Sunday, March 09, 2014

By Their Ashes...

It is Lent.

In the Episcopal church, as in many others, we gather to literally mark the season with the "disposition of ashes." This year, Ash Wednesday was preceded by a storm bringing us several inches of snow. Many of us had been home on Monday & Tuesday, Mardi Gras festivities had been canceled and we had gone to work knowing that our Lenten fasts were imminent. The church parking lot filled. We greeted each other, our cabin fever relieved, the solemnity of Lent just moments away.

In the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6: 1 - 6, 16 - 21), Jesus reminds us that we should "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them..." So then, why walk out of the church wearing a smudge of ash? Isn't that like praying "at the street corners, so that they [we] may be seen by others"? Our priest asked just that question during the sermon. No, really, he asked so that we would answer right then, right there.

Our answers: a mark of piety, reminder of our mortality, being part of a community, a sign to other believers, etc.

Following the sermon, the service continued with the priest reading from the prayerbook, "I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer." Kneeling, a cross of ashes was smudged on our foreheads. Marked. Known to each other as Followers of Jesus. Reminded of the cycle - from dust, to dust. I looked at my brothers and sisters, foreheads proclaiming their allegiance, there were so many of us. We prayed and then, we walked back out into the world.

The next morning I washed my face and prepared for work. The visible mark was gone. No one would know I'd had palm ash on my forehead the night before. I wouldn't know if people I met on Thursday had also worn the mark the day before. In my community, there's no secret handshake, no lapel pin, no special haircut to identify each other. My mark was gone, how would another Christian know that I'm one, too? I briefly visualized a glow that would happen when Christians came near each other, sort of like how the light in my Prius comes on when the key fob gets close enough. Wouldn't that be great?

Should the short-lived ashen mark be just an outward sign of the long-term mark on my heart? The inward grace of God's unconditional love shining from me, not so unlike the light in my Prius? I have these forty days of Lent to contemplate the incredible gift of Jesus' life among us, contemplate His teaching me to keep the divine light lit, teaching me to glow in such a way that others might see God's love and want to reach for it, too. And if my light fades, I hope that when you come near me with your own little key fob of God's grace marked on your heart, my heart will recognize it and my light will strengthen and glow brighter once again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Little Tea From a Little Tea Pot

It's chilly and damp today. The kind of day I want to curl up under a blanket, read a good book and sip a cup of tea. So, I'm home from work. I've got my flannel pajama pants on, book at the ready and my tea is steeping.

The tea pot I'm using once belonged to my mother-in-law. It's small, just big enough for one mug-full. I love thinking of her taking a few moments to put the kettle on, choose her tea, fill the pot and wait a bit. I wonder if she threw a towel over it to act as a cozy? Or maybe she used an oven mitt like I do sometimes.

Ready to pour out. Usually, I like my tea "black." Sometimes I use honey. Always I love warming my hands around the mug. I think of some chilly afternoons in Ireland, traveling with my mother-in-law in the land of her birth. Memories built. Now, memories to share.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Ah-ha Moments

I took a walk lunchtime walk today. The sky was perfectly blue. The air was neither hot nor cold. The breeze was an unnecessary, but lovely, bonus. It was one of those amazing late summer days we so often take for granted.

Gena's Garden is in late summer shambles. The perennials are overgrown, in need of serious pruning. But today, I was there to enjoy all the life the garden contains. Iridescent green flies, little orange moths and tiger swallowtail butterflies were busy among the hydrangeas and the butterfly bush blooms. I had my camera today and took a few pictures. I wanted to get a nice butterfly shot.

A black and yellow butterfly landed on the purple blossom and I started to focus. Wait, there was something a little off about that butterfly... the bottom wing on its left side was missing, totally gone! Should I wait for a better butterfly?

I started to feel a little ashamed. Would I think a photo ruined if a human being without the usual number of limbs wandered into my viewfinder? Wouldn't I see the person, not the "disability"? So, why would I avoid taking a picture of this butterfly?

The butterfly stopped at several blossoms, gliding masterfully through the leaves and stems of the plants. How did it fly with that wing gone? It sure wasn't crying about the loss, it continued to do what butterflies do, flit around and collect nectar!

