I met a vet

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4poppy-field

I met a vet. I met Frank two days ago at a business function, 18 days before Memorial Day. We were two strangers dressed in business suits. Business topics connected us until the divine spark in our hearts led us to a more personal level. I learned Frank had a 10-year army career; three combat tours. After his discharge from the military, he then entered the corporate ranks until he decided to live his true passion and work as a counselor assisting small businesses procure new contracts. In his spare time, he is founder of a non-profit that helps black-owned business enterprises grow.

Frank’s career background, including a master’s degree under his belt, is impressive but it is not what I carried home with me after day’s end. What inspired me and imprinted my heart most was a photograph he showed me. The year: 1991. Two 19-year-old army soldiers happily nested in a jeep. I couldn’t see the photo on his phone clearly, but I espied a pair of military dog tags on the white guy, Frank’s best bud in the army. In fact, they were so apparent to me, a proud sister of two army veterans, I could hear their ting in my mind.

“It’s my birthday today. That’s the day he was killed. Every year on my birthday, I send this picture of us to everybody I know,” Frank explained.

For over two decades, Frank celebrates his birthday by celebrating his friend’s memory. Not his friend’s death, mind you, but his life.

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“We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.”

Season after season, Frank’s ritual has ensured that his friend is not forgotten and accents his short life with meaning

Even though I only spoke to Frank for less than a half hour on his birthday, what impressed me most was his loyalty. His courage. Most of all his faith. Despite experiencing trial and anguish in his young life, Frank’s pilgrimage is gallant and glorified. I am certain, he has felt shattered a million times over, stumbled and fell, but always managed to pick up and re-bandage the pieces of his heart if only to bring promise and hope of a new day to others.Poppy-1jzy3h8

And what of his friend? His friend is alive, always young, brimming, too, with a promise and hope that tings from heaven. He is relishing in every glorious breath Frank has taken in all the years that have passed since the early 90s; all along whispering to Frank: “Soldier on.”

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

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touched by an angel

“All there is is love!”

Love conquers all

Love conquers all

Do everything in love. ~1 Corinthians 16:14 

A bush of gray messy hair. Dusty work boots. Though he had a small frame, my friend John had a linebacker’s shoulders and a voice that could make an angel’s words sound mean.  A tough bird living a tough life, for many years he was a chronic alcoholic and as unapproachable as a rat in a gutter.

Fortunately, he did find recovery from the disease of alcoholism for nearly forty years. Don’t get me wrong, John did not travel the easy street of sober life. Demons always engaged him in battle, one in particular, an uncontrollable rage issue, threw him behind bars during his mid-sobriety.

Nonetheless, whether he was up or down, his all-around mantra was “All there is is love!”

I’ve had my own demons over these last 31 years. Though uncontrollable rage, fortunately, has not been one of them, at least not for the last 21 years, anger and resentment is another story. I have a collection of easy-to-reach injustices in the form of people, places and things. In fact, they are attractive and invade my mind dressed in fine jewelry and inflate my ego and puff me up to feel like I am PROactive and righteous; but the truth is, no matter how powerful they feel, anger and resentment undermine our lives and throw us in the chamber of darkness, cloud our vision and defeat our primary purpose(s) in life. To become stuck in destructive emotion is to kill motion. Without motion, there is no life.

Therein lay the legacy that John left me. If you are running out of faith, try Love first. Love is the pill that the pharmaceutical companies can’t compete with. Whenever I feel upset, I hear John’s words, “All there is is love!” The minute I hear those words, I breathe, feel at ease, accept. My blood pressure deflates along with my ego, and the road ahead is clear and manageable; not easy, mind you, but in the right frame of mind, gratitude unfolds its magical carpet.

Don’t get me wrong, don’t expect the uneven terrain to disappear; instead, a happy surrender means a cease fire to an unnecessary fight and only then can we allow our vision to move from the uneven terrain and, instead, shift our focus on the new flower shoots along the path.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

touched by an angel

touched by an angel

HOW TO BE A PRAYER WARRIOR, ONE LINE AT A TIME–FINALE!

Today completes our daily spiritual inspiration, meditating on the long version of the Serenity Prayer, which breaks down to 6 lines of thought for 6 easy, but effective days of prayer.supremely happy

We are not moving in chronological order, so please join us as we continue.

