dreamer

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Even though I swear she loves Travis more, Stella will stay up with me after almost all the lights are out, the dog is snoring on his bed, and a stillness has come over the house. Right now, she’s sitting on the floor behind me, grooming her feet and waiting patiently for me to decide it’s my turn to head to the bedroom where she will curl up by my feet and dream of chasing birds and sneaking out of the house to lay beneath our roses. I was actually on my way to bed when I stopped at the computer to look at a design I’m working on. I meant to just be here for a moment to click save and see if any last-minute ideas arose. But then the song “Imagine” came on Pandora – Jack Johnson singing a cover – and I had to listen to it all. I shut my eyes, and breathed in those magical lyrics. They remind me of college and my big dreams.  They remind me of New York City. They remind me of peace.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that song, but I’ll never get sick of it. Sometimes I don’t feel like much of a dreamer anymore between all the days’ activities, but when I catch a quiet moment, I remember that I am. I am still all of those words in the chorus and always will be.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

right now

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It’s almost noon on this blue-sky Sunday and I’ve been spending the last hour or so in the backyard asking myself all sorts of questions I don’t have answers to – questions about life, and what it means, and what my purpose is. My thoughts go here and there as a light wind blows and birds around the backyard play their chasing games. Two hummingbirds actually came so close to me that I ducked both times, even though I’m pretty sure they had no intention of landing on my head. It’s like they were saying, “Hello strange human! How do you do?”

I have the mountains and my roses in various shades of pink to my right, a sleeping dog and a tempting swimming pool to my left, coffee next to my computer and shades of green in the form of bushes and trees and grass all around me. A while ago, I read that green is the color of renewal, the color of new life, and it seems perfect that I would notice so much of it in this moment – a moment where I long to feel renewed.

My heart is often heavy these days with all the terrible things I read in the news. It’s hard to avoid even if I want to. I recently wrote about that, so I don’t want to again right now. What I want is to simply notice this moment and be grateful for it. I want to slow time down, take in its beauty and be aware of my presence in it. I want to notice my breaths, slow and steady, and the colors of this beautiful world.

For a long while now, my mind has been very busy. It’s filled with everyday busyness, some important details, and many not-so-important details – social media posts and notifications, travel plans, to-do lists, exercise goals, business goals, writing goals, and so many things that sometimes I forget to just stop and rest within the day – with the moment that is alive and well if I notice it.

I left my personal phone at home while at work for three days this week. Not having it by my side helped me focus a little better during those hours. I deactivated my Facebook account indefinitely. I read a little bit of poetry, walked Neville, and woke up early most mornings. I went to a baseball game last night where I didn’t attempt to take one picture of the fireworks. Instead, I was present, allowing myself to happily watch the gorgeous show while my husband danced and sang in his seat. When I watched a few television shows the last few days, I was determined to simply watch those shows and not multi-task. I spent part of the afternoon making peach cobbler yesterday which took all of my focus and filled our kitchen with a warm, summer smell.

There are so many things I don’t have control over but I do have a choice to pay attention to the life that’s been given me and make the most of it. I have a choice to let it slip by in busyness, or make it slow and meaningful. Right now, I’m choosing to feel the wind on my face, listen to the dragonflies buzzing, and hope these moments keep coming more often.

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a prayer for the world

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I’d look up into the sky – up, up, up – into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer. Well, I’m ready. What am I to say?”
– Anne of Green Gables

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For most of my life, my prayers have been pretty simple. As a child, I was taught to humbly call on God with my arms folded, my head bowed, and my eyes closed. I would thank Him for my blessings – my family, friends, home – and ask him for things I needed and wanted – safety for those I love, and the ability to deal with any troubles I was experiencing at that time. When things are good, my prayers are often repetitive and short unfortunately. Sometimes long periods go by where I don’t formally pray much at all except for in the silence of my mind during stressful moments of the day. I’ve always turned to prayer, and I feel that it works, but I’m not always the best at formally turning to God on a day-to-day basis.

When things get hard, however, I find myself pleading on my knees in the darkness, tears streaming down my cheeks. I might curl up on the floor in the middle of the day, the light flooding through the windows, and pray until the pain subsides a little. Or, like last year during heavy periods of grieving, I would often just try to get through each day with more frequent informal prayers here and there.

