Soul Songs #23

He Knew

 

She looked downward, as if that could hide the tears that were about to fall.

She reached and put her hand on her heart to calm its racing.

He knew what to do.

He rose to join her.

His long stride quickly reached her side.

He gently put his arm around her.

She looked up.

They both smiled as their eyes met.

She returned to the task at hand with him by her side.

She still cried but she knew she could go on.

They both knew she could have done it without him there too, of course.

She did not need him.

She loved him, and there’s a difference.

They were stronger together.

They would never need to question.

They both knew.

And they always would.

Soul Songs #22

Parables of Love, Part III:

How Great Thou Art, A Lesson in Song

The sun shone through the time-streaked bay windows in the small chapel, appearing to reflect directly off the lawn’s morning dew upward to light the room. The space was cramped and decorated, if you could call it that, with only in browns and other shades that appeared to have transformed in the way aged pages yellow.

Dust particles danced in the sunlight.

A small upright piano stood in the center of the room, appearing out of place in the barren room. A few folding chairs, a small makeshift podium, and a bouquet of plastic flowers were the only other items in the room.

“So depressing,” she whispered to herself as she set up her music.

He had left this place nearly two years ago but it looked just as it had when she last said goodbye. She shuddered thinking about it, but still she’d agreed to do this. She had a feeling he’d want her to. Papa always loved to hear her sing.

She made a final mark on her sheet music and set the copy out for the accompanist before she sat down to wait and collect her thoughts. Eyes closed, as in meditation, her silent prayer called on the pure loving universe to fill her with the spirit of love and compassion, for her song to reach all the way to her dear papa, wherever he may be, and for her soul to be filled by His love as she sang His praise.

The room had begun to fill. Wheelchairs rolled in one at a time with the frail and infirm beginning to form an audience. A few residents made it in and slowly found a seat on their own with little support. She realized how long this was going to take and knew she could never just sit there as they all began to fill in to see her.

“Well, of course, they’re not here to see me,” she thought. Shaking her head with a smile she stood to begin mingling. “They’re here for their church services, for time out of their rooms, for a chance to sit in the sun. …not unlike me, really,” she concluded.

Several smiles, handshakes, and a few hugs later, they all joined in prayer and gave thanks for their time together. They listened to words of hope and thanksgiving. There was no lesson. There was no admonishment. There was only love.

Her heart was full by the time she stood to sing. And it was magical.

“Oh Lord my God, when I, in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,” her voice carried and seemed to lift beyond her. She would never be able to explain it but it was more than her voice. She was only the vehicle.

“I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed… .”

Bright blue eyes met hers with a steady gaze as the chorus began. An unspoken agreement was made and soon the two of them were singing in unison.

The sun had completed its ascent and its light now filled the room. She could not help but smile as it warmed her skin. She felt so alive.

“Then sings my soul, my savior, God, to Thee. How great Thou art!”

She was transported, some sort of electrical current seemed to enfolding and uplift her. Everyone was signing by the final chorus, even those who’d seemed unable to speak as she’d mingled earlier. She’d never experienced anything like this. All voices commingled in joyful shouts of acclamation. And those bright blue eyes reminded her so much of Papa.

Now, years later, she recalled the tears and joy as she held the little box of thank you’s they’d sent the next day.

“How can I get that feeling again?” she wondered. But she knew. So she prayed that her soul song be one of love and compassion on this day that it might reach all in need. And she felt the sun warm her skin. He was with her.

Soul Songs #18

A Song Only You Can Hear

“You don’t love someone for their looks or their clothes or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear,” Oscar Wilde said.

So whose soul sings to you?  To me?

Who can hear the soul songs we cannot help but sing?

What beautiful music, indeed.

 

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Soul Songs #16

Learning to Love Myself

I have always known that I’m quite amazing. Does that sound egocentric? Just kidding. I know it does.

I’ve always been confident. I’ve always known my strengths. And I’ve been criticized for being too self-impressed.

But I am impressed with myself. I’ve overcome a lot. I’ve achieved a lot. I know my work makes a difference.

