Things That Make Me Smile

This writing is somewhat of a list … of Things That Make Me Smile. I offer it as a starting point, an exercise, for you to consider what brings a smile to your life. These are listed in no particular order of importance – they’re ALL important. Fortunately, many are repeated from time to time, so I get to smile quite often…

  • watching my dog fiercely shake her toy and then how she eagerly waits to play the “go fetch” game with us
  • how my granddaughter negotiates with anyone to achieve her personal desires (I think she’s going to be a lawyer)
  • the pine tree that has re-grown needles on its top branches when we thought it was diseased and might need spraying. Instead, it just needed to be fed and watered more; recovering quite nicely
  • my husband’s facial expression when he discovers a stash of coins he’d forgotten about, all neatly separated into socks but lost in the closet or basement in a box of “treasures”
  • meeting friends for dinner and conversation or going out of town to visit them
  • listening to my dad’s jokes or stories of when he was a kid; reveling in his memories
  • getting lost in that meditation state when hand-watering the garden plants and trees
  • being greeted at the airport by grandchildren running toward me with open arms
  • noticing in myself what gets me in a tizzy and how I sometimes react to things I don’t like or want to do (but need to do them anyway)
  • being in the presence of a student when “the light goes on” – when a new awareness is suddenly realized
  • reading about a homeopathic remedy I can use for myself and discovering I have all the ingredients at-hand (this usually happens after 11:00 p.m.)
  • discovering the number “hits” this blog is getting continues to increase each week (thank you!)
  • noticing a plant has survived and is blossoming in the garden when I thought it was gone forever
  • experiencing the synchronicity of Spirit and life unfolding in absolutely perfect timing, making, what could have been an especially stressful time, one filled with ease and grace and love
  • seeing a photograph of a grandchild or hearing about them doing something I taught them or shared with them, not knowing if they would even remember
  • having coffee and prayers with my husband on the deck under the morning’s full moon and summer breeze

This and so much more are things that make me smile…and fill my heart with huge waves of gratitude. What makes YOU smile today?

An Independent New World

On a day of fireworks, picnics and barbecues, our country and “We the People” are celebrating, for the 237th time in its history, its Declaration of Independence from oppressive government ruling. The United States is a relatively young country, still growing, still learning to find its way in the world, still battling its own evolution toward greatness. We are a tribe of visionaries, idealists, revolutionaries, and inventors.

I gave some thought to what kind of country I would create and celebrate. Perhaps you’ve had thoughts about what changes you would make, too. I pray for the day when we will honor a world:

…     where Peace and Harmony are so commonplace that war and conflict are just a sad memory;

…     where Abundance and Kindness are so prevalent that it’s unheard of for any person or child to go to bed hungry or be violently abused or live on the street;

…     where Healing happens so naturally and completely that, although medical care, services and technology are available for everyone equally, it is rarely needed;

…     where a respect for Nature’s Intelligence is embraced and supported so that the water, plants, animals and foods are free from artificial enhancements or chemicals, are wholly nutritious and plentiful for everyone;

…     where Creativity is encouraged in one another so that we graciously contribute to society our many productive talents and skills, and compensation is generous and fair;

…     where Prosperity is a commonly-held, Universal idea so that financial debt on a personal, local, national or global level is an oddity and quickly resolved, without dispute, dominating negative forces or debilitating political negotiations;

…     where Generosity, Truth, and Compassion replaces greed, deceit, and exploitation forever;

…     where Love and Cooperation means to live in community with all people without judgment or fear, accepting differences with curiosity, and embracing diversity into our lives with Joy and a belief in Oneness;

…     where demonstrating Good is more important than demonstrating superiority;

…     where Gratitude – for this life, these privileges, opportunities and freedoms – is experienced and shared in every waking moment, where every prayer begins with “thank you.”

I know this vision is possible. I see pieces of it in my life and all around me, in my spiritual community, in this country and other places around the world. If you share this vision or something similar, then now is the only time we have to make it a reality in the world…to bring such a world into visible and livable form. The only way for it to grow and expand is for each of us to embody this vision, this ideal, and be those qualities we want to see manifested around us…to BE the change you wish to see in the world.

