I had a day off on Thursday–well, not exactly a day off.  I teach every year at a specialized industry school and they house this school at Penn State.  So, it gives me yet one more excuse to make the pilgrimage to my alma mater off football season. So this year my class was scheduled for 8:00 – 10:00 am and then I was free to leave and head for home.

It was a great class, which is made so by the personalities in the class and how they engage in the subject matter. When I’m finished with a class like that, I always leave on a bit of a high. It feels good to connect with people and feel like you’ve been able to give them something to think about.

So, after I finished I piled into my car and pointed it east toward home. Then a funny thing happened. A woman far wiser than me had encouraged me to work on doing things differently–out of the ordinary–to take risks and break habits formed over the years. Her encouragement popped into my mind and the thoughts of going home, opening up the work laptop and getting caught up on email (yes, I did say I took a vacation day), popped out of my mind. The car veered south toward the town of State College bordering campus. Then another funny thing happened. The parking garage I normally park in was blocked by street construction so I had to park in a different part of town.

I ventured into town on a sunny and 70’s day (yes, I know my good friend from State College–it is ALWAYS sunny and 70’s in Happy Valley!!! 🙂 ). I almost immediately stumbled onto a brand new dedicated Gluten Free bakery. I walked in and thought I had died and gone to bakery heaven. After putting my order in for 3 banana chocolate chip muffins, I waltzed out of the shop feeling like I had just discovered penicillin.

Next, I stumbled onto a beautiful little calligraphy shop with all sorts of neat cards, pins, and wall hangings. I started reading them and found a gem. Here it is:

After awhile you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and
company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts & presents aren’t promises
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn
to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s
ground is too uncertain for plans, and futures
have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After awhile you learn that even sunshine burns if
you get too much. So you plant your own garden
& decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn
that you really can endure, you really are strong
you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every goodbye you learn.

Veronica A. Shoffstall

Wow!! The things you stumble on when you stay open to life’s experiences. How much do we miss by locking into routines? How many people do we pass over because we don’t keep our head up and our eyes and hearts open?

Sorry–got to run and be spontaneous!!!

It is the end of the July 4th holiday weekend, and what a weekend it was. A beautiful wedding, a wonderful picnic gathering with my dear friend and her family, and dinner last night with that same girlfriend followed by a movie on Pay Per View.

We watched Winter’s Tale. It was a fluke that we watched this movie. She had a different one in mind but it was no longer available on PPV. I had fallen in love with the trailers when Winter’s Tale came out last year. Maybe it had something to do with the female lead’s fictional name (Beverly Penn). But, the reviews were pretty bad so I decided not to press the issue. I probably wasn’t meant to see it in the theater at that particular time.

This was a powerful movie for me. For so many different reasons. The whole movie is rich with spirituality–life lessons, good versus evil, miracles, coincidences that aren’t really. The following quote comes at the end of movie:

What if we are all unique
And the universe loves us all equally
So much so that it bends over backwards
To cross the centuries
For each and every one of us
And sometimes we are
Just lucky enough to see it.

No life is more important than another
And nothing has been without purpose.


What if we are all part of a great pattern
That we may someday understand
And one day when we have done
What we alone are capable of doing
We get to rise up and reunite
With those we have loved the most
Forever embraced.

What if we get to become…

Wow. Then today, I read this passage from The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner:

Truly transformational knowledge is always personal, never merely objective. It involves knowing of, not merely knowing about. Personal knowing is based on experience. Because personal knowing is based on experience, it requires that we be open to the experience. Knowing God’s love demands that we receive God’s love–experientially, not simply as a theory. Personal knowledge is never simply a matter of the head. Because it is rooted in experience, it is grounded in deep places in our being. The things we know from experience we know beyond belief. Such knowing is not incompatible with belief, but it is not dependent on it.

I think of the experiences that I’ve had over the last five years.  Some–like losing parents–are predictable if we live long enough.  It makes them no less painful.  Some experiences–like a marriage ending, losing one’s source of income, one’s house–are less predictable and also tremendously painful.  But during those experiences–all of them–there were tremendous moments of grace and little (and maybe not-so-little) miracles along the way.  One of those experiences was when my dad–on his deathbed–said to me, “Why don’t you go home and get some rest.  Mom will help me.”  I truly believe she was there with him and he could see her.  I felt it.  It is personal knowledge…”grounded in deep places in my being.”

It is the kind of knowledge that can transform.  Amen.

