Tuesday, November 22, 2016

She Who Brings Light into the Darkness

“Teach me the power of the dark” – came to me in a dream. The dark is where we live until the light comes. In the dark our hearts are breaking. Our soul is wounded; a black hole in the heart, a dark spell is cast; it holds fast, and we slide into the dark night of the soul. This is the power of the dark.

In the beginning, we are told, humans became the fire bearers; in every home in the world is a place where the fire is kept: a hearth, the heart of the home. For every hearth there is a hearth keeper; in most cultures it is the women who tend the fire, who are the hearth keepers. Tending the fire, is a constant worry and a constant work. If the fire goes out, it must be restarted, or food will not be ready for the table. If the fire dies down children may freeze in their beds, If the fire wood runs out the family is in peril. We gather around the fire to warm ourselves, to share food and drink, to share stories and gain wisdom. Beyond the fire, lies the dark.

Advent is the time when the fire has gone out, and before it is relit. For many of us, this Advent is more than a time to remember the power of the dark, this year we are living it. We women of great heart, are taking up the challenge. We are making friends, sharing stories; cooperating in our natural way.  We are creating alliances with those we see every day. We heal wounds, we comfort those men and women who come before us. We make common cause in our daily lives and learn from each other. We are all sisters and brothers in an immense learning community of women.

Each morning, we meet. We greet, face to face, on the street as we walk our infants in strollers, at the market, or the well.  And now through the miracle of webs and clouds, we cross the miles, the oceans; the vast spaces evaporate like the dew in the morning sun. We are heart to heart, playing and working side by side, I in my village in the north; you in your village in the south, or west, or east. We carry in our hands our magic boxes linking our knowing in ways we might never have imagined.

I have always known you were there but you seemed so far away. I imagined that you knew not that I cared whether you had clean water, or a chicken to lay eggs, or gruel for your children. But I do care; I never imagined that I could let you know.

We are 3 hundred million strong and we are mending our nets, we are mending the fabric of soil beneath our feet. Can we share as women have always shared, a cup of sugar, an extra blanket, a prayer, a song across the miles? Can we, like the pulses of energy coursing through our bodies heal each other as we heal our families?  As we live in these dark days, like our world, we refresh ourselves, resting, replenishing our essential life force, by Grace. It is a time for healing, for remembering who we are and what we are called to be. The light creeps in slowly and the world awakens slowly quietly gently. Solstice is the beginning of the time of gentle awakening. Christmas is the season in which we celebrate the woman who brought Light into the darkness. Let us lean into the fire and into each other with compassion, remembering the women who are the hearth keepers and their ways of caring.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Beloved Community: Dreaming the Impossible Dream

Somewhere in every heart is a longing for home. We’ve all felt that deep ache. I first felt it when I was 7 sent off to summer camp while my family moved to a new home. The ache was so deep; the resident Collie feeling a small child’s pain lay down with me each day while I wept. Home is where we feel we belong.

At the end of the Wiz, Dorothy sings “When I think of home I think of a place with love overflowing”. To belong should mean to feel loved. I was loved; we were loved not only by my family but by a brilliant and compassionate community of women. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Community was my first clan, my first Beloved Community. They were our mentors and our role models; we were raised to be as they were - to offer love to others. Hospitality and welcome to all persons were their core value and ours. Women of Great Heart is the motto of the high school I attended. We were aspiring to be women of Great Heart. I was home there.

For the past week we have been celebrating and exploring what it means to be a community this year and beyond. Speakers have explored God’s Dream for Community, through readings from the Old and New Testament. This article is the first of six exploring aspects of the Beloved Community. Here we introduce the Beloved Community and visit an example of a Beloved Community in Seattle.

I first learned of the Beloved Community in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Rev. Nelson Johnson, founded the community after he was stabbed by a klansman and arrested during an anti-klan rally in 1979 which he helped organize. The Beloved Community was the vision of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.” “The core value of Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative. ”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” King said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.” It seemed clear to me that this was an unattainable goal. So, I wondered, “what does this have to do with me, with us, when we live in a world that is being torn apart by violence and hatred?
How can Beloved Community, King’s commitment to love all, enemy or friend,  empower me and my community to survive and thrive?