Line 7, Day 7 is: *

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

During my adolescence, I discarded religion, leaped on the fast track of a sinner’s life and, finally, in my mid-twenties haphazardly tumbled into the spiritual Land of Oz. Right before the new dawn in my life, I became gravely ill, was rushed to the hospital and had a near-death experience. The slap of the nurse’s hand was a rude awakening back to residing in the bowels of the personal hell that I had built. You see, I had a positive experience clinically dying. I had entered a dimension where I had been freed and stripped of the confines of my physical and mental state; in other words, all pain, worry and necessity.

It’s been a long time since that slap back to the real world. Through the many decades of recovery, I now belong to a group of peers whose jam-packed history involves, among other things, the agony of playing hurt.

In fact, we have an ongoing joke, “Thank God we don’t have much longer.”

To an outsider, this statement may sound morbid. But to us, we’ve survived many trials, in addition to the world’s garden variety of evil; the stuff that double locking your front door forever is all about. Despite it all, we hobble forward, many times still tripping along the way. We are not victims, instead survivors. Advancing in age, we habitually pray to retire from the challenge of letting go and healing and, more so, for the ordinary life.

Whether we are a cursed bunch or a blessed flock is debatable, depending on the given day and circumstances. One thing certain, we are relieved to know that this world does not mark the finish line; meanwhile, dwelling here “reasonably happy” is the best blessing we can get. Innately we know, the spiritual Land of Oz is underrated compared to what awaits behind the gateway of our eternal home with Him.

Amen.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

* Off one day!

HOW TO BE A PRAYER WARRIOR, ONE LINE AT A TIME

What God is

What God is

Today, I hope you join our community, if you haven’t already, in some daily spiritual inspiration as we meditate on the long version of the Serenity Prayer, which breaks down to 6 lines of thought for 6 easy, but effective days of prayer.

We are not moving in chronological order, so please join us as we continue.

Line 5, Day 5 is:*

Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will.

Ahhhh! Sweet surrender. To me, this is the stress breaker prayer. It defines the question, “What is spirituality?”

The proof of God is in the calming of my hyperactive thoughts. White flag surrender like sin has gotten a bad rap these days.

If you trust your higher power—God, Jesus—Good Orderly Direction, and feel He loves you, then isn’t it a practical move to allow Him, not you, the center ring in the watchtower that stands over your world? I cannot get into God’s mind, but I have to reckon with the fact that he IS God and sees the divine. I, within my mortal confines, only see a sliver of truth. I do not know why babies die or why floods wash away entire villages, but I do know that I reap my strength, comfort, courage and ultimate peace from Him.

If I believe he is the sole proprietor of the reset button, after all, he created it, then why should worry riddle me? I truly am powerless. When I am sharing the bed with my control freak, the fix-it visualization is a tree branch stricken by a violent storm. If it bends in the direction of the wind, the branch will never break or crack. I visualize my spine, limber like Gumpy. Then I can hobble forward and attempt a proactive action.

When I surrender to His will, I release my position in the command center and the false sense of controlling the universe. I am aghast at how stupidly powerful I think I am. I feel best when I hand over the steering wheel to Him and my ego takes a respite in the backseat.

Through my adolescence into my early 20s, fighting, in a constant rage, I was like a cracked, splintered branch, totally useless in a hurt form.

“Surrender to win. Surrender to win.”

My dear friend George, who accurately interpreted my will of steel, persistently repeated to me whenever I saw him, which back then was on a daily basis. Some five years prior to my knowing him, he was involved in a near-fatal drunk driving accident, driving his automobile into a tree. After the EMT team resuscitated him, he survived in a coma for six months in the ICU at the hospital. Astounding the medical experts, he gained consciousness.  After years of living super glued to his personal agenda, this one-time marine commander woke up; healed from the soul out and the bounce of youth even lightened the limp in his left leg, a leftover war injury.

“Surrender to win. Surrender to win.”

With a buoyancy under his heels, he still proclaims, beaming, like a schoolboy, willing and ready, excited to take on the next challenge.

