are seeds enough.  SHAMELESS IDEALISM TRANSLATES TO ACTION… I pray that action is toward progression.  Towards bringing a bit of heaven to earth.

Silence feels unnatural to me.  I become distracted dear Lord with a curious, caring heart that allows nature to pull me.  A honey giver hovers over each dandelion, waiting to fill up on its nectar and then busily moves to the next.  A butterfly dances and flutters with the freedom to take breaks randomly when her wings get tired.  Ants travel by touch and feel entrapment, making sudden moves so that freedom remains theirs.  They carry the weight of food on their backs – and they search and always find Your providence.  I’m approached by a wild dog, who is hungry and scared.  I remain still.  His nose covers every scare inch of me and my belongings – his muddy prints walk all over a paper that I’ve written the words  ”Isiah 49 13-16 – See upon your hands I’ve engraved you.”  I think of how wonderfully made are we.  My mind wonders off to think of my dang finger prints that lack ridge lines – making it difficult for it to be accepted into a FBI database for clearance to school trips.  I look at the dog’s prints. Unique.  Only one.  Miracle.

I returned to the same sacred space after dinner, I then read Isiah 43.. 1-7 – “I’ve called you by name…you are mine…you are precious in my eyes and honored…created for my glory.”  I pause…..and look up to the sherbet sunset, and see iridescent-black birds,  Starlings, zig-zag across the delicious sky.  Some birds came from the north and some from the south – similar to how the Donnie & Marie show opened, the pairs meet up in the middle to do a duet…..over 500 of these birds perched on a chest nut tree before me….each singing praise LOUDLY, so loud in fact that my silence is broken.  I welcome joy with laughter.  Amazing Grace.

 

 

 

 

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Bell rings the Arena with miracles

robbellNew York Times Best Selling Author, Rob Bell, took to the stage at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta – as part of Oprah’s The-Life-You -Want weekend tour.  He appeared in denim blue standing tall in front of a sea of star-dust that was projected on a screen as he spoke of the size of the universe’s scale.  Light years away from my mind ever absorbing its vastness,  he explained how our planet races through space at 67,000 mph, rotating at 1000 mph, while our tiny human spark of life stays lit.   The sun, a blazing ball of fire, burns 93 million miles away which is the precise distance needed to warm our buns and nudge nature to be bountiful.  A million miles closer or further, life would be no more.  The earth’s body is tilted to dance with the sun to the mixed melody of  days that are longer or shorter, warmer or colder, while gravity pulls down heels, allowing one the freedom of a spontaneous tap.  If the earth was not tilted at an angle of 23.5°, then life would be no more.  This gravity comes  40% from the sun and 60% from the moon, the perfect combination to keep the tides tethered to the ocean floor, and bare feet gently grounded on grounds of clay or blades of green.  Any more or less gravity, life would be no more.  Earth consists of 21% of oxygen  so life can breathe from a bottomless well of being.  If there was less oxygen, life would be no more.

Our blue and green marble of magnificent was precisely tuned for a life that always sits in the center of the earth.  Not just any life in the middle -the Divine dreamt your spirit into existence for a unique purpose.  The universe patiently waited for you to be born, so it could infuse you with its first gift, and place it on your blessed lips.  Air.  And you breathed in life and received this generous gift from a universe that remains loose with its love.

It’s all a gift.

It’s all a miracle.

What if every moment you could live AWAKE, and live in gratitude for all the breaths that roll in and out with the beaches tide.  Floating in the mystery of the miracle of you and daring to explore the depth of the sea.  Where 90% remains unexplored.  Becoming the captain of your soul.

A shout of thank you to the Divine, the Alpha, the Almighty, God who generously gives all that is needed for a spiritual life,  offering the intangible holy so that you can set the earth on fire.  As earth travels 67,000 mph, rotates 1000 mph and tilts at an angle of 23.5.

For without a  spiritual life, life would be no more.

