Here and Now

Spring peeks through red-tinged tree tops.170304_111836_COLLAGE-1

She inches her way onto the scene, unfolding in delicate hues of green.  In the purple of the crocus and the vibrant yellow of the daffodil, I am reminded of the inevitable.

Winter is coming to a close.

A few more snow storms may descend upon the northern lands and temperatures may remain low for a while, but Spring, and all of her bird songs and blossoms is waiting just behind the curtain, eager for her time front and center.

And know this.

I have hated her subtle entrance for years.  I cannot tell you how many crocuses I have cursed; how many tender, young leaves I have despised. In truth I am a Winter creature who grieves in Spring the  arrival of Summer and the dreaded heat that accompanies it.

In the last few months, I have been practicing mindfulness, striving to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now. And so it happened.  On a walk with my dogs, a cluster of purple crocuses engaged me in true delight!  Yes, in that mindful moment the beautiful Spring bulb that gives most people hope that winter will soon end, graced me with joy.

The Apostle Paul, in the close of his letter to the Philippians, gives thanks to God for their “renewed concern” for him.  “I am not saying this because I am in need,” he tells them, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul learned in his ministry how to be content in the here and now.  He understood that in putting one’s trust in God he could make it through anything.   As we move further into Lent, a time of personal reflection, may we continue to draw on that same promise.

Remain with me here.  And now.  With our eyes on God, hearts rooted in Christ, and souls nourished by the Holy Spirit.

From Girl to Woman

The media has been diligently documenting  the evolution of Miley Cyrus, child star from the Disney show, Hannah Montanamiley

I wasn’t overly shocked by her performance at the 2013 MTV Music Awards, but was disheartened with her recent music video, “Wrecking Ball”, in which she sways naked on, but of course, a wrecking ball and seductively swings, strokes and licks a sledge hammer.

Miley Cyrus is taking great strides at separating herself from the All-American Girl, Hannah Montana, as she moves into being her own woman.

Many girls, even outside of Hollywood, have taken this same pathway from girl to woman.   The young girl, body maturing, longs to be seen as sexually desirable. I get that.  My own understanding of being a woman in my late teens (and sometimes even now in my 40’s) was intimately tied to being sexy and beautiful.

Sandy from GreaseConsider the musical, Grease.

I love the sound track and definitely enjoyed my very minor part in our high school production of it.   But I am forever saddened with the dramatic transformation of main character, Sandy.

To finally get her man, she is persuaded into dressing seductively.  Olivia Newton-John, who plays Sandy, even provides a bit of tongue action when Danny, played by John Travolta, first spots the hot, new her. (Yes, long before Miley… the tongue thing has been done!)

My funny, talented, beautiful daughter turned 13 this past week.

As her body changes from child to adolescent to young woman, I am hyper vigilant about encouraging her to defy main stream definitions and to be her own young woman.  We discuss transformations like Miley Cyrus’ and ponder other ways the star’s emergence into adulthood could have taken place.   Perhaps it will be impossible, but I hope to help her avoid many of the body image traps I fell into at her age and struggle with still.

For both my daughter and my teenage son, I want them to know the joy of sex but to not be defined, judged or measured by how sexual they can be. I want them to love their bodies and to ignore the often impossible standards set before them by the media and the world of entertainment.

I want most of all for my children to intimately know themselves.

I long for them to realize and celebrate their gifts and skills using them for the betterment and healing of the world.

I desire for my children to know what they value (creativity? friendships? service? trust?) and to live by those values.

I hope they will have a sense of the Holy in their lives: to know for themselves what brings them peace and what enables them to not only survive, but to move through difficult times; to have a spiritual connection to the Divine, self and others.

As I was finishing up this post today,  I turned on the radio to hear for first time More Beautiful You by Jonny Diaz.   I love the chorus:

There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you

I don’t know Miley Cyrus…at all.  And perhaps I misunderstand her evolution.  But for a young woman who turns 21 next month, I suspect that she is only beginning to define and know herself.

In her journey,

in my children’s as they mature into adults,

in mine as I accept being middle-aged,

in yours,

may we trust that we are far more than sexual beings.

We are spiritual creatures capable of loving unconditionally, transforming pain, extending our hands and hearts to those in need, and dispelling hatred.  We are not only capable, but are called to do these things and so much more.

Know and believe that

You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do!

Do You Know Your Way Home?

homeIt is a common occurrence among those with dementia.

Typically in the early stages, especially when the individual is still mobile, he or she has this strong urge to go home, even when they are already in their own house.

I witnessed this twice today while visiting with a hospice patient in a memory care facility. The first person was a lovely, adorable woman in her late 80’s.  Her white hair was beautifully set and her outfit, stylish as she walked swiftly despite her hunched back.  Upon passing by she graciously greeted me by saying, “I am going home…as soon as I rest for a while.”  The woman announced this to others gathered around and, after sitting in a chair a moment or two, proceeded outside.  There in the gated garden she made her way safely down the path and eventually back inside by another door.  As far as anyone else was concerned, she was home, once again.

The second individual was an elderly man waiting at the gate to the parking lot.  It was unclear at first if he was a family member, unsure of how to exit, or a resident hoping to slip out with a departing visitor.  To ensure that I did not let a resident escape (God forbid!) I engaged him in conversation before punching in the access code.