Recently, though, I’ve tried to take my prayers to a new level with the goal of reaching outside myself and really thinking about the whole world. I wanted to share this with you because it’s something that’s helping me feel connected to strangers and those who I can’t help in any other way.

When I pray now, I try to reach far beyond the people I know and love. While I still say that I’m thankful for those close to me and ask God to protect them, I want to send love to everyone who is troubled and hurting. I want to send love everywhere in the world no matter what. I truly believe that there is power in our thoughts and that somehow they can transfer from one heart to another. One of the beautiful things about experiencing tragedy and grief is that it opens your eyes to many more ways that others suffer, and it reminds you that every person deserves kindness and grace. I also try and thank God not only for the overall beauty and good things in my life, but their details. This reminds me of all the intricate ways this life is beautiful.

A prayer in which I really try to connect with God and the world goes something like this:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for all that you have given me. For my family and friends. I pray for them and for all those who are suffering in the world. I pray for their safety, for their hopes, dreams, and losses. I pray for those who are hungry, cold, sick, and for those who lack companionship. I pray for those who are lonely, lost, and broken. I pray for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness. I pray for those who are held captive by others or addictions that they may find their way out of their struggles. I pray for those who are crying today in our city, our country, and in the world. I pray that you will comfort them.

I pray for our world leaders, and that somehow they can work together. I pray for more peace in this world, that wars can end, and that someday we will have no use for weapons. I pray for the candidates running for president in our country – that they will do what’s right for the people, and that collectively, we can choose the best one. I pray for my enemies, and our country’s enemies, that we can somehow find common ground. I pray that those who harm others will someday understand that they are wrong and confused, and that their hearts will be softened. I pray that those who harm themselves will seek help. I pray for those who are victims of violence, and for their family and friends, and that they will feel comfort and love from others.

I also pray for animals – for those that are surviving in terrible weather conditions – the cold, the heat, the wind, the storms. I pray for the animals who feel stressed because they are starving or in danger.

I also want to thank you for the beauty of this earth. For the sunrises and sunsets, for the mountains, tulips, sunflowers and roses. I’m thankful for the pinks and oranges in the sky, for rain, for snow, and for flowing water. I’m thankful for trails created by others that give me a place to hike, run, and ride my bike. I’m thankful for a home, and pray for those without homes that they might find shelter. I’m thankful for the sound of birds, the call of wild geese, and for moments in nature that remind me love is everywhere. I’m thankful for the sound of laughter, for the stars in the night sky, for the sun and signs of warmer weather.

Please help me that I might be more compassionate – that I can see where I can help – that I can worry less about the things I can’t change and focus on the things I can. Please help me where I am weak.

And I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Those are my longer prayers, but they still only take a few minutes. I’m trying to say them more often and continue adding to them so I don’t forget anyone in this world. I still say shorter prayers in my head throughout the day. I pray when things are tricky, if I’m feeling sad, or if someone I know is hoping for good news – a job offer, a promotion, or a positive outcome at the doctor.

In more recent months, I also learned a Buddhist mantra that calls for the help of Tara, a female Buddha who is a representation of compassion and action, a protector who comes to aid and relieve living beings of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. After learning about Tara and getting advice from a Buddhist teacher, I try to whisper Tara’s mantra three times every whenever I hear police, ambulance and firetruck sirens in hopes those suffering in that situation can be comforted.

“Om tare tuttare ture soha
Om tare tuttare ture soha
Om tare tuttare ture soha”

I often follow up with a short prayer to God as well. I figure it’s not a bad idea to be double-covered by Buddhas and God.

I hope by attempting to pray for everyone and everything more often, there will be a tiny bit more peace in the world and a lot more compassion and gratitude in my soul. As I’ve said many times on this blog before, we’re all in this together after all.

