Single Parent Faith

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Break in Paris

The intermittent cold blustery winds, amidst the sprinkling rain- it was a marvelous March experience. There were moments where it hailed smaller than pea-size pellets, just long enough to sip a few smooth gulps of my cafe ole. I watched from the inside of a cafe, as umbrellas magically opened, covering the sea of pedestrians. Moments earlier there were no umbrellas in sight, as people busily bustled about. Momentary slivers of sleet, tapping the sidewalks, as I struggled to retrieve my travel size umbrella. By the time I managed to open it, the sleet was gone. The remainder of the day was beautiful, sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy, but what the heck, I was in Paris!

How could you even have a bad day?....In Paris. This magical moment did not escape me. The weather would not deter me from enjoying this ordinary spring Paris day. To me, it was everything but ordinary. What is it about observing an ordinary day, with extra-ordinary intent? The littlest things, did not evade my notice. The street sounds, were not familiar. Ambulance and Police sirens were as foreign a sound as the the bits and pieces of French conversations drifting by my Texas twang tuned ears. The walking we undertook, could be described as very wakeful. My ears and eyes, were atuned to my surroundings- Soaking in all the different and new, while even the familiar drew my attention. I was in awe of this very moment where I existed on the Paris streets, as an ordinary pedestrian among all the rest.

Periodically I scanned the sky, drawing in the softly painted sparse clouds. The blue appeared just as the blue I see in Texas. Yet there was a different glow when the sun set. My eyes absorbed the beauty one early evening as I caught the distant glimmer of the horizon, slowly fading as it was overtaken by a striking blue hue. I rushed to try to capture this work of God's art, only to find my lack of camera skills getting in the way of doing it justice.

I slowly lingered, as I passed a boulangerie or patisserie. The desserts were quite simply, works of art unto themselves. I could never wander by without paying the proper respect due to every colorful and artistically decorated pastry! My stare, longing and resistant to rushing, tried to soak in the beauty, as if to permanently sear it in my mind.

The obvious pride quite evident in the presentation. When I couldn't merely walk on by, I would stop and order a dessert to go. The care taken to delicately wrap it up, was a treat to observe. The to go container consisted of soft pastels depicting a scene straight from a child's fairy tale. I marveled at the simplicity, and yet fanciful wrappings of an item which would soon be consumed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Making Memories

With the onset of the hustle and bustle of every day life, it is so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of our lives and lose sight of having fun. Sometimes we are too busy rushing to stop for a moment and observe, or soak in the moment. The other morning my daughter and I were running late, as is usually the case around our home during the weekdays. I was very uptight and kept prodding her to focus on doing only what was necessary to get out of the house.

After finishing breakfast she began to get her children’s gummy bear vitamins out of their container. I told her that since we were running late she would have to take them on our way to school, rather than stand there chewing one vitamin at a time. There were about 6 to chew. When you are running late, even the anticipation of waiting for a child’s every chomp, knashing each individual gushy gummy bear, appears like an eternity rather than seconds. She agreed to take them with her. Then she reached for a paper towel, and retrieved a magic marker and proceeded to write in large letters, on the towel. Each letter appeared to be formed with such intent, that I could feel the clock ticking. Okay, so I was feeling very impatient.

At this point I’m thinking, “We are already late! This is way too much! This kid needs to learn time management!” Just then, I couldn’t take it anymore and was about to blurt out something like “ I thought I told you that we are running late. We don’t have time to...” When, my eyes, following her concentrated hand movements, were forced to see what was really going on here. This wonderful child of mine was writing: “Vitamins. Take after breakfast.” As I stared at her, I couldn’t help but smile when I realized that she was doing something so very much like what my dad would do. He lives over 2,000 miles away in NYC. Remarkably she's not around her grand-pa enough to have picked up on this by observation. It was heartwarming and at the same time humorous to see my Dad’s genes coming out in her. He is very much one to write instructions to himself. I continued to smile as I realized further that my older sister is the same way about writing down instructions.

I continued to observe, as my daughter carefully positioned her vitamins in a row on the paper, as she asked me “Did you take your calcium pills yet?” I sheepishly admitted “No, not yet.” She responded with excitement: “I know! Every morning I can put your calcium pills and my vitamins on this paper towel so we won’t forget to take them!” “What a great idea!” I exclaimed with a smile. The kind of smile that originates from deep within the heart, when one realizes something very pure and loving about the miraculous moment one is in the midst of observing. This very scene could have so easily turned out differently, had I continued in my stressful rush and impatient inner dialogue. Yes we were late. Yes, that is certainly a fact. But what a waste of a beautiful moment, had I, obsessing over that fact, not allowed myself to see what was in front of me. I had a window before me, allowing me to learn something new about my 9 year old. I would have missed it entirely had I allowed the curtains of impatience to blind me. This would have stopped her dead in her tracks before she had a chance to display her concern and care for me.