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Tattooed to my Heart and left arm.

bachHe was known as the “master nerd of all music” and his music wasn’t beloved from the start and this could be why his entire compositions weren’t preserved, resulting in many cantatas being lost.    He composed music that is still being analyzed, unearthing new revelations from the drudgery of a nerdy composer that used complicated technical tricks (like using numerology in his work, such as the 10 repetitions of the melody in “These are the holy 10 commandments.”  But then there are musical elements centering on the number three, for the Trinity, and four, for the Gospels.  Patterns of five represent the five wounds Jesus suffered on the cross. The number 12 represented the apostles.  And the examples go on and on).   His techniques were subtle, needing a detective eye to uncover – and so complex, needing a computer to analyze.  Although his work is cerebral, it is also beautiful music and that’s what makes him so brilliant.

As for me, not being a musical composer – mastering only one song on the piano that I hang my hat on  (“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”) what hooked me to Johann Sebastian Bach was the depth of his writing (on so many simultaneously levels) and the humbleness he summoned every time he faced a blank composition sheet.  He prayed and asked God to use him as an instrument.  His compositions are noted with the initials J.J.  “Jesu Juva” this is in Latin meaning Jesus’ help) and Bach signed his cantatas with SDG, short for Soli Deo Gloria meaning  “To the glory of God alone”.

He didn’t write for the musically uneducated but he didn’t write for the most polished of music critics either; his only audience was the divine, eternal, infinite God.  He wrote for God’s glory alone.

So, this is what would inspire me, a 40-something year old Momma to stretch out my left writing hand at a tattoo parlor in the hipster-part of Nashville, and tattoo it with Bach’s brand “SDG.”   It’s a visual reminder in my big polish head, to glorify him by how I live.

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I believe that we are not just a random thought, created without a purpose.  Not dancing digits in a world without a formula.  Not here to make noise.

We are made from God’s divine thought, with a purpose.  For a purpose.   A formula so complex that uses all of us as variables with the answer bringing Glory to God.   Heaven to earth.    Supporting the idea from Aristotle, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Reminding me that He is the common denominator in all, and that each of us have a unique musical note to gloriously play in the world’s orchestra.

 

 

 

 

 

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Insignificant in Setting – Loved Largely

photo-49The kayak hits the rollers, and glides along the wooden planks, over the sea wall and becomes anchored to a post by its single braided thread.  I nervously climb down a metal pool ladder onto the center of the kayak, solely relying on my questionable sense of balance to allow gravity to keep all orderly so that I’m floating on top of the seafoam green waters.  Using the power of my arms and a double oar like a butter knife, I icing the top of the sea, interrupting its smoothness to create a muted reflection of the sky that was once crystal clear.  It disrupts the layer of biofilm that has formed on it surface, and I see a sandpiper swooping down for the nutrients with their feathery tongues and the tips of their bills.   As I leave the canal and the harbor of my temporary home and blade my way to the middle of the bay – I feel like I’m shrinking into the setting – and feel insignificant.  I see a cruise ship, packed with passengers and the promise of a breathtaking view as the sun is pulled towards the sea’s floor by the strings that are tethered to the moon as it rises- I wonder if anyone can see me.  I then see the cables that suspend the Skyway bridge sailed out across the Gulf.  It’s deck is the road to connect cars to the sunniest city while its concrete pillars peak at 175 feet to allow boats to shuttle cargo and crew under its hull to ports of call.  The panaromaic views of the Bay leaves me paralyzed in its beauty.   I hold the oar straight across my bended knees, I surrender and give control to the current and it takes my canoe gently north.  I whisper… Thank you God.  My kayaking into it’s big scene gives me the gift of observing without having to serve any need.  All my small self can do is receive, give thanks and try to paddle out of its scene without leaving a print.  I take the memory and the knowing that God’s love is so wide and so deep for each of us.

And He sees.  All.