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This statue of Tara is about half the size of my thumb and is taped near the clock in my car. She helps remind me to say her mantra or pray when I hear sirens. Tara is known as “the swift one.” On the statue, you’ll notice her right leg is not quite crossed. She is ready to jump up and help when needed.

deep thoughts and spanish moss

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This was my view during our last afternoon in Florida a couple weeks ago. Travis and I were sitting on a bench and I kept staring ahead at these trees, the Spanish Moss dangling from their branches, the pink flowers nestled peacefully in the shade. We were having a pretty deep discussion that began with evolution. I can get on the most random of subjects sometimes. This one started in a garden and continued as we meandered up and down a quaint little street in Winter Park, where people were sipping happy hour wine and cocktails, and snacking on bruschetta, chips and salsa. It was such an unassuming place for such an involved conversation. I tend to process things out loud and Travis is a really good sounding board. He also has really good perspective on things and will offer a lot of good ideas and insight. And he doesn’t judge when these topics seemingly arise out of no where like they did that day in a beautiful garden in Florida. The conversation twisted and turned and included thoughts on where we came from and where, as humans, we are going, until finally it turned into the current state of the world and all its problems, and then somewhat suddenly, I was nearly in tears.

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one in the entire world who believes there is still good in it? That good wins? That love is the answer? That many things are actually better than they used to be despite what we see on the news and hear from many people around us? This is how I felt in that moment, in this garden, while staring at this Spanish Moss. I felt like I needed to be at least one voice in a very loud sea of voices that still believed things could get better.

Of course I am not the only person who believes there is good, love, and beauty in the world. Most people still believe in fairy tales, superheroes, happily ever afters, and that good can overcome evil. If we didn’t believe this, we wouldn’t be flocking to “Star Wars” films, and movies like “Bridge of Spies” wouldn’t be nominated for Best Picture. (Have you seen “Bridge of Spies” by the way? If not, you should. It’s marvelous storytelling about how every life matters, even if that life may be considered a so-called enemy). I would guess that more than 90 percent of the fictional stories we turn to have positive endings. Voldemort loses. The Force continues. Po’s clumsy battles overtake evil (OK, I love “Kung Fu Panda” too). Doesn’t the stories we read and watch, and the endings we hope for, say something about humanity?

However, even if we seek happy endings, I bet you’ve heard the same doom-and-gloom phrases I have throughout my life. Things like, “It’s a sign of the times,” and “The world is going to hell in a hand basket,” and “Back in the good ol’ days.” I used to believe those phrases, and unfortunately, I often still do. But in that Florida garden I couldn’t because believing all of those phrases made me feel like I was giving up on the universe even though it has proven again, and again, and again, that people can forgive, forget, become stronger, love more, create change and present opportunity. If there is no hope, then what is the alternative?

People have been saying the end of the world has been coming for a long, long time – thousands of years probably. And has the world ended yet? The truth is, women in many parts of the world actually have more freedom than they’ve ever had. There is dialogue about some of the toughest subjects concerning all life – even animals. People of various races, religions, backgrounds, and cultures are accepted in ways that they weren’t 10, 20, 30, 100 years ago. Gay people can get married in the U.S. The topic of transgender people and how to support them is actually on the table. These are all really wonderful ways we are coming together in a world that feels incredibly broken and fragile sometimes.

Five or so years ago, I decided to believe that God made us all different for the reason that we have to learn to love. People weren’t meant to grow apart, but they were also meant to be challenged. It would be too easy to love if we were all made the same, and we wouldn’t know our full potential that way. There is something a lot more beautiful in creating truthful, positive, generous, everlasting relationships with others who are not the same as us. There is grace in the way we learn to protect each other, especially those who are more vulnerable. Every single day there are people everywhere who are working to help the underprivileged, the grieving, the lost, the broken.

Sometimes I feel there is very little I can do to help this world. Maybe you feel that way, too. I felt that way in the garden, and I decided I wouldn’t forget that conversation for a long time. I wouldn’t forget that I still have faith in humanity. To counter my feeling of helplessness, I’m challenging myself from here on out to be one hopeful voice.

What if I was one of the stars in that deep, black sky? What if I was one of the little lovely stars, after all? What if my hope was like a tiny speck of light shining with all the other twinkling diamonds of hope in the night? What if your hope shimmered, too? Maybe then more people wouldn’t lose their way. People look to the stars for directions, you know. And people look to hope when all seems lost.