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Archive for the ‘Visible Love’ Category

Blue Ridge Parkway

I read this poem on Barnstorming the other day and knew that I had to pass it along.  I adore the words of Robert Fulghum, but this seems particularly powerful for me lately as I have been thinking a lot about small town life and how powerful it can be to have a community that surrounds us and lifts us up regularly, often without even knowing it.

Without realizing it, we fill

important places in each others’ lives.
It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage,
the family doctor, teachers, neighbors, coworkers. Good people who are always “there,”
who can be relied upon in small,
important ways. People who teach us,
bless us, encourage us, support us,
uplift us in the dailiness of life.

We never tell them.
I don’t know why, but we don’t.

And, of course, we fill that role ourselves. There are those who depend on us,
watch us, learn from us, take from us. And we never know.

You may never have proof of your importance,
but you are more important than you think.
There are always those who couldn’t do without you.
The rub is that you don’t always know who.
~Robert Fulghum

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Mitch2
It is hard to believe it has been 7 years since my brother died.

Anniversaries are always… well, they are always something.

Sometimes they are hard and you can barely get through them, sometimes they pass more silently, sometimes the anticipation is harder than the day itself, but always it is made easier by all those who remember, who tell stories, who help remember and who help comfort.

I have learned a lot in the past 7 years, but the thing that sticks out today isn’t what was fixed, because something like that couldn’t be fixed, but instead what fills my heart is an immense gratitude for the times people have been there, with hands and hearts outstretched, willing to do whatever needed to be done.

And sometimes all that was to be “done” was to sit with us as we cried, got angry, laughed and then cried some more.  Please know that your presence, your love, your kindness has helped our family heal.

Glennon Melton Carry On Warrior2

This little gem is from Glennon Melton’s WONDERFUL book-

Carry On Warrior-The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life

(if you haven’t read it what are you waiting for?!?!)

For those of you who have been my “In Case of Emergencies” I thank you, for the nights when you heard my sobs over the phone, or in person, for those times you just showed up for a hug, for those times you sent a card to let me know you hadn’t forgotten, the random texts at Facebook messages at just the right time, for those times you would offer to take me out to dinner to get away from it all, I knew I was never alone.  And for that I can never thank you enough…

Thank you for not taking away my pain, but being willing to walk through it with me.

Thank you for all the times you hurt for me, and yet you did the hardest and most loving thing, to let me have my sacred journey and instead reminded me (early and often) that I wasn’t alone.

Thank you to all of my In Case of Emergencies… you are so very precious to me.

 

 

 

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I remember reading a book by SARK when I was in college, and she talked about walking around with a little net where she would capture all of these little miracles.  She called it the “miracle moment collector”.  That idea stuck with me, and over the years, as I have collected quotes, art, poetry, bits of goodness here, there and everywhere I realize that I am doing it too.

And I have been reminded recently that it is both a learned behavior, but also an incredible gift.  And since I think the best thing to do with gifts is to share them I would like to start a new series on the blog when inspiration strikes where I will offer what has brought a smile, a tear, a laugh to my face, with the intent to pass along all the miracles that I have been collecting.  I cast my net widely, you will never know what you will get… there are so many miracles in the world, and so much goodness…

So for today these things:

The loveliest video I have come across in a long time.

What happens when strangers meet in a ball pit.

I love listening to the way children tell stories.  The way they breathe as they talk, the way they switch ideas midstream, the way that they giggle and guffaw.  There is something so magical about following the mind of a child.

The Scared is Scared

http://vimeo.com/58659769

This is a woman that I wish I knew, and I can only hope that my legacy will be as beautiful as hers.

Irene Ritter

hillside

Adventures in cardboard. 

I will admit, I now have a not so secret desire to hoard my cardboard boxes and come join them this summer.  You don’t think they would mind if I joined in?

Now go find some goodness.