I had fought George for years on that one; I resisted and bulked. Finally, about ten years after knowing him while on my journey of personal spiritual change, I began to repair all the damage that I had done to the branches of my spirit, soul and body. Now, nearly whole, I am the first to surrender to the battle ahead. By doing so, I have instant access to the switch that opens up the parachute. I like floating around life held by Grace, soaring with dignity. Ahhhh! Sweet surrender. If I could bottle this stuff, I’d make millions; of course, I’ve already hit the jackpot along with a very selective few, winners like my friend George.

* Sorry, since my life is mostly in crisis mode, I had a few days of delays in our daily prayer.

Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!

Strive to be happy

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 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hears be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
There is a very special non-denominational chapel at High Watch Recovery Center in Kent Connecticut where I spent a good deal of my younger years. In that very place, a mishmash of everything religious and spiritual, for the very first time in my life, a life filled with pain, desperation and sadness, I felt true faith because it came from within. One of the things that influenced me so much was what was printed on the wall…”Desiderata….Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” desiderata_by_striveforpeace
I left High Watch on a venture; to sing my unique song fully as my heart cried in despair; to fail in the eye of defeat—get up, fail again; to love without reserve, on an uncertain, sometimes unsteady path, step up, trudge forward, head up, eyes fixated on a mustard seed of hope.thCAHUMSUY
Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!
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What a wonderful world

 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 

thCAAS8R0T

A number of months ago, one of my dearest friends called my cell phone and left a message on the voicemail. The catch was, she forgot to hang up.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ “How do you do?”
They’re really saying “I love you”
I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll 
learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Oh yeahanimatedRainbow

You would think my friend was an opera singer in her car, booming those words alongside Louis Armstrong. My tears were not only a response to her astonishing vocal abilities but to the fact that, she, a mother who lost her son at 18, only to become a widow shortly thereafter, was the epitome of what a wonderful world it truly is as long as we can find that tiny hint of sanctuary within ourselves that we can build when we make faith the cornerstone. Again and again, I listened to my friend on the voicemail, humbled.

In the face of injustice, who am I to question “why?”  Instead, I need to raise my eyes above the sins of the world, the Calvary of the journey, and fixate on God’s masterful creation of mountain tops, skis of blue, clouds of white, and all the things I may not be aware of, but are freely and generously the constant framework of my ever-changing world.

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

Mind Confusion: Good for you?

dance_school-1280x1024 (2)Body confusion sounds bad but is good. As my yoga coach explained, when your exercise routine becomes routine, your muscles get bored and slack off. You can schedule the same exercise routine every week, but after awhile it becomes old hat, and your body does not benefit from the workout. In other words, you have to challenge—shuffle things around; in essence, confuse the body to keep it at its best. Challenges and new moves keep you in healthy grooves!

In this same vein, if the body slacks off, wouldn’t the mind do this also? Not to minimize the impact of a life crisis, but one thing it does do is shake you up and orbit you to unfamiliar places that may feel foreign and scary at the beginning, but later as the journey unfolds, recharges the imagination and ignites the creative problem-solving juices.

For instance, before our family’s personal crisis in 2010, I could have continued to hide under some fifty extra pounds of weight and allow myself to fade into the buttermilk color walls of my house, vaporizing behind my then husband’s emotional tailspins.

Instead, nearly four years later, “mind confusion” has kicked me into over drive. Tons of new challenges undertaken…daunting jobs, grubby courtrooms, and a longtime friend who threw me under the bus just when I was about to get my bearings! With the challenges, new joys have also unfolded…dating again since 1989, the last time I had a date; neighborhood kids who come to the door with shovels during a blizzard and a late-life love who surprises me with a kiss that transplanted me back to feel sixteen again when my high school’s gym class cheered me on as I did a tap dance atop the trampoline.

Thanks to the element of surprise, total mind confusion, I not only shed the pounds, okay, some of them, but I have also had a love affair—with my femininity, my individuality, my sometimes tragic, miserable, highly interesting, amazing life, and I learned that courage doesn’t come to me naturally, but that I have to have faith and work at it…not face danger and freak out and bolt, but face danger, freak out and stare it down—a little bit longer at each new perilous zone.

