OF PIONEERS AND PURPOSES

(This is the last day of Sarah E. Westfall’s Instagram challenge, #liturgyofthesmallthings. Her invitation is to find reasons for hope in our everyday lives.)

When I am hiking on wooded trails, I often imagine the pioneers who had to forge their own paths as they journeyed into new frontiers. (I especially think of Mary Ingles; when Jim and I first moved to West Virginia, we found a trail named for her. We then read her story in Follow the River – an incredible journey of courage and survival.)

When Jim and I hiked a few days ago, we started early to avoid the heat of the day. We soon discovered that we were the first ones to travel the path up Meek’s Mountain, because we encountered lots of spider webs that had been created during the night! The webs were barely visible in the darkness of the woods, so we often walked through them. We were uncomfortable, not only from having sticky webs on our heads and arms, but also in regretting the damage done to the spiders’ habitat.

About halfway along the trail, we met a friendly, smiling couple who declared, “We cleared the webs for you!” We laughed together as I assured them that Jim and I had done the same. The rest of our hike was much more enjoyable because of this couple who had cleared the way.

Today my hope is found in my gratitude for all the people who have gone before us. I am thankful for all the pioneers who opened new frontiers, made scientific discoveries, created beneficial systems and structures, sacrificed for our freedoms, led to greater understanding and knowledge, and worked for social justice and equality. We can never know all the pioneering people who have quietly cleared the way for us, who have fostered our own success and well-being. But today, we can be thankful and hopeful because of them.

In a timely follow-up to this reflection, yesterday I listened to Krista Tippett’s “An On Being Listening Party – Celebrating 20 Years” of the On Being podcast. There were a number of excerpts of inspirational interviews from the past. In one interview, the question was asked, “Are we being good ancestors?”

What if our sole purpose in life is to clear a path for another’s well-being, to leave a legacy of love, to open new frontiers of understanding and community? My hope today comes from my renewed determination to be a good ancestor – even in some small way – for the generations to come.

Are we being good ancestors? My hope today comes from the way I see others asking this same question.



(Photo by Karen, Valley Park, Hurricane WV)

FINDING CONTRASTS AND COMFORT

(This is the third post inspired by Sarah E. Westfall’s #liturgyofthelittlethings on Instagram. Sarah invites us to notice the smaller moments of hope in our everyday lives.)

I could not help but notice the dramatic sky on my morning walk today! The contrast of dark clouds against brighter blue patches and rays of sunshine provided an interesting walk with lots of reflection.

Today my hope is revealed by this reminder:
Life is a contrasting mix of darkness and light, sorrow and joy, trouble and serenity, futility and progress. Through these contrasts, life becomes a beautiful, challenging, rich, and delightful journey toward greater wisdom, faith, and peace.

My hope is found in the awareness of God’s gracious, loving, healing, helping presence through every storm and sky. My hope is felt when I sense God’s tender, comforting love throughout my daily living.

My hope is found in unexpected moments, too. Just as I was entering my second mile, the darker clouds joined together to shower me with yet another gift in contrasts; the uncomfortable drenching of my shoes, clothes and hair – and the joyful cleansing of my soul.

May abundant blessings shower on you today.


(Photos by Karen)
For Andrew – a friend forever.

FINDING REASSURANCE AND RESPITE

Today is my second day of following the prompt, #liturgyofthelittlethings by Sarah E. Westfall. She describes this prompt on Instagram: “Liturgy of the Little Things is not a hunt for silver linings or a way to mask the pain or turn our heads from who is hurting. Rather, it’s a resistance—a way to wrap our fingers around some hope and sit down together in the beautiful dirt of our everyday lives.

This morning my hope was found with two reminders on our hike up Meek’s Mountain.

The first was the signpost that indicated Jim and I were still hiking on the red and white, three-mile path we had chosen to take. This well-worn path was easy to follow – but it was helpful to be reassured that it was the correct one for our day’s plans and goals. Any of the other paths would have led us back to the trailhead, but this sign kept us on our best route for today.