I also know that I love people. I genuinely love and care about others. The funny thing is that for the longest time I didn’t realize that I didn’t really love myself.

I didn’t love myself as much as I loved others anyway. I always put myself last. I always said “I can help” or “I could be good for that person.”

I actually thought that made me even more impressive. I managed to walk around a contradiction between “I’m amazing” and “other people matter more than I do.”

I have fancy language for all of this now. But I won’t go into it. All that matters is that I learn to love myself. IMG_1628

It’s not enough to be impressed by myself. I must love myself and care for myself. I might even put myself first sometimes–because sometimes you just have to.

Love matters. And I’m going to love myself more than anyone else. Because I am always with me; and that relationship matters too.

Maybe I can help myself. Maybe I could be good for me. And I can still be pretty damn impressive.

Angels Among Us

The snow was falling steadily and the temperature had dropped drastically. Winter was upon us. I pulled carefully into the steep drive to park at the newly opened diner. I was too tired to cook and I needed some comfort food in the worst way. It had been one of those days, one of those years really. I could not wait for 2016 to conclude and 2017 to usher in a fresh start.

I had learned so much throughout the year, but not all of the lessons had been wanted. I had grown along the way, but I was a weary from the journey. I wanted nothing more than to know I was on the right path and that joy would unfold.

Deep in thought, I hadn’t even spoken to my companion. I just stared at the menu. Then an unfamiliar voice jolted me to awareness. “Be present, Sarah” my mind prompted in response.

“Hey! You taught choir, right? You did!” His smile was broad. His words not a question, but a clear, satisfied declaration. “You were my choir teacher and you took us to perform at the amphitheater one Christmas.”

I was stunned. I mentally calculated that it must have been my last year at the school before transferring. And he must have been no more than eight years old at the time–nearly 15 years ago!

“That’s one of my best memories,” he continued. “You were so proud of us and you got us all hot chocolate afterward.” He seemed to sigh and look off into the distance as if visualizing that cold winter’s night during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

“Man, I think about that all the time.”

“Really?!”

“Oh, yeah. And Christmas songs are still my favorite. Look at me! I’m running my own business and I’ve got Christmas music playing. Obviously I’m not doing drugs or in a gang. You made a difference. You have to know that.”

“But you were only in third grade,” I laughed. “You might be giving me more credit than I deserve. Clearly, you’re a pretty amazing person and that’s all you’re choosing.”

“Ha! I forgot how you talked like that,” he chuckled. So did my dinner date. I do get a bit didactic.

“Just know that you touched our lives. What you do matters.” He went on and my heart warmed. It was one of those surreal moments, those gifts from the universe.

 

 

I’ve had a lot of those lately, even during this challenging season in my life. Well, especially during this challenging season of my life.

I’ve been taught to watch for signs that my guardian angels are near. And these signs have always warmed my heart and lightened my step. I do not know what form my angels take. I do not know what I have done to deserve them. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am guided, prompted, loved, and uplifted throughout my days.

I know some might think such beliefs are just fanciful, magical thinking, the kind that can be dangerous and delusional. Sometimes I even wish I could agree and set aside the promptings and guidance, suppress the feelings that I am part of something greater than a mere biological existence. How easy it would be think my impact on others is only temporary or that I have so much control that I can force my life and others’ to fit into my egocentric vision for each day. I’m great at being in control, after all. I’ve made a career of it. But I’ve also made a career of listening. And the more I listen, truly listen, the more promptings and support I receive.

Whether through energy patterns or ethereal presence I know–yes, that’s a pretty definitive declaration–that something far beyond my comprehension is at work and it unites each of us and, if we let go of our feeble illusions of complete control, this unifying force will lead us to a divine state of grace and guide us to a place where we can be the best version of ourselves.

 

The phone was ringing as I walked in, the office still dark. I was too late to pick up, so I tried calling her right back. I left a message and hung up. A few minutes later a familiar chime let me know I had new voicemail. I put it on speaker phone as I continued to get situated for another busy day.