We have Divine Mind within us to guide, direct and support our efforts for Good. We must exercise Wisdom based on Love for one another. And just as light dissipates darkness – not with force but by simply being light – so will Love dissolve fear through Divine Power directed with positive intention. Voltaire wrote: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Law of Cause and Effect is precise in its creative execution. Be careful and conscious of what you pray for and about, because that is likely what you will experience, attract, and for which you will be responsible. In the words of Jesus “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12:48 KJV)

Our country’s forefathers had a vision they believed in so definitively that they risked everything to initiate the freedoms we enjoy today. They were willing to be responsible for their actions, to fight and to die for their vision. Today, men and women are still standing on the front lines of freedom, offering their lives for a better world. The work is not over.

We must live these Spiritual Principles each day. We must hold the vision and allow God to guide our actions for Good. Teach this to your children and friends and associates. Start where you are with what you know and what you can do. Start now by expressing appreciation for all the blessings you enjoy, no matter how great or small. Start today…to create the vision and our future world…together.  Happy Independence Day!



A Persistent Muse

The other day I woke up with such excitement about an idea, I couldn’t remember if I’d actually had any sleep the previous night. It was as if my creative subconscious had been busy putting together pieces of an idea that had been brewing in my brain for about five years…and now it was time to DO something about it!

I’m sure this brain activity was triggered by a frustrating accident of sorts a few days earlier. During the clean-up phase after a community event, the entry door became inaccessible. In itself, this was no big deal. However, in the event room behind the timer-locked door were the equipment pieces from the evening’s activities, burning candles (in a tray of sand), and my purse. Fortunately, I had my truck key in-hand. Also, I had heeded Spirit’s voice and left my cell phone in the truck earlier that evening. Yet, I was quite disturbed that I could not retrieve my purse, wallet, identification, etc.

After pacing for several moments, listening to the committee voices in my head, leaving messages for the building’s owner, and peeking through a small window to be sure the candles would pose no threat to the premises, I reluctantly left my possessions behind. I deduced that, since the timer-locked door could not be opened now, it certainly wouldn’t be opened during the night. Resolved that my purse would be safe, I committed myself to return at dawn when the door would once more unlock itself.

Enter the Purse Muse

It’s no surprise that my creative subconscious should be formulating a design for my perfect handbag. I’ve been searching for it in stores andhandbag-purse boutiques for years, reluctantly settling for an “almost” version time and again that I thought would satisfy my needs. Alas, none met the challenge. So, with the near-loss of an “almost” version fresh in my mind, the Purse Muse appeared to solve the challenge.

I awoke with a pattern and overall design clearly placed in my awakened consciousness. My first task was to visit a local drug store to see if there was a container that could provide the basic size and shape of the untested design. I found it! With my purchase in-hand, I quickly transferred my possessions from my “almost” purse to this new container as a trial-run to see if it would actually meet my needs. I’d been fooled before by the purse fairies. I was going to take it slow this time until there was no doubt about the validity of this inspiration.

It took only one day to prove I was being led toward a viable design. Could it be true? After all these years, was I finally nearing the end of my search for the perfect handbag? I could wait no longer.

The next morning I rummaged through my bin of fabric remnants, gathered up old purses meant for the donation bin, set up my sewing machine, and sketched out the rudimentary design for my ultimate carry-all. It’s a good thing I’ve been sewing and crafting for decades…and am fairly good at puzzles. Nevertheless, after five hours of obsessive, creative intensity (one hour for each year of searching?), I had fashioned and pieced together a handbag that is now my favorite fashion piece. It’s functional, practical, stylish and affordable…made just for me!

Already a granddaughter wants me to make one for her. My work-aholic nature wants to put the design into mass production. I’d just like to make another one (a fall/winter version) for myself.

Meanwhile, I feel such complete satisfaction to have followed the creative inspiration of the Purse Muse from the eye-opening idea to a final, artistic piece…and to have fulfilled a longing that only my skills and talents could do. I listened to the Voice of Creation and the final result was as crystal clear as the vision from whence it was born. And so it is always.

Dawn & Dusk: Danger & Delight

It’s not often I get out of bed before sunrise. However, today was one of those mornings. As I made my way to the grocery store to fetch a supply of coffee and juice, I was reminded of my drive home the previous evening, right around dusk. The reminder was about the two most “dangerous” times of day to drive, dawn and dusk, and I had managed to do both in less than 12 hours. The experience now had different meaning.