In the end, I still have “the bad” confusion in my life and I struggle as a single mom. It remains an everyday challenge to be stable and balanced, especially when the mortgage due date draws closer, every month, and my mind becomes a 24-hour melee in which I must battle it out with beasts that can and will flex their muscles to frightening proportions. Then there are those days when my body joints tell me I have been squeezed out of so much youth.

Through it all, I have learned to get my shine on and dance through life as if my experience on this earth has been a skip through a meadow of wildflowers and not a plunge into an abominable pit of hot coals, employing grace and dignity at all times when tears mar the vision, but faith carries me forward through the downpour.

“Goodnight, sweet prince”

famous quotes about death, (1)“Goodnight, sweet prince.”

At 4 a.m., the last night that our ailing cat Cliff spent in our house, the feeble, lethargic cat, rallied and howled beneath my son Marshall’s bed. In his 16-plus years, he never did this before. My son knew it was his finale. Gently he lifted Cliff up next to him in bed and before their final slumber together, Marshall bid him farewell, whispering, “Goodnight, sweet prince.”

Cliff died later that day, and peace and contentment shrouded Marshall. This was nothing short of a miracle. Over these past years, more times than not, my son, wounded from his best friend’s premature death and his father’s abandonment, would echo things like “I can never live without Cliff.” “I’d kill myself if anything ever happened to Cliff.”

In awe of God’s grace, I recognized the poignancy of my son’s suffering; how the ultimate design, jagged, unraveling, wildly unpredictable, is so beautifully  executed, detailed to a fault, in the Weaver’s hands.

Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

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Cliff Lytwyn Maxwell ~ July 4, 1997 ~ January 28, 2014

Stay tuned!…until next time….Faith forward!

Thank you angels

In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.  Job 12:10

Okay it’s been over a month. We are in the middle of Thanksgiving weekend. I can talk about it now. Our beloved French poodle Crouton who has been my anchor through these crisis-filled years, my number one (ok, number three after my kids) cheerleader, my coach, my shadow, my angel passed away peacefully at home on October 17, 2013.

DoggieCropped

Instead of dwelling on Crouton’s passing, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I have been thinking about a few of the people, angels, who soared into my life and lifted me up at the times I was at my most pancake position. For instance, about a week before his death, I had informed the staff at Waggies, Crouton’s grooming salon at the time, that my doggie had a cancerous tumor. I almost did not call the salon because of his bloody wound, but I wanted my dog to look his astute best during the critical period.

The salon’s owner Ellen told me to come right down with Crouton. The minute we walked throug the door, Ellen and Lisa, my doggie’s groomer, showered us with empathy and consolation. Despite his open bloody tumor, without hesitation, Lisa washed him and clipped him gently and speedily. Two hours later, his spruced up look was just the boost I needed. Like a rite of passage, on his way through the doorway of death, the groomer kissed him on the middle, then the tip of the nose. In a very odd way, the time we spent together was like celebrating sadness.

The week after, feeling glum about Crouton’s deteriorating condition, exiting the supermarket in the middle of a torrential downpour, a man about my age made the mad dash to get his groceries into his car. Following behind, I started to pile my bags into the way back of my SUV when the man’s kindly face came into full view. He positioned the remainder of my groceries into my car, and even took my shopping carriage back to the front of the store. I knew God had sent his messenger to let me know he had not abandoned me.

Meanwhile, through Crouton’s death process, my friends, including Pat, Camille and Michelle, partook in the journey; probably helped prevent a few major falls as I did trip. A couple of weeks after his death, my dear friend Michelle arrived at my door with a homemade meal. It has been one of those days when the house felt particularly empty and big. MsBread

“It’s so quiet without Crouty,” my son had said when he came home from work.MsChickenSoup

The emptiness in our living space was instantly filled with the aroma of the chicken soup and bread that Michelle had walked in with that night. Her entrance and exit was brisk, but her appearance had not only given us the faith we needed at the moment, but had a lifelong effect on us, like so many others that I had encountered through the trying time. In the emptiness of our hearts and our home, God filled the barrenness with His love, manifested through the human touch.

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Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!

And the seasons go round and round….