Philosopher, Josiah Royce, first explained the Beloved Community in the late 1800s. For Royce, Beloved Community is central to transforming the heart of humanity. It is how we will make it through the chaotic times in which we are living.  An overwhelming love, Royce tells us is exactly what we need to be human. For Royce, in order to have a meaningful life, we must find a cause, a life purpose, that is born in our life experience and is inspired from within to seek truth and kindness. For a cause to be good, it must be greater than anyone or any community can attain and it must be good for everyone not just a few. Royce called this a lost cause because we are aspiring to an ideal we can never attain. We are all Don Quixote chasing the impossible dream. Sister Simone told us, “you’ll know you’ve found your cause when it breaks your heart open”. Royce believed that causes are found in the social landscapes in which we live; we find a home in communities where we share their cause. The Civil Rights movement of Dr. King, and the Beloved Community of Reverend Johnson were communities with a shared cause.

Every good fight fought in this world has started with a heart broken open. Malala’s dream is education for girls everywhere. Mother Teresa’s was a good death for everyone. For Jimmy Carter it is homes for all. Impossible dreams are found in communities of dreamers and while we can’t reach the ultimate dream, our search moves us to accomplish amazing things.

For a number of years, Hillary Clinton has reached out with heart, hand, and treasure to Children, families, youth in prison,  dreamers, immigrants, refugees, women and girls worldwide. Having known the ache of being far from home, I was more than delighted to learn of this place where the longing for home is made whole for women and girls like me. If you are looking to be inspired you won’t want to rest until your heart breaks open.  Our prayer is that by exploring Beloved Community we will the renew our commitment to Agape, hold our Beloved Community together, and renew our commitment to the Impossible Dream, inspiring the amazing work we do. May it be so.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Mother Hummingbird designs and builds her nest.

Click on title.
Everywhere in nature there are females creating, nurturing, protecting, tending to the life of the next generation. Every unique creature on this planet comes into being through the creative power of the female of the species. She tends the hearth, prepares the food, rocks the cradle, makes certain there is water and wood. Chop wood, carry water is woman's work around the world. Backs are bent, heads are bowed, teeth are lost, all in a days work. The male is the consort, the helpmate unto the Goddess of the hearth. It has been so since the beginning when evolution began designing the species that were to come. Here is just one example of the work in nature of the mother hummingbird making a home for her offspring.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Caring Choices


I wrote the lyrics to a song yet to be written after I heard a TED type talk by Stephan Schwartz author of the Schwartz Report blog. Please consider doing what is asked of you here and help us spread the word. 
A one, a two, a one, two, three, four

You have to admit things aren’t  looking so good
For the people, the nations, and old mother earth. (rest)
People are fighting, Children are dying, 
Far away and near, even in our neighborhood.

This is the one thing I’m gonna do now
I promise you, you can do it to.
Every time you have a choice to make   
Choose the option that you, (rest) know in your heart is
The very best action of the two.

Choose life affirming compassionate action
That’s how were going to change our hearts
Choose life affirming compassionate action
That’s how were going to change the world

All day long we’re making our choices
Every day we have so much to do.
One option’s always better than the other, choose
The most life affirming compassionate action
(rest) you (rest) can (rest) do.

Text your friends, tell your family,
share it on facebook, take it to work
make it a habit, make it an earworm, 
Playing in your mind, it will change your heart.

Tell em,
Choose life affirming compassionate action
That’s how were going to change the world
Choose life affirming compassionate action
That’s how were going to save Mother Earth

It will spread like wild fire, person to person
Changing our minds, lifting our hearts.
We can change the consciousness of enough people
To take peaceful action and change the world.

Tell em,
Choose life affirming compassionate action
That’s how were going to change the world
Choose life affirming compassionate action
That’s how were going to save Mother Earth

Tell em,
Choose life affirming compassionate action
Choose life affirming compassionate action
Choose life affirming compassionate action
Choose life affirming compassionate action