The lesson of danger had its roots in my early driving lessons with my dad. He would have me drive not far from where we lived…on the backcountry roads…two lanes of concrete weaving their way through the wooded areas like the many small streams that paralleled our course. Since my dad worked long days, we would either drive before he left for work or when he came home after the sun had nearly set. In either case, there was little danger of me running into another car. However, only a hint of the sky’s light was available for my “daytime” lessons.

The danger he warned me about came from the animals that lived in the woods and the potential of them crossing the road during their normal feeding times. Deer, raccoons, owls, foxes, snakes, rabbits or mice were likely to be moving about in the dim light. I was more than concerned about the damage such an encounter would do to my car. I learned to drive with extreme caution and developed an abnormally heightened awareness of my surroundings.

I still do visual scans of both sides of the road, searching for movement at the point where my headlights meet the dark shadows. I test my skill in owl_GrtHornedspotting camouflaged critters in the bushes or meadows, or look for the reflection of my headlight in an open eyelid, a shadow crouching in a ditch. Once in awhile a large bird, flying fast and low across the road in front of me in pursuit of fleeing prey, will actually cause me to flinch or duck in anticipation of a possible collision. (Yes, it makes me smile, too.) The knowledge gained from those early lessons and innumerable animal sightings since have only validated the importance of being especially attentive when driving at dawn or dusk.

As I now live in a somewhat urban setting, the sound of a haunting train whistle is more likely to be heard than an owl’s screech. Still, there are opportunities to travel backcountry roads and encounter wildlife. I drive more slowly than limits dictate. My attention is focused on an unexpected but welcome encounter with four-legged or winged creatures. I get lost in the moments of anticipation and time has no meaning. There is only an awareness of the interconnectedness of Life, of Nature, if one is willing to pay attention to it.

This awareness brought a new lesson to my mind during the recent dusk-lit drive. As the sun settled quickly behind the mountains in the west, the last sparks of light shot toward the darkening sky and clouds as if flares were set off to capture someone’s attention. I likened the shadowy road before me as Life, my current existence of expression and uncertainties in this world of form. The sun’s rising that morning symbolized my birth into this Life. The setting sun is the time of transition, when my soul will at last depart this world and move along to its next adventure. And what of those sparks of light? Those are the joy my soul will feel when it sees before it how much more Life there is yet to unfold and experience in the eternal Now.

Yes, I will keep my eyes on the road and surrounding landscape…to be aware of potential dangers, wonders, challenges and exhilaration on my journey. I am also blessed by and grateful for the light and darkness of each day…for all the shadows and creatures that cross my path or peek at me from the sidelines as I go by. Life is full and rich and filled with delightful, wonderful lessons. Thank you, God!

The Speed of Church

There are times when I get a little frustrated about how slowly tasks are being completed in both my personal and professional life, about a hot summer day dragging on and on, or anxiously waiting for a special event to arrive. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Time since childhood. Fortunately, it’s become more peaceful as I’ve learned to manage my activities better, to pace myself through the days or years…and still I have more to learn.

When I was a kid my chore list seemed endless. To make things a bit more interesting, I would time myself to see how quickly I could get a particular task completed. As long as my efforts passed inspection the first time, I considered my work successful and my timing accurate. However, if I had to redo the task, the time was invalidated until the next attempt. For example, by the time I was 15 years old, I could clean a full bathroom, including tile walls, floors, fixtures, mirrors, counters and replace the towels, in less than 17 minutes AND pass mom’s inspection. The sooner I completed the chore list, the sooner I could move on to what I wanted to do.

I took this need for speed in my work to the corporate world. In particular, the area of marketing and sales support always seemed to have a critical time-based deadline to everything that needed to be done. I was a perfect fit and thrived in this environment for years. The skill to create documents and assorted materials within a short time limit still comes in handy on a weekly basis as a minister.

I’m grateful I have this ability to get things done so quickly and, in most cases, they still pass the critical eye of inspection without error. In the past 40 years I can recall only two times when I missed a specific deadline and faced the consequence of an unhappy boss or client. Funny how I remember those two disappointments and not the thousands of times I was successful.

Somewhere along the way I stopped using the stopwatch and started marking time by days, weeks, months and years. Things still get stopwatchaccomplished, projects are completed in a timely manner, and yet the urgency to get it all done today has slipped away. I’ve learned, through my years of working with a church behind the scenes and now as a church leader, that tasks do get done – some sooner than others. Yet, eventually, progressively, what is truly needed in the moment will be tended to and completed…  until the next revision demands more.