“Sarah, I just wanted to let you know that you’re loved. I know how much Heavenly Father loves you and he told me again last night.” I stopped in my tracks. This was not a typical Friday morning message on my office line.

“I had a dream about you last night and you were sitting by me, softly touching my hand with a sad smile in your eyes and you told me that you loved everyone and this world so much…. ” she paused, her breath thick with emotion. “But you said you were sad and wondered if anyone really loved you.” I dropped to my chair, stunned, and immediately tearful.

“So I need you to know, Sarah, what I told you in my dream. You are loved. You are just beautiful and God has a special place for you in his loving arms.” By this time tears were flowing. Where was this coming from, I wondered. What was I putting out into the universe. Do I seem sad? Ungrateful? Lonely? What did this sweet woman know that I wasn’t acknowledging about my own life?

“Sarah, I’m so sorry that I haven’t told you this before. I want you to know we all love you and think of you. You deserve so much love. I just needed you to know that before the weekend, okay?” There was another pause. “You need to know that. I hope you think about that this weekend. And remember that no matter what, God loves you.”

Completely out of character, I cried for a good ten minutes. Tears of sadness, tears of joy, and tears of love. I said a prayer of thanks for the unsolicited and beautiful reminder of all the love in my life, and I felt a weight lifted that I’d not known was there. I had been given another gift that morning.

I knew I was loved. My thankful-fors in my prayers are extensive. But I had been struggling with how to be my best self and how to fully give and accept love as relationships and roles changed at home and work. And the pure light of love had just let me know through my dear, sweet colleague, that I was doing just fine and that I only needed to ask for and accept all the love available. How simple and wonderful and unexpected.

 

“Hey, Roberts, I’m graduating.” He didn’t beam or exude his usual charm. But he was proud, no doubt about it. His eyelids grew heavy and his chocolatey eyes glistened briefly as he put his head down, almost embarrassed.

I threw my arms around him and squeezed his broad shoulders. He’d grown so much over the last four years. And he was graduating!!

He’d been one of those students I struggled to connect with. I fought to find ways to motivate him and how to keep him out of trouble. I’d tried separating him from certain influences. I’d chased him through the neighborhood to drag him back to school. I’d cried with his mom when he wouldn’t stay clean.

But this resilient young man just kept coming back to school. That, in and of itself, was reason to hope. It took him an extra six months, but he’d done it.

“I want you to come, hear my speech.” He looked up now, eyes almost hopeful, but far too cool to completely emote any nerves.

“I will be there, no matter what.”

And as he spoke, behind the podium, he began with a story of my “eagle eyes” and how I’d chased after him all of sophomore year, and how he’d needed that. He spoke of teachers who never gave up. He spoke of the examples of strength and dedication that uplifted him. And he cried. We all did.

There are times in our lives when we want to give up. I’d thought about it with this student. Would he make it? Could he? What could I really do?

And, in the moment that he shared his story, I knew why we could never give up–on anyone. It’s not for us to decide the future, only to decide to act, with love.

 

 

I’m so thankful for reminders like these. They’re all around for each of us. And when we stop to take stock, to compile our list of thankful-fors, we realize they are all around.

There’s the student from my first class as a teacher in public ed who’s shown up at every shift in my life, seemingly at random, at the supermarket, the car dealer, the hockey game, to just hug and love me and give me her supermodel smile. There’s the good friend who sends a text that just says “I thought you might need a hug today.” There’s the friend who just helps you laugh, no matter what. The dinner invite when you’re down, the little note left on your desk saying thank you, the inspirational message left on your Facebook timeline, the healing energy of smiles and hugs every day.

So I believe in angels. They don’t all have visible wings. But they are sent by a higher power I still can’t comprehend. And they make the world a better place, they guide us and keep us safe. They remind us that love is all around, and it’s available to each of us.

My heart is full. I’m so thankful.

Now, as the sun slowly rises above the snow-capped peaks before me, I say a silent prayer. I pray with gratitude. I pray with hope that you too might see the angels among us this season and always.