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

February032012 012Last week in my mind I scheduled an appointment on Thursday for my beloved French poodle Crouton to be euthanized. His tumor bled. He did not eat. He threw up. I was distraught.  Loving him so deeply for the last 10 years of his life, Crouton’s eventual demise was a poisonous thought that I allowed into my mind on very limited occasions.

The week was full of lots of emotional unrest; I realized that this was a first for me. Thirteen years ago, my dad died in my arms after a long battle of emphysema at the hospital, then a couple of years later I lost my brother to a stroke, but I never had to deal with a pet’s death before. The last time I lost a pet was an old cat Rocky about 26 years ago. During my earlier years, I was spared by my father who had the task at hand to put down my cats.

‘I’d take it a second at a time. I’d take it as it unfolded,” I told myself while daunting images of Crouton’s sad eyes magnifying into my heart as if to ask ‘why mommy, why are you forsaking me?’ shot through my consciousness like inescapable darts.

Through thick and thin, through lots of comings and goings and lots of changes, over these last ten years, Crouton never changed. Not in appearance and not in companionship. At the end stretch of my marriage, on one of the last nights that my then husband and I would share the same house, my then husband brought Crouton into the bedroom, and handed him to me.

“Why don’t you take him to bed with you tonight?”

“I will,” I replied, knowing that the sad truth was, I preferred Crouton’s company above his; and, admittedly, Crouton was my preferred companion over many other people in my life and sometimes, yes, even over the kids on a few difficult occasions. Everyone did wrong; I would joke, but never Crouton. When my world rotated off the axis, Crouton symbolized my safety net.

He was my Velcro. Ever mindful of falling over him, he was like my third shoe. He knew me more intimately than any human. He never abandoned me the times I spent bawling behind closed doors in my office or bedroom. Through good and bad and the rainbow of life in between, he was my stronghold. I always thought, if I took him on a boat and threw myself overboard, he would wait until I reappeared…or die waiting. As far as I am concerned, a human can’t hold a candle to a dog’s loyalty.

On the other side of the dog bone, I mean coin, to Crouton, I represented his pork chop as I sometimes joked about his love towards me. He was totally dependent on me for his livelihood. Feeding, walking, trips to the vet and the salon, coordinating alternative travel arrangements when I hit the road, nuisances these responsibilities were sometimes, but the motivation behind these acts was one hundred percent unconditional love; and, in return, I got so much more.

Whether a long day or a short hour, whenever I came home, it was a bang of a celebration. Crouton maintained his usual welcome: jubilant, barking, and twisting around me. He puffed up my ego bigger than Alaska and California, bigger than outer space, because every day in Crouton’s eyes, I could do no wrong in his world either. I was his prized pork chop, and as far as he was concerned, that was the only Academy Award to achieve that mattered. To grieve so intensely last week made sense.

Oddly enough, right after my dearest friend Pat said, “He’s a tough dog,” while she was dog sitting Crouton last week, he rallied. He ate! He took a short walk! And, thankfully, in my mind I nixed the vet’s Thursday appointment. It was a miracle I announced to my friend Anne at church this past Sunday, a miracle! Crouton would live, and everything would be back to normal.

Here we are a week later; Crouton has again stopped eating. He throws up and has withered away so suddenly. His breathing is labored. He has given up, as if saying, “It’s time, mommy.  We can do this, peacefully.”

Somehow those miracle days of him rallying grounded me. I am able to exhale normally again. And between not accepting Crouton’s impending death, fighting and resisting, I am at the stage of acceptance. Earlier tonight with no one home, we had our alone time. I cradled him in my arms and just wept, begging, crying, “Please don’t go. Please don’t go.”

Then I realized, Crouton, while we forged ahead, the dog that we used to call the “dancing dog” had lost his bop, hop and boogie spirit very, very slowly. Since August 16, 2013 when the doctor diagnosed his tumor, he faded like summer’s end into fall.  I know in total faith his season has arrived.

My tears diminished. The dog that lay in my arms was just a coat, emptied, worn down of each beautiful fiber.  The moment marked a span of forty seasons that began when we rescued a poodle, and he rescued us by dancing into our lives, making each step worth the effort.

“It’s time, Crouton. We can do this, peacefully,” I whispered.

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Stay tuned!…until next time…faith forward!