Do not worry about your life… Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving (Luke 12:22, NIV 1984)

 

 

 

 

 

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My…”Return to Zero”

10383771_890914194268071_8232298815185110478_oI was able to view the movie by Sean Hanish “Return to Zero” last night.   I have to admit, while I fully support the idea behind the movie of  breaking the silence of stillbirth in a world where we avoid this topic like the plaque, I was afraid of viewing painful details that may trigger me into a tail spin of sadness.   Grief pricks me with reminders of Hannah’s physical absence but I’m learning to apply the balm of hope to sooth its sting.  Hope in the knowing that Hannah’s love isn’t bound to a body – and not limited to space or time.  Her love is alive – here in the now.  And I have Hope in the knowing that I will one day see her in heaven.

I’m here to tell you, the bereaved community, to not be afraid to view this movie.  It’s beautifully written – with each line intentional in its meaning and actions that are authentic in its portrayal.  I see myself in Maggie.   Being admitted and walking the long empty corridor at the hospital to give birth silently, entering the hospital room, seeing the symbol on the door advising caregivers of a grim prognosis, and the long wait of labor with a husband that never left her side, and crazy lose emotions during birth – pushing, and yelling with excitement to see a sweet face, the shock of her stillness in the envelope of perfect beauty.   The family and friends comments that are ill-timed, insensitive or worse –  no comment at all, that are deeply rooted in avoidance on the topic of mortality or sugar coated with this being God’s perfect plan.  I could relate with Maggie on how she wrestled in the dark – as death tries to define Arthur’s existence.  Then… to be blessed with new life, a new pregnancy.  Afraid of everything when nothing is for sure.  Lastly, the initial numbness and fear of attachment when you hold your second child, beautifully alive, in the same arms that were once empty.

For me, I found a new realization after watching this movie…. of how my husband, Todd, never left my side during the storm.  He weathered it all with me, with a new-found hope held in one hand, while the other hand never let go of mine.

Thank you to all the cast and crew that gave of your time and talent selflessly to tell this story.  Thank you, Sean and Kiley for making yourselves vulnerable to tell Norbert’s story, and allowing the intention of the movie to be the real star.  I can’t help to think that Norbert was behind the details.    It’s my hope that your written words will be the pin that burst the bubble that surround those that feel isolated in their grief and it creates action to provide better healthcare/education to the pregnant and regulate better bereavement procedures in hospitals and support in our churches.

I recently read a quote from our beloved, Maya Angelou – “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”~

Love was in the details of this movie.  Our babies love is alive.  Viable.  Behold Hope.

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                                                 (Hannah Mary Charest 11/8/2001)

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What in the Earth?

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What in the Earth beckons me outside?

it’s watching each lime colored tree change its dress

to deeper shades of blades of green grass

as the earth tilts its body to dance with a sun that makes each day longer

into a night that’s lit with tails of fire flies and twinkling sky wishes.

it’s the layers of pedals that hold a bud tight against its barred doors

and waits ever so patiently in the promise of life that offers ingress to freedom

to wallow in the warmth of the sun

as the honey makers drink of its nectar and deliver life at each stop.

it’s the chi-chuwee sound of lemon colored finch

as it gets into a frenzy clinging onto a seed sock

taking flight in an undulating pattern

surfing the sound waves of its twitters and warbles

that ebb and flow with each distance of a wing.

it’s the voice to remove me from all fabrications

so that I feel the plush parts of earth’s terrain

mold the soles of my bare feet in its organic carpet,

gently reminding me that I’m connected to all that she harvest.

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Good Friday reflection: Mary kept many things in her heart.

maryMary kept many things in  her heart.

God’s favor, Joseph,  angel visit, immaculate conception, leaving home, mother to the most High and many, stellar birth witnessed by shepherds/kings, anxiety of losing Jesus for 3 days (when he was 12 years of age), watching Jesus’ wisdom grow, miracles multiply, believers banded, disciples chosen….. She harbored it all in her heart as she obeyed the working will of God.