My hope was gleaned from the life lesson it offered. As we seek to live our unique mission or purpose, the affirmations we receive along the way can reassure us that we are following our best path. These signposts of encouragement help to relieve and to empower us to continue. (Thank you, Sandy, for your words yesterday which served as a signpost for me!)

The second was a bench near the halfway point of our trail. This bench inspired my hope for these days when life feels like a never-ending uphill climb. We are invited to pause… rest… listen… reflect along the way. Our moments of rest and reflection are essential stops along our journey. There are times when the best we can do is to cease our relentless pursuit, delay our determined progress, and say, “This is enough for now.”

May you find many reasons for hope today.

FINDING WHIMSY AND WISDOM

(Today I am sharing an Instagram post for the prompt, #liturgyofthelittlethings. Thank you, @sarah_westfall for the prompt! We are invited to capture small moments that bring happiness.)

My happiness moment for today was a bit of whimsy along the trail at the city park where I walked. I have followed this path many times, and only today – because I was paying attention, seeking joy – I noticed some of the fairy houses that were hidden under leaves and against roots.

There is a humble, gentle, mystical goodness that pervades all of life. We only need to pay close attention; we only need to notice, uncover, or discover this world beyond the norm, beyond our expectations.

May we continue to seek a new vision for our world, a world of imagination, creativity, and joy.

May we find the significance in the small and often hidden things.

May we dream of a better, kinder, gentler world and then work to make it so, beginning with ourselves.

Peace, dear friends.

YOU ARE SEEN

This past weekend, Jim and I came up to visit my mom and take her to a special family event. We were excited to see her – and to help my sister, who usually is the one to care for her. Mom is nearing her 97th birthday and is doing quite well, but she isn’t physically able to do as much for herself, and her memory isn’t what it once was. Getting her to the party was challenging and difficult at times. Those of you who have cared for elderly parents, small children, or others with special needs will understand what an undertaking this can be. There were moments when I felt frustrated and discouraged.  

My mom thoroughly enjoyed the evening; she received lots of love and attention as family and friends doted on her and delighted in her. Jim and I were happy to give her this shining moment in the spotlight! And yet, we knew that she would remember very little of the party (or the effort involved to get her there) when morning came. A few times I felt a bit of self-pity, when I wondered if our time and energy spent “behind the scenes” would even be noticed, let alone remembered.

But when I went to say goodbye, my mom took my face in her hands, pulled me close, gazed into my eyes, and said, “I just want to have one more look at you.” Her piercing eyes conveyed a determination to not forget me or that moment; they reflected a deep and fierce love. Jim and I were emotional as we wondered if she felt something more in her goodbye.

Suddenly the difficulties of the day became both negligible and worthwhile.

Today I am thinking of all the good helpers who may be reading this now. The people who enable others to have their shining moments even if they are unaware or ungrateful. The people who may never be recognized, appreciated, or remembered, and yet continue to love and serve in the backgrounds of life. The people who keep quietly putting their unique goodness into the world in a variety of ways through ordinary days, while never making headlines or achieving recognition for their work.

Because today, I am also thinking about how God sees us. God sees all of the things we have quietly done, all of the things we assume have gone unnoticed, all of the ways we have tried to make a better difference. God sees all of the goodness we bring into the world, even if no one else does.

When you are feeling unrewarded, unappreciated, or unnoticed, God of Infinite Love is tenderly touching your face, gazing into your eyes, and saying, “I see you. I am thankful for you. I will not forget your efforts. I love you.”

May you keep pouring your goodness – through your unique gifts and graces – into the world. May you never lose sight of the good you are doing because God has not lost sight of you. May you know that God is grateful each time you share love and make this world a little more bearable.

And I am, too.



Photo by Karen, Swan Creek Metropark, Toledo, 2016

MAY YOU KNOW THIS…

A BLESSING FOR THIS TIME

May you know this…

Your quiet sobs are echoing with the sobs of all who despair
in a resounding cry for justice.