In this moment I saw how thoughtful and sweet my child is. How organized and detailed she is. How methodical and instructionally oriented she is. How she did listen to me when I told her to take her vitamins after breakfast. Had I lost my patience, I would not have allowed her to complete playing out this moment. In this moment, we both created a memory and I was there to soak it all in. Only with a peaceful countenance could I have allowed this moment to play out uninterrupted. Giving her the chance to be herself, and me the chance to observe this morsel of a memorable moment. I won’t forget how she looked as she concentrated while writing on the napkin, without knowing that I was watching her, with loving eyes soaking her in.

Memories are simple moments observed. Memories don’t have to be super fantastic, Fourth of July displays of action-filled momentum. Those are very memorable too. But face it; you can’t have these every day. But quiet observances are like little miracles you can have available to you throughout the day. A sprinkling of smile generating, heart-warming moments consistently accompanying us every day, are only ours if we are willing to soak these moments in. If we stop to be present to what’s already unfolding before us.

Sometimes memories, like this one, are created during moments of spontaneity. But also, memories can be made by taking some time to plan something special. In either case, it takes intentionality to put it into motion. We need to be more intentional with making memories. Life is too beautiful, and short, to allow it to slip out of our grasp. If we live our lives with intention, we don’t let life slip by us. We are present to the “moments” of this very special life, granted to us.

Often I’ve heard it said, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a present." We should see every day as a present granted to us; not to be taken for granted. But rather to be lived as intentionally as possible, to get the most out of it. Being present to your present, is the miracle you can witness on a daily basis. Because in the unfolding of the moment, the blessing will arrive.

Have you ever seen a child eat an icicle stick, the frozen flavored ice in a long rectangular plastic wrapper? Every pass of their tongue over that icicle is a celebration of the taste buds. They smile as they soak in the flavor. When they get to the very bottom of the wrapper, and you think the entire frozen icicle is gone, they are still actively slurping, looking for the very last drop of the sweet juice. They don’t give up easily. They keep licking until it is all licked dry. The delight on their face is apparent, long after the icicle is gone. They enjoyed every moment of that icicle stick. They were intentional in every lick. Every lick had purpose; the purpose of savoring the icicle. They don’t slam it down, leaving no trace of memory or flavor. Long after finishing it, they have clear evidence on their face, that they had an icicle and enjoyed it, to boot! Such is the way we should be with living our lives. Moments with our loved ones, with our friends, or new people coming into our lives, should be greeted with great intent and savoring, lest they be gone and we have no trace of having shared a memory.

The life which we are given, is like a gift that we unwrap day by day, discovering within every day, a seed, spurning us on to grow, and learn something new that will help evolve us into what God intends us to be. Part of that intention is gratitude for the gifts we receive. Gratitude for the memories we intentionally set about to create. What better gratitude than to honor and appreciate each moment we are gifted the opportunity to live. Why not be focused and present to the moment, so we can create a memory that lasts a lifetime?

This memory happened for me some 5 years ago. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Firstly because I wrote it down (in my journal), but also because I took the time to observe and allow this instant to become a memory I treasure. Let’s be more like children and savor the present moment. By doing so we preserve these moments into memories. Here’s to making a lifetime of memories, one moment at a time!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Solitary Utah Moment

Delicate Arch, Utah
Driving into the Canyon Lands,Utah, my senses immersed in the awe of naturally formed arches, deep red rock formations, and rustling trees with scattered yellow-golden hues, caused me to stop often to soak in the richness of this color.

Arriving at Elephant Hill, I embarked on the trail by foot. I didn’t know what to anticipate, but was eager to see what lay at path’s end. Quickly it became quite a challenge navigating through an unmarked path. Me, a city girl, made it even more interesting. I made my best guesses, sprinkled with some common sense, and managed to stumble upon an incredibly beautiful view. I sat on a huge rock for a long quiet while, allowing it all to permeate my senses. Spanning for miles, I saw what looked like dark red sprouting bulbous columns with white-capped mushrooms.

It was amazing how quiet it was there, except for the wind rushing past my ears. The occasional vulture flying overhead broke the silence. I sat there enjoying the scrumptious raspberry muffins the innkeepers thoughtfully packed for me.

Contemplation gave rise to the conclusion, that in God’s natural landscape there is nothing but beauty. Even in the apparent flaw or accident, perfection arises. In the shearing of a cliff or mountain, witnessed by the imperfect cuts of every rock, a random beauty emerges. Immersed in admiration of this masterpiece, breathing in its tranquility, feeling the coolness of the breeze gently brushing me, I too felt part of God’s brush stroke.

For a long moment, I was outside of my familiar internal self-absorption. I felt a quiet humility as the observer of such majesty. Surely there is intention in God's universe to have created such a beautiful landscape. My attention was to the miracle surrounding me. I returned to thoughts of myself, here intentionally placed at this precise moment, to be in quiet observation and meditation. I could feel His presence in this moment which led me to such a place. It was a nagging urging, which instigated me on a whim, to take a flight to Utah(A place I've never been). But as I sat there silently contemplating the beauty I came to understand, God has intention in everything, including my brief presence within this landscape. For an instant, forever seared into my heart, exists a moment when I, a temporary mist, was part of this panorama. The sensory overload of these thoughts, the awe provoking view, and caressing dancing winds, inspired euphoria from which I exclaimed: "Thank you God for creating such beauty, and placing me here today, to celebrate this awesome world of yours!"