The overall idea is that this church or spiritual community will be here for the duration or life of its members. It’s not going anywhere as long as we are attentive to what’s important – each other.  So what’s the rush? It’s true that Sunday service comes around with amazing regularity, the bills and staff must be paid by a certain date, and materials need to be created for a planned workshop, meeting or event. Everything else will unfold in absolutely perfect timing… perfect unfoldment.

There’s a lot of Trust involved – in one’s self and those who share in the responsibilities. Trust that we’re all doing the best we can with what we have to work with. Trust that the most important tasks will be done first; the rest will be handled eventually. Trust that the “speed of church” efforts are different from the high-stress, demanding deadlines of my past, but still as effective. Trust that our organization is not suffering from lack of attention or love or care. Trust that balance and rest are as important as busyness and productivity. And Trust that we’re in the right place at the right time… right now… this moment… which is all the time we have anyway.

The ‘Hood

A morning routine I reinstated recently is to spend the first hour after waking in contemplation and meditation. I collect a thermos of coffee, a large floor pillow, my dog and spiritual booklets, and then take them with me to a second floor deck of our house. After reading the inspirational message for the day, I bask in the early morning sun to contemplate its meaning…to meditate.

morning_sunThis ritual is fast becoming my favorite time of day. In this seemingly intimate solitude, I am surrounded by a world bustling with activity and sound.

At any given moment can be heard the horn of a train in the distance…woodpeckers knocking on rooftops…the highway noise of morning commuters…skateboard wheels whizzing to school…a dog barking a few houses down the street…lawn mowers buzzing…or a car door closing before zooming off. There is little human conversation to be heard from my balcony perch, yet the neighborhood is definitely alive and busy. This is when the day comes to life. This is when I feel tremendous gratitude for living here, my neighborhood. Yet, I didn’t always feel this way.

There was a time when all I wanted to do was live somewhere else…move on. My life pattern had been to change residences every two to three years, sometimes more often than that. Life moved quickly and I sped along with it, sometimes unwillingly. Thus, as a result of such a transitory lifestyle, I never really took time to know the neighbors or appreciate my surroundings. Up until now.

As the sun lights my face and the birds introduce themselves in song, I acknowledge the growth of the trees, gardens and me. The roots are deep; the branches wide. Now I welcome the embrace of familiar surroundings enveloping me like a warm blanket. Now I feel peace and contentment. Now I’ve come to appreciate this community and its people.

Most of my neighbors have lived here for more than 15 years! We’ve gone from sending children to school together and to welcoming grandchildren into our backyards to play. We’re getting older, but no one’s in a hurry to move away. We’re not close friends; we are neighbors. We help each other shovel snow, call out a “hello” at the mailbox, yell across the fence to quiet a barking dog, look out for strangers, and wave or smile in passing cars.

It has taken years for me to appreciate how blessed I am to live here. And this feeling of connectedness, of being part of a community, extends beyond the end of the street. I carry the ‘hood with me when I drive across town, visit friends out-of-state, or travel to another country. I look for the threads that weave us together into one beautiful tapestry of humanity, brotherhood or sisterhood…the true ‘hood.

And while I like the variety of colors and patterns of a colorful life, thinking about how it would be to live somewhere else, to experience the excitement offered in a strange place, traveling to different lands, enjoying extraordinary scenery and cultural diversity, there’s nothing quite like returning to familiar and serene surroundings. There’s nothing like a sun-kissed morning on my balcony in quiet meditation. There’s nothing like coming home.


ADD & All Hosed Up

I’ve developed a habit of “home and garden time” where I spend a couple of hours each day outside or do home maintenance projects. It’s also a time where I get clarity for the day or on a particular topic. This morning as I was winding up several garden hoses and placing them on the new hooks I’d just installed, my mind found clarity about a disturbing topic that had been troubling me.

A few days ago I read that apparently America has lost its ability for long-term attention. Not only are its over-achiever citizens under the influence and pressure of the “crazy busy” syndrome, but that, as a result of being constantly connected to technology through apps, email and texting habits, America is considered the most “ADD” on the globe (“ADD” as in Attention Deficit Disorder). Initially I had strong objections to such blanket statements that generalize our entire country and population, including me. Then I looked at my own behavior to see why I was so irritated about the matter.