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How Wilma Learned to Walk

Wilma at the Parade 
When I first heard of Wilma’s life long relationship with Chinook Lands, I had what could only be described as a moment of sheer grace. She had given so much to this place that had been a healing place for so many, she deserved care now when she needed it most. My heart responded and I agreed to help Wilma during the day to stay in her home. What followed was a miracle.
The first time I met Wilma, she was holding court in her Brookhaven Apartment. Wilma had just learned that she was no longer able to be cared for by Island Home Nursing, the local agency providing aides. Because she couldn't stand and the bathroom was too small for her wheelchair. If she couldn't find someone who would care for her, she would have to go to Careage. That meant leaving Langley. Wilma was grieving. 
I became Wilma’s caregiver and personal trainer. I new that if Wilma was to stay in her apartment she had to regain her mobility. It would take more motivation and effort than training for a triathalon. That’s what I told Wilma.
Wilma loved her community so much and wanted to stay close to them so much that she gave it everything she had. In the beginning she ran me ragged. I went to her house 5 to 6 times a day; 3 or 4 of those I were in response to a phone call. That got old really fast. Over the next two years Wilma and I worked together; every day I would stand her up, 5, seconds, 10 seconds, then for longer periods. After a few months we went to physical therapy. When she ran out of medicare, we went to the a gym where we attended an exercise class for people with limited energy three days a week. After much coaxing from me, one day Wilma stood with my help. When she took a step away from the chair, the whole class cheered; then 2 steps, then 3. A couple of months later, she walked along holding the handrail; she was terrified that she would fall but she eventually walked the whole length of the room. Weeks passed. We practiced walking around her apartment. Next she walked around the room holding my arm. A good friend came and remodeled her bathroom, we put poles by her chair, the toilet and the bed, and in the end, Wilma was getting out of her chair by herself, out of bed by herself, transferring into her wheelchair, standing up, putting her clothes on by herself, back to her chair and into her recliner. All of this, Wilma did because all she wanted was to stay here in Langley, with  her friends, her family, her community. Her community kept her involved with the Church and with Whidbey Institute. They scheduled a visit a day and Wilma loved those visits. On Tuesdays we would go to the community lunch in the complex where she lived; on Thursdays Jeff took her to the local soup kitchen for lunch. There came the day when Wilma was ready to go back to the agency that stopped her care because she was too much for their staff. Now she wasn’t; and I was worn out. She couldn't go to exercises any more because she needed someone to accompany her; that was not a service provided by the agency. It wasn't long after that when she fell and broke her arm and finally moved to Careage, a skilled nursing facility. Still her friends made sure she had a ride to church and came back to the community for special events.  When she went to the Careage she was ready; there she was happily loved and cared for until the day she died.
Her community never left her heart. Wilma is the hero in this tale, I had no choice, the call was so strong I had to answer it.
Twenty years earlier, in 1987 I began my dissertation research on nursing home care. The first person I interviewed was a patient named Bill. When I asked my first question. What do people who care for people do for them, Bill burst into tears. “Not enough” was his answer. He had had a stroke. Medicare had just stopped his physical therapy because they said he was no longer making progress. I knew better.
Bill haunted me for those 20 years. No one listened to Bill. They said his tears were a side effect of his stroke. He knew he could do more. Wilma confirmed what I had believed with my whole heart, that with a village of support and motivation, progress doesn't stop after six weeks. Love will move a mountain, and give a gracious gal the strength of a lion.  Amazing Grace really does happens.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

You are the Flowers in the Gardens of our Days

Care is Like Water: You are the Flowers in the Gardens of our Days

You are the Flowers in the Gardens of our Days

Kelsey CrooksJohnson and Brenna Parrick holding our two new future employees!

Baristas and waiters, baggers and checkers, store clerks, and bank tellers, workers and volunteers
You are the trees of our community  stirring up good energy
your kindness fills my heart  with a grateful tune, So I’m singin’ this song for you.

You are the flowers in the gardens of our days.
You are our rest stops as we travel down our own pathways
So we thank you for the laughter and the happiness you bring
You are my inspiration  to find a new direction seek a higher vibration .
You are our garden tapestry enfolding our community
keep your kindness flowing like a river ever going.

Thank you for the light you shine in hard days and  tough times.
Oh, and thank you for your patience when we can’t make up our minds.

Thank you for the smile, the gentle laugh the warm hello,
how ya doing How’s the family, Glad you stopped by today.
Thanks especially for forgiveness when we can’t find a gracious word to say.
You buoy up our energy as we go from place to place
And everytime I see you  you put a smile on my face.