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Brandi Carlile- Minnesota State Fair 2010
In 2010 I was lucky enough to get to see Brandi Carlile in concert at the State Fair and this was my picture from that evening with the blog post that it sparked:
You know like you do when you take a great picture, see great art, or hear a beautiful song. Every fiber of your being resonates with recognition and anticipation. You feel it all the way to your core leaving no room for doubt. When you come to the silent still places there is no objection, there is nothing but a resounding YES! from every fiber of your being.
Great art is like this, great writing, great friendships…
and great love should be too.
And last night I was blessed yet again to be able to see her live, this time at the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater.  When I had gotten home I was still savoring the electric energy from the concert and looked up a few videos to prolong the experience.  It was so much fun seeing everyone at the concert singing along with gusto, watching people dance and jump up and down when their favorite song comes on.   The intimacy that is created when people share their hearts is simply beautiful, when they share their gifts and the crowd is willing to receive the music- it electrifies everything and everyone.
One of the most amazing moments of the evening was Brandi sharing her experience of being a young and budding artist and the influence that Lillith Fair had on her and how important it is to nurture young talent, to give back.  She had asked for someone in the audience who was a huge fan, under the age of 20, and someone who played guitar.  I was assuming that she was going to offer the experience of being able to play with her and instead when the nervous young girl stood there on stage next to her she smiled and said, “It’s yours.” And this young 19 year old woman stood in stunned silence as Brandi placed her guitar around her neck.  The entire amphitheater stopped breathing for a moment to witness this act of generosity, of belief, and then exploded into clapping and whistling as it hit everyone that she was absolutely serious.
It reminded me we have a responsibility, an opportunity to offer what we have to one another, it may not be from a big stage, or something  of that magnitude, but we still can share that sense of belief, that joy, passing along the opportunity to develop.  This young woman’s life is now changed… perhaps she will be an artist, perhaps not, but without a doubt this will be a milestone in her life and she has an even better story to tell.  And isn’t that what we do, collect stories, collect moments and share them long beyond the experience.
These are the words that I shared with a friend last night after watching this video of her song Hard Way Home.
That has to be the best feeling, when you get done doing a song and you look around and that moment where everyone’s eyes meet and you know that that was the track that you are going to put on the album, that was the song played the way it was supposed to be played, that was the moment when there was this incredible alchemy and the energy of the room wove itself around and through the music, the instruments, the vocals and the hearts… 
 
That is why people play music… and that is why people go to see it… for that moment…
 
Sigh… 
 
That is why I love live music.  Seeing that moment in person… feeling the energy rise, seeing them lose themselves in time and space, watching the smiles leap from deep within… pretty amazing.

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Colorado April 2012

A beautiful quote that touched me from Ronna Detrick’s recent blog post:

In some ways, the art of spiritual direction lies in uncovering the obvious in our lives and in realizing that everyday events are the means by which God tries to reach us. ~ Alan Jones

After attending a recent event for my church I am reminded again of how hungry people are for connection, for spiritual nourishment, for authentic conversation about so many things- including doubt, certainty, hope, joy, pain, love and connection.  What a beautiful opportunity to be around others who are willing to question, to share, to revel in relationship with one another and with God/Mystery/Love.

And questions: How to live our faith on an everyday basis, how God reaches out to us, what pieces of our life hold meaning, where Love shows up in our lives, how we are blessing others, how we are being blessed… so wonderful to sit with these questions, to share thoughts and to hear the hearts of others.

One of the many conversations that struck me was about the love of friends, and how that is a special kind of love, an elevated kind of love because it is a constant choice we make to be in one another’s lives.  There isn’t a formal contract, or a bloodline that holds us together, instead it is a choice that we continue to make to bless and be blessed by sharing, by coming together, by holding one another in love and committing acts of kindness to sustain the relationship.

And something that resonated deeply was her assertion that friendship by it’s very definition is an act of grace.  Something I will be mulling over for the next few days…

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In talking with a friend who is finding his way through the ending of a relationship I wrote these words to help ease his transition:

Know that you are held in my love as you transition, as you honor you, as you leap into the love that the Universe has waiting for you now in different forms, and in the future as that love takes the form of another human…

His response: “That’s like a prayer and a blessing wrapped into one.”

And it got me thinking about prayers and blessings, and the power our words have – to help heal, to share certainty when our worlds feel uncertain, and the gentle reminder we are so loved as the words and truth travel from heart to heart.

When I was in high school Pastor Paul Gauche would always end the service with the following Benediction.  To this day my heart still smiles and I can hear his voice echoing in my ears when I read it:

And now as you go from this place, go knowing that you are saved by grace; you are justified, you are forgiven, you are sought out, you are beloved, you are hidden in Christ and made for the glory of God.

You are known, you are never forsaken, you are held in the palm of God’s hand, you are loved. 