Frankly, I enjoy using technology to stay connected to the world. I carry my phone with me EVERYWHERE. I have two phone numbers and five email addresses that forward to my smartphone, as well as sending duplicate emails to my computer. I stay updated throughout the day. This system allows me to answer and/or delete emails regularly and not be overwhelmed when I sit down at my desk. If the subject line is uninteresting or if the sender is distributing political, promotional or spam-like messages, I can read a few characters, make a determination of its follow-up value to me, and click the DELETE key in less than three seconds. If the nuisance messages occur more than once or twice a week, I can UNSUBSCRIBE from all future communications. For those email subscriptions that continue to uplift and inform, I eagerly read them before deciding whether to SAVE TO FILE, FORWARD or DELETE.

The arrival of social media has presented a whole new challenge to time management and the feeling of overwhelm. I’m somewhat of a novice in this realm, so I’m sure there are short-cuts still to learn that would make sorting and reviewing postings more efficient. Meanwhile, I limit my viewing activity on these sites. Since I don’t listen to radio news or watch television very often, one online media community comes directly to my smartphone so I can at least know about major events in the world as they occur (as well as how my family and friends are faring for the day).  I’ve become quite accomplished at scanning the first few words of text to determine just how much more I want to know about someone’s situation, recipe, activity or inspirational message. Anything more than three or four lines warrants a return visit later in the day.

This “crazy busy” schedule and impatient nature certainly expresses as ADD behavior in me from time to time. But I don’t like labels. And not every area of my life includes technology.

AA026660In fact I’m the most serene in those areas that have no high-tech devices in them at all: gardening, hose-winding, meditating, painting, reading (a real book), crafting, etc. These simple activities encourage long-term attention without the short-term distractions of advancing technology. Such tasks, as simple as they might be, have immediate gratification benefits while also creating a solid foundation for something more. They “add” to the life I’m living now…the one I’m building for the future. For example, sorting, winding and hanging the garden hoses resulted in acknowledging how many I have…more than enough to spare and share. (Abundance comes in many forms.) I can ADD to the lives of others by giving them away and find more meaning (and space) in mine!

Through my intention to ADD and to serve, an enduring life unfolds in a very positive way. This new meaning…to ADD to life and have long-term meaning for what I do…is no longer objectionable to my consciousness. In fact I can say with confidence: “I have an ADD- approach to life!” Try this new definition and see if it works for you, too. It’ll only take a few seconds.

Quality of Life

One of the privileges I have as a teacher of Spiritual Principles is that I get to continue to learn them…over and over and over again. As my students are introduced to various spiritual texts, I get to review the pages and passages that opened my eyes and heart the first time I read the writings. I find peace in the highlighted phrases and joy in the scribbles in the margins…and I smile.

On most days those notations are enough to lift my spirit and remind me how lucky I am to have found such a foundation of faith and to practice it through my ministry. On other days I must delve further into the texts for the inspiration that will most certainly uplift my consciousness and release the mental burdens…the heavy weight of my unceasing plans and constant doing-ness…under which I place myself.

You were not made for failure, no matter who you are, nor how much you know, nor what anyone has told you. God is your prosperity. God, the Most High, is your defense. God, the Absolute Good, is your friend.”                                 ~Emma Curtis Hopkins

It is important to remind myself of “first things first” when I start spinning from all the mental activity and ideas circulating in my head. What do I focus on? How much can I really do and do well? What is actually mine to do?  While my current life theme may be “simplicity,” it also must include the element of “balance” to address and achieve those tasks that are mine to complete on a daily or weekly basis…and into the distant future.

My intent is to create a quality of life that is improving and ever-expanding in all directions: spiritual/physical… work/play… home/community… relationships/solitude… activity/rest… learning/teaching… in an evenly-paced and sane approach of longevity and growth. Up until a few years ago, I would get so excited about the possibilities for expansion and the opportunities to learn or do, that I would work myself into an unsustainable frenzy of activity. It would be inevitable that a crash would occur …physically, mentally, emotionally…forcing me to rest, re-evaluate and recover from this self-inflicted abuse of over-doing.