Her heart knew that Jesus was the Son of God.  She didn’t know that he would be tortured, put to death on a cross, and then rise from the dead.

I can’t help but to reflect on the suffering as a mother that Mary must have endured. When she watched her son carry a heavy wooden cross up the hill of Golgotha, did she have the deepest desire to pick up the back of the wooden beam, wipe his sweaty face and clean his wounds with spit, shout words of defense to all the slander, search for his scattered followers to help overturn his sentence, throw stones at those that drove in each nail or shake a fist to the heavens to ask why a Father would do this to His one and only son?

Even as the cross bears down all its weight on a heart of a Mother, she didn’t give in to its temptations.

Her faith would find her at His footrest of the cross, under a Friday’s dark sky with the only thing that she could provide – her sacred presence.  While Jesus hung under the heavens, stretching his sinless hands out for salvation… I wondered if they prayed.  Did she sing him his favorite lullabies or remind him of his fairy tales?  Did she reassure Him of His righteousness? And speak of her love, a Mother’s unyielding love?   In the hope to distract from the painful reality and from his fleeting feeling of abandonment.

She knew that Jesus’ yes to God was as absolute as her yes to the Angel Gabriel.

Mary kept many things in her heart.  In the brokenness of it, she waited for God to do the impossible.

 

 

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holy thursday reflection: washing feet

washingfeetthe basin is filled.  He ties a towel around his waist.  He kneels in service.  i feel not worthy.  He’s showing me the way – that all are worthy.  He gently guides my weathered, callous and tired feet into the basin of water and it quenches the thirst and soothes the hurt from miles of terrain…..all those steps.  all those steps that i did or didn’t want to take.  He gently reminds me that He was there.  in celebration as feet walked on clouds.  and in sadness when i couldn’t walk.

He was there at my first step, 42 years ago.  and all the other first steps after.  into school. onto a ball field.  across the state line.  into an airplane.  onto a ship.  among new cultures.  down a long church aisle.  across the threshold of our home.  through hospital doors.  during moments of motherhood.  by the side of a pool.  in newly seeded grass on God’s acre.  along main street in mouse ears.  in love.  in pain.  every step.

i still stand.

He has been in stride with all steps.  of all sizes.  because He’s showing me, by washing my weathered, callous, tired feet, that i’m worthy.   if i’m worthy, then we are all worthy of this love.  love that’s an action verb.  love that is washing feet.

He is there with each step that i take toward another.  beside another.  carrying another.  behind another.

loving steps that will stand for eternity.

John 13: “do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

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Get Ready for the Next Play.

2013-04-20 18.02.04“Get Ready for the Next Play.”  One of our famous lines.  It was first yelled to keep T-ball players alert to fly balls and line drives.  The motive at the time was safety – since their attention seem as fleeting as the floating clouds.

We now use this line to keep our son out of the attic of his mind, where he sits in a recliner watching a film clip that is caught in a repetitive loop of the last play where he didn’t make the catch.   While in the attic, his body takes a robotic stand of planting his slightly bent legs in the Tennessee clay, with each hand cupped to the knee as his trendy flat-cap is tilted to the ground.

Last night, I yell… “Get Ready for the Next Play…it’s coming” with the hope that somehow my words snap him back to the potential play that may be his at second.

A  Hit.

The force of his spirit stretches his right-handed glove wide across the diamond line from first to second base with the rest of his 98-pound body to follow.  He stops the ground ball in its tracks and throws the player out at first.   He smiles.  My heart jumps for joy.

Addison’s resilience last night to get back to the play before him, inspired me.  Many times I stay in the attic of my mind, looping back a memory of where I perceive myself as not enough.    Not enough kind.  Not enough patient.  Not enough loving.  Not enough talent.  Not enough Mom.

But the next play is coming and if I’m fully present for it and I’m not beating myself up over something- God will give me all that the moment needs.

And it’s always enough.

More clear.     You Are Enough.

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