Your many tears are joining with the tears of all who weep
into an overflowing river of compassion.

Your deep heartache is connecting with the heartache of all who mourn
in a tender bond of companionship.

Your individual futility is uniting with the futility of all who lament
to become a force for good.

Your anguished longing is expanding with the longing of all who yearn
to serve as a vessel of greater peace.

Your unanswered questions are universal questions
and the answer is always love.

Your trembling feet are still standing in the presence of God
and you are on holy ground.

(Photo by Karen, May 27th)

REROUTING

This morning I walked at a city park a few miles from home, wondering if this will become the new place for my daily hikes…

You may know that I have had a favorite place along my regular walking route, an open field in the hills where I can see the sunrise on the horizon. Each morning, I have paused there to thank God for the new day. Last October I was told that this place, my special sanctuary on the hill, was going to be turned into a recreational park in the coming year. Although I was disappointed, I was hopeful that some new opportunities and blessings would be found there, too (I shared my feelings about that news in my post, Changing Landscapes, October 7th).

But a few months ago, I came upon a large hole at the top of my path to the field. Speculating that it might become a restroom or concession stand, I simply walked around the hole each day to take photos and thank God, just as I had before.

Then one day, my neighbor friend Diana suggested that I should stay away from the area – the funding for the recreational park had been redirected, and the hole was going to be filled with contaminated soil that had been dug up around utility boxes and poles. And soon it was…

I was heartbroken, but I adapted my course to a nearby gravel path that would lead to the same field, and I began greeting the sun from a different viewpoint. I soon found new blessings from this side of the hill.

Until this week, when I found this in the middle of my favorite scene.

So, this morning I found myself at the city park.

This story could be a fitting metaphor for much of life, couldn’t it? We may be on a path that is comfortable and suitable for our needs, a path that brings us joy and peace, and then one day, the path no longer works well for us. Something about the path has changed – or maybe something about us has changed – and so we adjust the path just a bit to gain a new perspective from a different angle that once again blesses.

But what happens when every perspective, every viewpoint on that path no longer brings joy?

We may be tempted to find reasons to remain, but maybe these experiences are invitations for us to seek a completely new route. The route that we seek will not feel familiar, nor will it feel perfect, but it should be a route that, at the very least, will not add to our sadness or anxiety like a contaminated pit. Nor should the path impede or detract from our joy like a construction trailer and backhoes. Our new route may not be as easy or familiar, but perhaps we can find joy in the exploration, excitement in the unknowing, or new hope in every step we take.

We can certainly still hold gratitude for all of the previous paths we once walked. These paths have served us well, and often they have led to great serenity and peace. But there may come a time to leave those paths behind – and to find new ones that will lead us to greater joy, genuine life, and generous love.

What new path may be waiting for you?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSVUE)

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…  If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23, 25 (NRSVUE)

Bible verses found at ttps://www.biblegateway.com/
Photos by Karen

…AND YET

Thank you, Brightest Love and Light,
for showing us that we still might
shine with your love and peace.
Your love will shine and never cease
to remain with us in every day
through your small, ordinary way…

The breaking of dawn,

long shadows on the lawn,

the light of love that shines upon
downcast souls like me.

Orange on trees,

the fields of weeds,
(the spectacular sneeze)

the fragrance of the peonies.