My insatiable desire to learn all I can within this human lifetime, I’m sure, has something to do with my high level of activities, my growing collection of unread books, website searches on a myriad of topics, my eagerness to listen to the wisdom of others (conversations, classes, lectures, etc.), and my misguided enthusiasm to take on more than I can reasonably handle in a given day. Fortunately, I’ve become more aware of this destructive and innate pattern of behavior, and am now able to slow down the mental spinning to a more balanced and consistent forward movement. But more is needed.

clockThankfully, I’m willing to ASK for help, recommendations, suggestions or guidance when I feel lost. An idea, posed by a loving partner with whom I recently shared these darting thoughts, is being implemented, starting today:  Block out my schedule for various activities/tasks throughout the day/week and stick to it!

It sounds simple, right? Balanced? Logical? It’ll be interesting to see how my ego committee mind reacts to this “novel” idea. Yet, you and I both know this is not a new approach. I’ve brought it up before when I shared my work-aholic tendencies and the “power of an hour” concept of achieving things. However, I obviously need more than just an hour-by-hour plan. I’m adding a long-term view for a higher quality of life.

The wonderful part about this idea is that I have the freedom to create the schedule, starting today. The new blocks of time include spending more time with God than with projects, trading technology for daily periods of meditation, working only six days each week (for now), expanding my  exercise options, increasing creative art and gardening activities, and reading more books.  My aim is eventually to take off from work two full, consecutive days each week. Can you imagine that? I do. And so it is!

Snowstorms, Over-Dressed & Nesting

Heavy_SnowToday’s spring snowstorm and my habitual nesting that accompanies it, reminded me of a snowstorm twenty-five years ago. It explains why each prediction of heavy snowfall sends me scurrying to the grocery store to “stock up” as well as to have food prepared and cooked in case the power goes out. While today I’m not so concerned about having a supply of candles, I do have an inventory of assorted batteries for numerous flashlights. My phone and laptops are also fully charged and at the ready. My 4-wheel drive vehicle is gassed up. And then I watch the snow with no concern whatever.

The spring snowstorm of years ago started shortly after I arrived at the office. Snow had been predicted, but I had way over-dressed that morning for the bus commute to work. I wore leggings under dress slacks, two pair of warm socks in my snow boots, a turtleneck shirt covered by a sweater covered by a Aussie-style, walkabout coat. I loved that coat. It was khaki green and long, a great windbreaker, durable and stylish to boot. I topped off this ensemble with my “outback” leather hat, a warm scarf around my neck, and thermal gloves on my hands. I was ready for the elements!

The company decided to close early that day to allow employees to get home before the roads became dangerous. I redressed into my gear, walked to the bus station, and awaited the arrival of my chariot for the 15-mile journey toward home. The highways were already a challenge for drivers, including the one at the front of our bus.

As we approached the exit ramp, the incline of the highway and the ice on the road made it impossible for the bus to go any farther. One of the passengers, a female flight attendant who must have been a cheerleader in a former life, rallied the passengers to gather near the back of the bus. The theory was that our combined weight, concentrated over the rear wheels, and then jumping up and down together to the commands of our cheerleader attendant, as the bus driver slowly engaged the gears and tires, would allow the bus to creep up the exit ramp. Thus, we could make our bus connections or get to our cars, and she could get to the airport to make her flight. It worked for a few hundred feet, but the highway’s incline won. The bus couldn’t make it up the hill or to the car park ahead. It was stuck on the highway.

For those individuals who needed to get up the exit ramp, unbury their car, and join the insane traffic jam that traversed both sides of the road over the highway and the bus below…it was time to leave behind the warm bus and the motivating echoes of the flight attendant. I cinched the belt around my coat, secured my backpack and hat, and stepped out onto the edge of the highway and into a biting wind filled with snow, ice and cold.

A few of us made our way up the exit ramp together, crossed the intersection to the parking lot, and then went our separate ways. I stood inside the three-sided bus shelter, wondering if the bus to take me on the final leg home would actually arrive. Could it even get through all that traffic, let alone manage the icy road conditions? Since these were the days before cell phones were common, I had no way to let my then-husband know where I was. I just prayed he and my daughter were safe at home, and that I would get there before too long. It was already dark and the temperature was dropping.

I waited for at least 30 minutes, glad I had over-dressed and wondering if I’d get home faster by walking those last two miles rather than just standing there in the blowing snow and icy wind. There was plenty of traffic, none of which seemed to be going anywhere. Finally, the bus for my route pulled into the parking lot, escorted by two police cars as a way for it to get through all the traffic. I don’t remember if anyone got off the bus, but I know I got on as quickly as I could. There was standing room only, but it was warm. The crowd was friendly, everyone supporting the driver’s efforts and each other. There was no end to the travel stories of the past few hours. This commute had already lasted more than two hours for me and I was definitely ready to see it end.