I just read this passage last night before bed. It is from my Wisdom Jesus book by Cynthia Bourgeault and she’s talking about a poem that was left by a dead child’s body at the Ravensbruck death camp during “a recent era of unspeakable human darkness.” The poem is as follows:

O Lord, remember not only the men and women
Of good will, but also those of ill will.
But, do not remember all the suffering they inflicted on us;
Remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to
This suffering–our comradeship,
Our loyalty, our humility, our courage,
Our generosity, the greatness of heart
Which has grown out of all this, and when
They come to judgment let all the fruits
Which we have borne be their forgiveness.

Wow! Wow! Did I say wow?! Can you even wrap your mind around that? Then start to remember the Amish school girl shootings from a few years ago in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Amish community reached out to the perpetrator’s family and extended their forgiveness.

Out of the ashes comes unbelievable mercy. “When they come to judgment let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.”

This, I believe, is Jesus’ teachings and his legacy. It is our human nature to want to strike back. An eye for an eye. Jesus taught us a different way–a merciful way based on love. When we are harmed, what lessons do we learn if we are open to them? How do we deal with our fellow human beings–with anger, vengeance or grace, mercy, love and forgiveness? Do we take it personally or do we understand with grace and mercy (not arrogance) that the one smiting us perhaps doesn’t know any better.

Had I not gone through hardship, I could not understand any of this. I would not have borne these fruits including this blog.

What about you? What hardship have you faced that has strengthened you? I know most of this blog’s followers personally. I know some of the hurts you have weathered in your lives. Death, disease, discrimination, divorce, marriage separation, job loss, demons of addiction, illness of children…the list goes on. These tragedies, if we let them, teach us things. They can, if we let them, make us stronger. They can, if we let them, bring us closer to one another and closer to God.

“Let these fruits be their forgiveness.” Amen.

I think somewhere in my past posts I referenced this Don Henley song:

You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill
You thought you would be satisfied
You never will–
Learn to be still.

~Don Henley Learn to be Still

How often do we live our lives this way? For me, it’s still too often. I think…just a little more money in that 401(k); just another certification or accomplishment; just one special person to love. We live in a land of great opportunity and with it comes the disease of “wanting more.” We’re often not satisfied and appreciative for what is right in front of us. We’re often longing for that we do not have.

Oh for the gift of peace, joy and gratitude. It’s right there in front of us–not even “over that green hill.” Learn to be still.

Sigh. So much work still to do….in the meantime, I’m going to pull up a chair and go, “Ommmmmmmm.”

A gracious woman attains honor, And ruthless men attain riches. The merciful man does himself good, But the cruel man does himself harm.

~Proverbs 11:16-17

Did you ever stumble upon a quote or scripture that seemed to be speaking to you directly? I’ve had “one of those days,” and this quote jumped off a Google search page at me. It was too poignant for me to ignore.

We’re continuing today with quotes from Joan Anderson’s book, A Year by the Sea. In it she describes her year of solitude necessary for her to find her soul. She uses quotes from other works as chapter headings. Here’s the next one:

When one is freshly informed, has a serendipitous experience,
one’s mood is changed, one’s heart is changed.
That is why taking time to see, hear, be present to images
and language that arise from new experiences
have the power to change one from one way to another.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves

We live our days with our “to do” lists and try mightily to control outcomes. How much do we miss by doing so? How many mysteries and wonders and lessons escape us by holding on to the bar (May 18 post)?

This blog is about transformation and the grace of coming through hardships and tragedies that we all face in our lives. I’m beginning to think transformation doesn’t start with thinking differently, as I said in early posts in this blog. But, rather it begins with allowing ourselves to feel–something our society discourages.

Hmmmm. I must think–ahem, I mean reflect–ahem, I mean live with that question for awhile. 🙂

You know me. I’m reading yet another series of self-help type books. These are by Joan Anderson. I think I mentioned in earlier posts her book, A Weekend to Change Your Life.

This one is called, A Year by the Sea, and I believe this may have been the first in her series. It’s about her taking advantage of her husband’s job change and move to another city to say–you know what, I’m not going to move with you. Instead, I’m going to head to our summer cottage on Cape Cod and spend some alone time there. Call it a trial separation, call it solitude, or call it the search for her true self or soul, but she did it and then writes about it in her book.

Anyway, she’s got some great quotes from other works that she uses as chapter headings. My post on June 14 was the one she quoted to kick off the entire book. The one below–and I’ve heard this one before from one of you–is another one of my favorites:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be
given you because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answers.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to a Young Poet

People have told me I’m a “seeker.” I suppose they are correct. I’m trying to find answers to questions. This passage reminds me that I need to have the courage to live with those questions and the patience not to force the answers.