Enjoy this stalwart butterfly. They seem fragile, this one even seems broken. And yet, it carries on. We're all broken - some of us more visibly broken than others. Carry on. I will practice thinking you're beautiful the first time I see you!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Flowers for a Funeral... Too Soon

She was a teenager. And now, she'll always be a teenager. A community came together this evening to share the bits and pieces we knew of her time with us. The picture that emerged is shadowed by shock at her leaving us. We were reluctant to talk of the troubles, the struggles. Instead, we spoke of huge hugs, the "million-watt smile," the talents not often shown, the insightful conversations. Someone mentioned the shooting star that was her life and how we were all lucky to have seen it.

I got the message earlier this week. There would be a funeral and it was my week for flower duty. My flower partner and I came to the same conclusion... a pastel color palate would not do. "Our" girlie was not the sort for pink. I started to search "punk flowers" and "goth flowers" to get ideas. 

Music was a good subject of conversation for her and me. We each listened to music the other had never heard, and likely, would never hear! She liked death metal, I like bluegrass. We met somewhere in the middle with Celtic punk and had a great laugh when we discovered Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Chili Peppers and Chilli Pipers - this was on my mind when I placed the flower order: 
red roses, dark purple carnations, purple asters, purple statice, red alstromeria, red coxcomb (celosia), purple snapdragons, purple stock, fern, pittisporum and... 1 bunch of chili peppers.

Alas, the wholesaler was out of the chili peppers. I smiled, she would know I tried.

So today, I was privileged to design funeral flowers, deep red and purple flowers. How I wish they'd been wedding flowers. How I wish we'd shared the goth flower conversation. I am blessed to be in the group of people who loved her, people who will share the memory of that fleeting, sparkling, marvelous, impossible-to-hold-or-slow-down shooting star.

Friday, March 08, 2013


It was "Wax Museum" day at the school. Black History Month research led to biographies of some well-known and not-so-well-known African Americans. Students then memorized a short presentation, dressed as their subjects and became animated figures in the class wax museum.

Visitors to the museum walked up to a figure and pressed the red construction paper "start button." The student figures recited biographies of David Blackwell, Maya Angelou, Mae Jemison, Jackie Robinson and many others.

On one desk was a hastily written note next to the start button. "Out of order." Nearby sat a miserable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Although his speech was well rehearsed, this wax figure had melted into a puddle of nervous despair. The sign was a genuine expression of emotion. I smiled, offered a little encouragement and moved on, hoping that Dr. King might make an appearance later.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, my office friend and I looked up to see Dr. King stride into the room and sit in a chair. I pressed the start button and the wax figure literally jumped to life. Facts were stated in a confident voice and then, the wax figure smiled.

The message from our wax figure today was more than information about a famous American. It was about allowing others to see real emotion and then trusting the support offered. Pretty brave thing to write that sign. Even braver to allow someone to help with the repair.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Backyard Nature Study

July 28

 We knew when she started building the nest that we'd have a "boarder" for about a month. Here are some photos of the robin family who grew up on our deck.

When the babies left the nest, I felt again the maternal pride of a job well done and maternal fear of lost control. The parent birds hover for a few days, supplementing the chicks' self-feeding and protecting them from predators.

My own three chicks have left the nest. They don't need my hovering. Indeed, they're building their own nests and raising their own young. What a luxury to have years to raise our chicks. What a blessing to watch that circle go around and applaud the efforts of my fledglings!

July 28

Aug. 6 - Two Hatchlings
See the tiny bills at the edge of the nest?

Pausing to check out the photographer

Aug. 6, Feeding Two

August 7, Three Chicks

August 8

August 8, Three Hungry Chicks

August 11, Eyes Open, Feathers

August 13, Nest is filling up.

August 13, Getting Stronger

August 14, Very Crowded Nest!

They grow so fast! August 14

Upset Parent - Wants the photographer OUT of the way!

Almost Ready to Fledge - August 14

August 15 - Fly, baby, fly! (Ok, glide!!)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Checking In!

I got a message the other day that someone had left a comment on a blog post! Wow! Someone is still reading my dormant blog? I'm so awful at keeping up a with journals, diaries, blogs.

While talking to a friend this weekend I remarked that I sometimes wish I could remember how it really felt to be ...... fill in the blank with an age. Following through on those old journals or diaries might have given me the insight I wished for. I kind of doubt it, though. Those efforts were more like calendar entries than a record of my feelings. To be honest, I doubt I will ever record my deepest feelings.

Here are some photos to catch you up on a few feelings, though...

Grammy Love


Relief... Melanoma In Situ, Stage 0




Wasn't that me just yesterday?

Visiting the Past - Cabo Rojo, PR

Pride - Flowers Arranged for a Wedding

Grammy's Heart Has Melted

Feeling the Love

Invitation to Peace