Our bus left the parking lot and pulled into the crawling traffic, trying to make its way across the overpass and the highway below. The first bus had left by this time. Cars and trucks and snowplows slowly crawled the four lanes below. My new driver suddenly announced that the road conditions were making it impossible to complete his route. He had been instructed to divert the bus to a Red Cross shelter at a local church just up ahead.

I knew where that church was located and it would take me close to, but in the opposite direction of, my home. I made my way to the front of the bus and begged him to please let me out when he reached the corner where he was going to turn the bus toward the church location. I told him it was very close to my home and I could walk from there, please. That was the truth; it was only about a quarter of a mile to walk. I could tell he was concerned for my safety, so I begged a little more. When the bus turned off the main road, he stopped, opened the door and I got out. So did a couple other people before the driver pulled back into traffic toward the church and emergency shelter.

The snow was already a good 18 inches deep with drifts up to my waist. I was grateful I didn’t have miles to walk. I was rather pleased with myself for being so over-dressed that morning. It was perfect for the current conditions. I felt strong. I was used to walking and thought this to be a good test of my strength and stamina. It was. I wrapped my long scarf across my mouth and around my neck, readjusted my backpack, and headed toward home.

After 30 minutes of trudging, slipping, falling and getting back up (my foot went down an open curb gutter buried beneath a deep drift; I thought I’d lost my leg), I finally made it into the townhouse complex. Another few minutes of dragging my body through waist-deep snow and I was standing in front of my gate and home.

I was greeted with hugs and many questions about my extremely long and cold journey home. My four-year-old daughter had been so concerned. After taking off my layers of wet clothing, all I wanted to do was to hug her and cry. I was so grateful to be inside. I chec

ked my leg for bruises, changed into some dry clothes, and, together, she and I started cooking.

We made several entrée dishes and baked other goodies in less than an hour…just before the electricity went out due to the heavy snow on the power lines. It came back on and off again throughout the night, but never long enough for us to get cold. We were going to be okay. We had food. There was plenty of snow for refrigeration, if we needed it. And I knew I could walk the distance to the convenience store if I really had to. I spent the evening reading bedtime stories by candlelight, cuddled in warm blankets and lots of love.

Snowstorms. Over-dressing. Nesting habits. They all go together for me. I want to add something else… Gratitude. That experience was the first time I remember truly listening to my intuition (to over-dress for the day and then to cook quickly when I got home). I’m thankful that I paid attention. I’ve never doubted the messages since. Today’s snow is a good reminder to keep listening.


[I wrote most of this in 2006 with a bit more added today…a reflection of Emerson’s essay of the same name. ]

When I’ve thought of self-reliance in the past, it’s always been in the form of survival, of doing what needed to be done and usually without anyone’s help. I learned to rely on certain skills to live my life and care for my children – skills such as: my ability to work and learn, intellect, communication, to “read” people, humor, to get back up no matter how much I was beaten down, to adapt, to change. These are the tools that kept me alive, fed my children, and allowed me to build a life. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and the challenges I’ve overcome. My abilities served me well.

mirror_imageHowever, there were times when I did not trust my own judgment. I occasionally lost touch with any sense of God-presence and many times turned to my human abilities or the words of others rather than rely on a Higher Power. I was self-reliant, but with a small “s.”

Emerson’s self-reliance offers a different perspective. He defines it as “a new respect for the divinity in man.” This interpretation has me thinking of it as Self-reliance (with a big “S”). I now view the term as, not what I can do to live, but what I can be to express who I am in this life.

I agree with Emerson on a number of points he made. I can believe in my own thought; I can trust myself. As a living expression of God, I must find courage to fully express my uniqueness, my talents and abilities, without hesitation. There is no reason to imitate someone else in order to find fulfillment in my life – “imitation is suicide” and it kills the core of who I am. If I believe that “infancy conforms to nobody,” then why would I choose conformity as an adult and allow society more control over my life? “My life is not an apology, but a life.” I must and DO live it to the fullest capacity I can muster. Emerson states: “Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.”

Well, I know how to work, and am finally doing the work I’ve been called to do. I’m also learning to be the person I always dreamed I was – a unique expression of Spirit. May my actions express the greatness I feel inside me, without apology. “I must be myself.”