 

 

 

 

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

“I just ascribe to being a good, down home, Christian,” he drawled.

“I don’t even get that specific” I replied.

“Well, then, what are you?” he gasped.

“Amazing!” I laughed.

“Haven’t you seen her laptop? It just says ‘my religion is kindness,'” my friend jumped in with a chuckle. He’d stopped being surprised by me a few years ago. And, though devoutly catholic himself, I think he understood me on this.

“Well,” our new friend from the south began slowly, “I guess amazing and kind are pretty good ways to be then!”

 

We were a couple of drinks in and had been trying to explain both the liquor laws and the ways of the dominant religion in our northern Utah town, as respectfully as possible. It rarely went over well with outsiders. The only one who had a direct connection to the so-called Mormon religion, I always felt the burden of support and justification fell on me.

Although I’d long since abandoned (is it abandoned if it’s happened more than once?) the LDS church and many of its teachings, I definitely understand the appeal. I miss it even. And anything teaches and creates supports for improving ourselves and helping others has its value in a society.

After all, I have studied religions from all over the world and integrated practices from each. I’ve also rejected practices from each.

Recently, I came across the perfect representation of my views. I lay in savasana after a soothing yoga practice in the red rocks of Utah and the soft, sweet voice of our instructor sing-songed, like some ethereal canter of old,

“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

May I contribute. That’s my hope, my religion.

And, if I’m to contribute, I cannot allow others to deride or mock or marginalize others and their beliefs. I cannot allow anyone to make someone feel less than valued, less than worthy either. For we are all doing the best we can at any given time under the given circumstances. That does not mean we accept the status quo. We keep striving to improve, but we must honor where we are, where each of us are.

Maybe that striving is why I always seek the spiritual. Maybe it’s why I cannot allow even the most seemingly unusual or outrageous belief to be laughed at. Because I know I still need to improve. And I know I’ve been laughed at.

So, I believe in love. And I will love accordingly. Kindness is my religion.

“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

 

 

Welcoming the Snow

IMG_0539The snow has begun to fall on this late date in December, 2015. It’s soft, delicate cascades from white sky bring me peace and nostalgia. It has been a complicated year, but there is nothing complicated about pure white snow as it falls gently to the ground.

The snow was one of my favorite things about moving to Utah. I imagined I would be able to enjoy four seasons and playfully throw snowballs, make snow angels, and wear some kick-ass boots as I trudged to class at the U of U. And I did just that.

When I moved here, I could not have envisioned my life as it is–a wife, a mother, a district administrator, a doctoral student, an advocate for social justice, a leader in many respects. I love my life. I have made a beautiful world with my husband and son.

There are also challenges, we all have them, and they are all unique. Family drama, money management, all the usual, have been part of my life. Balancing responsibilities and time for joy, these are still very real challenges but I readily embrace them because the joy matters. Health concerns have plagued me over the years and the diagnosis of MS in the middle of this amazing life was a devastating blow–how would this set me back?

Yet, here I am, two years since my any major flare up and I am strong and all feeling has returned to my right side, although accompanied by stiffness. I am still tired, but I am thrilled. I still make it to the gym a few times a week and do my yoga at home. There is nothing of which I am not capable. The snow reminds me of this as it clears the air and cleans my dirty little car and ushers in a joyful chorus of holiday music.

This new snowfall means a new year is approaching. And we are still here together to make the most of it.

So, it’s time to snuggle up and sit by the tree or the fire and a loved one and give thanks that you are together and you can keep each other warm. I know that’s what I am going to do tonight. I am so thankful for the man who has supported me through this year and my adult life and helped me to create a life even more beautiful and more unique than the most precious snowflake.

To Be…

My love extends beyond my soul

and through the smiles

I see in the children laughing around me.

My heart is more than my love,

radiating in in the eyes of my

Lover nestled beside me.

My life is more than moments

of joy and sorrow and sharing

Hope for a better tomorrow.

My journey is still being formed

all maps tossed aside,

replaced by unseen forces guiding me home

to you

to me

to be…

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