With a shaving kit securely in hand, he told me, “I’ve got to get home to Eugene!”  Though I knew better, I assured him he was already in Eugene. “Yes,” he replied, “but did you know that there are two Eugenes?”  Of course there are.  Eugene, where he once lived, couldn’t possibly be the place where he was now, lost in a world of dementia.  He was clearly NOT home.

So what does it mean,” I  considered on the ride home, “to be home?

Barring any memory troubles, when do we know we are finally home?

While living in the Netherlands in my youth, I found the word “gezellig” difficult to translate into a single English equivalent. It can mean cozy, homey, convivial [new word for me meaning (of an atmosphere or event) friendly, lively, and enjoyable], sociable, and snug to list a few definitions.  “Gezellig” seemed to be used most often when describing someone’s home…or at least that’s when I used it.  In my mind it described a place where I was welcomed and could most be myself.

And for me, that’s what it means to “be home,” to be in a place where I am welcomed for who I am.

Home is where my body, mind, and spirit are secure and at rest.  It’s a space that is often found in unexpected places: in a truly welcoming place of worship, on a secluded beach, in an Aspen grove, beside a brook, at a gathering of dear friends.

As I age, I am learning that the deeper I go spiritually, the better I am at uncovering those hidden, “gezellig” places where I feel most at home.  And even more than that, as my faith matures, I realize that ultimately home really IS where the heart is…right inside of me.   If I can be secure and at rest in my own skin, this temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), I just might find home to be around every corner.

Working in hospice, it’s inevitable that you will develop a fear of at least one terminal illness. Dementia, especially Alzheimer’s Disease, is mine.

Should that disease be the path I must walk, I pray that I will somehow always find my way home.

May you  find your way home, too!




Go Ahead—Struggle

Today’s Spiritual Prescription:


StruggleThere is something to be said about struggle.

As a baby comes through the birth canal, it may struggle to make its entry into the world, but being moved through such a tight space assures the child will have minimal fluid on its lungs when it takes that first breath.

Babies born by cesarean section, however, are at a greater risk of transient tachypnea (rapid and labored breathing) because the struggle to come through that narrow passage was avoided.

Yes.  To struggle can be a good thing.  And yet, we naturally prefer to avert it.  Certainly understandable.  Most people really rather not experience hardship.  Birth canal be damned!

But that’s not how life works.  In fact, life can often suck.  Big time.  In hospice, I meet individuals who have encountered the uglier sides of life.  I hear unbelievable, heartbreaking stories on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Amazingly, what I also hear in those stories of hardship are the epilogues of how  individuals rose up out of the ashes.  They were the ones who risked the vulnerability in reaching out to others, who shared about and processed their grief/loss/brokenness, and in turn helped others up out of their own ruins.

And with that…here’s your Spiritual Prescription:



Be open to experiencing pain, loss, sadness or any other such crappy miseries.

Risk loving—with the chance of losing that which you have loved.  Risk going beyond your comfort zone—with the strong possibility of failure.  Take a chance on doing what you believe is right—even if you learn later that you were wrong.

Already “been there, done that” you say?

Then consider this:

Is there a past struggle that you are avoiding, ignoring, or keeping buried deep with in you?yellow rose

Is it a pain you’ve caused someone else?  A mistake or regret that you’d rather not face? Or perhaps harm caused to you that your harbor deep within?

Are you afraid to face the pain?  Are you attempting to drown out a loss or tragedy with too much work, recklessness, or self-medication (food, drugs, alcohol, sex, t.v.)?

Anais Nin once wrote,  “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

 Struggle, but don’t remain there.

Don’t become bitter and close yourself off—remaining tight in that bud—because of past sufferings or in fear of new struggles. Allow yourself to open to the possibility of healing. Push through the darkness and into the light that you might reach out to others in return.

A bit of scripture to go along with your prescription:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Blessings to you in the struggle!

Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part III: Be Mindful

Living in the desert, my family and I were fairly quick to learn that you have to pay attention.  The environment demands it.

Working in my back yard of brick and rocks, for instance, meant keeping my eyes on the ground scanning constantly for spiky Mesquite branches or even just the thorns that had fallen out of my neighbor’s tree.

In the desert, night time strolls are foolishly done without a flashlight to quickly spot the rattlesnakes, gila monsters and scorpions that might be enjoying the cool night as well.  cactus spinesDay or night you must be mindful of the terrain so as to not brush up against an agave, ocotillo or cactus  eager to share its spines or glochida. It took too many accidents before I finally wised up and moved two potted cacti on my deck to the front yard.  I simply couldn’t seem to avoid brushing a hand or arm across them while tending to other more benevolent plants.

I have never lived anywhere where I needed to be so observant in my environment. Out of sheer desire to not be poked, stabbed, stuck, stung or bitten, I had to be mindful.

And so the third spiritual lesson from the desert emerges:

Mindfulness shouldn’t be reserved for safe passage, whether through a dangerous part of town or an unforgiving land.

We should be aware and mindful at ALL times—aware of our actions and reactions to those around us; conscious of the subtle blessings in our midst; mindful of our habits and hang ups that keep us from spiritually maturing.

We must have the sheer desire to not miss the opportunities and beauty that surround us.

Begin today. Open your eyes, your ears—Open ALL your senses. Notice the splendor to be shared and the deep needs to be met.  Notice the brokenness to be mended and the injustices to be challenged.

Be alert, not just for dangers, but for life’s unexpected wonders that await us all.