We hold our grief, we feel despair
then look to you – and hope is there,
reminding us that when we choose
to shine your light in every hue
even in meager and humble ways
we’ll brighten your world with love today.

~~~~~

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

(Psalm 139:7-12 NIV)



Photos by Karen, dawn on May 17, 2022
Psalm found at https://www.biblegateway.com/

THIS…

I hope that regular readers have come to know that my blog posts are intended to encourage, uplift, and then prompt us all to share God’s love in the world.
I hope that my words give inspiration, comfort, and kindness.
I hope to remind readers of God’s infinite love for everyone as often as possible.
I hope to show the gifts and beauty of everyday moments and of all of creation.

Writing these thoughts brings joy and purpose to my soul.

But this week, I had been working on several drafts while pondering some new inspirations to share. Then, for yet another time, I sadly learned about the senseless killing of ten more black people in Buffalo, by a gunman whose very intention was to reduce their numbers.

My words seem futile. My encouragement seems pointless. My stories seem petty and insignificant against the backdrop of these incredibly painful tragedies.

Our family is beautifully diverse in color, orientation, and identity, and we are bonded by much more than birth and bloodline. Each time I hear these stories – far too many of them – that someone has been killed only because of who they are, my maternal heart and soul become so very angry, fearful, despairing, and terribly, terribly sad.

Please, PLEASE, keep pouring love into the world, dear friends.

This is all I have to say today.



Photo by Karen

POEMS AND PRAYERS (INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE)

This week, I participated in the annual HOPE*WRITERS INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE. Each day, we were given a word and invited to share an image and our thoughts on that theme. I thought I would share my contribution here, too. May you find many blessings this weekend. Thank you for stopping by!


DAY 1: SUPPORT

We support one another best not from a distance,
shouting words of encouragement
standing perfectly upright and pristine
serving as a model to emulate.

We support one another best in coming together,
listening with full attention
leaning fully and freely into each other
learning as we go…
together.



DAY 2: PATH

When the journey is uncertain
and I cannot see ahead;
when the path divides before me
and no tracks are there to tread –
I remember you are with me
and trust that I am led.



DAY 3: ROUTINE

We arise before dawn
put the coffee on
get ready for our day
take a few moments to pray
then wave our goodbyes
with love in our eyes.

I return to my desk
to journal and reflect
ask God for new insight
embrace God’s delight
then walk to the sunrise
with joy in my eyes.

I go on with my day
know God leads the way
feel more prepared
(a little less scared)
then meet each surprise
with hope in my eyes.

We say our “goodnight”
turn out the light
consider the day
thank God as I pray
then breathe quiet sighs
with peace in my eyes.

God,
Thank you for my everyday tasks
for they provide a sense of normalcy
when life is anything but.

Thank you for my morning routines
for they remain a source of centering
when life is filled with distraction.

Thank you for my daily reflections
for you are my certainty and my serenity
when life seems quite precarious.

Thank you for my ordinary routines
for they have become sacred, holy rituals
and life is significant and meaningful.



DAY 4: COMMITMENT

Commitment is perseverance…

the hunkering down to keep on walking
underneath the rain,
the typing of that one last word
as eyes begin to strain,
the rising after falling
even when you feel the pain

and knowing that in all things,
God is and will remain.


Commitment is faithfulness…

the standing still and steady
when you’d really rather leave,
the asking of hard questions
when you’d rather not believe,
the seeking of significance,
often difficult to perceive

and knowing that in all things,
God is here to help relieve.


Commitment is steadfastness…

the acting with integrity,
keeping promises you make,
the dedicating of yourself
to do the things that it might take,
the holding fast to all the gifts
within the sad heartache

and knowing that in all things,
your burdens God will take.


Commitment is attentiveness…

the tending of your heart and soul
as you live and serve and move,
the setting time for practices
when the push becomes a shove,
the receiving of encouragement
to do all of the above

and knowing that in all things,
you’re loved with Infinite Love.



DAY 5: VISION

Give me double vision, God –
the kind that helps me see
the hidden, deeper meanings
of the things that seem to be.

A special type of vision
to search the depths below
and find beneath the surface
what you would have me know.

Give me double vision, God –
to see more than meets the eye,
the significant magnificence
of earth and sea and sky.

A special type of vision
to find the gift within the trial,
the blessing in the heartache,
and your presence all the while.

Give me double vision, God –
help my eyes and then my head
to see more to someone’s story
than what is being said.

A special type of vision
to see humanity anew
so when I meet another…

I find that I see you.


(Photos by Karen)