May God’s peace and power go with us until we gather again, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I never tired of hearing those words.  There were many times I would find refuge in them, in the certainty with which he conveyed them to the congregation.  I would close my eyes and for a moment it was as though God himself was bestowing blessings upon me.

Those words spoken each week reminded me that we are known, we are loved, we are sought out, that we need to be reminded on a regular basis that we are chosen, we are so very loved.

We need to be reminded that love seeks to know us, to embrace us, to give us the gifts of presence, the security of being held.  We are given the opportunity so many times to share that with others, to offer those very same gifts that love longs to share with us and we are invited to receive the love that the Universe has waiting for us.
My own faith journey has taken twists and turns since sitting in those pews so long ago but the love that was woven through and held together those words has never left.  The assurance of something larger than myself, something beyond my comprehension, some mystery that holds us close has always drawn me back.  Back to the questions, to the certainty, to the struggle of trying to convey what my heart knows and my head wants to dissect and “prove”.

God is such a heavy word, laden with so much that sometimes I fear using it because I have more questions than answers and so often I don’t want others to think that I have confined God into a little box.  All I know is the closest I have come to God is a swelling from within my soul of love, a deep sense of gratitude for all that I have been given.  I know that in the darkest moments I have been held, that something has threaded my life together to create a beautiful tapestry from bits and scraps that have woven into something beautiful, and sometimes I choose to call it God.

All I know is that there is a homing device of sorts within me, a still, small voice, a sixth sense, a deep knowing, intuition perhaps, angelic guidance, acestoral assistance, perhaps all of those things, perhaps none of them… and for me it is not so much about naming it as living in the intimacy and ecstacy of being near to such lightness of being, to the vibrating core of light and love that I can see but can’t quite seem to explain that guides me, that surrounds me, that heals me.  This healing, this love, this pure goodness, this light, this energy, this something…  brings me peace, leaves me feeling bathed in love and overflowing with gratitude.

For someone who loves to put words to experiences, who strives to name things, who wants to share intimate experiences of the soul with others to deepen relationships it is hard to not know what words to use.  The words that we have are so small, so shallow, so insignificant when faced with the reality of a love that large, that deep, that powerful, that full, that radiant…  and I am torn between trying and failing and just sitting in it not trying to explain it just sharing it without words… and I suppose that is my happy medium… to do both… to do my best to try to explain and when words fail to radiate love from the very depth of my being.

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Last week I submitted an essay for a contest called Notes and Words.  The reason I entered the contest was because in addition to some amazing prizes the essayist that won received:

introductions to:

  • Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Anne Lamott, New York Times bestselling author
  • John Hodgman, The Daily Show and HBO’s Bored to Death
  • Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author

It was the introductions to Anne Lamott and Kelly Corrigan that really caught my eye.  And so I put it out there to the Universe, in my prayers, in my heart that that is what I wanted.  I wanted to be able to connect with them, to thank them for their bravery, for their words, for putting their souls on paper.  So I crossed my fingers and toes, submitted my essay and let it go.

When author Brene’ Brown came to town to speak I knew that there were a million and three things I wanted to say to her and yet I knew that when I and the three hundred others stood in front of her to get our books signed I wouldn’t be able to tell her all of the things I wanted to share so I decided to write a letter to her.  I was nervous, but just knew that I needed to do that.  She had been brave enough to put her book out there for all the world to see, the least I could do is to share my honest response.   It wasn’t until a friend said in a wistful voice “Wow, that was really brave” that it occurred to me that it indeed might be.  After giving her the letter, and realizing that for me in that moment it wasn’t about her response, it was about doing it- my giving, sharing and becoming brave was more important.   And it felt amazing, to be able to simply do something that scared me, that stretched me and let it go.

I wanted to make it a habit to sink into that feeling of making courageous choices, to stretch my comfort zone, to reach out in acts of bravery on a regular basis.  So I made a list of things that would be brave for me, lists of people that I wanted to write to, to thank them, to share with them pieces of how they have inspired me, to celebrate what they bring to the world.  And I have been committing my “Acts of Bravery” every month since.  Sometimes it is letters, sometimes it is a blog post I am scared to publish, a conversation that requires me to be vulnerable, a workout that challenges me, or setting my book free into the world.  More often than not it means letting go of control or the outcome in various ways.  Since this commitment I have published my book, wrote several blog posts that required me to summon my courage to hit Publish, sent a letter to SARK, Brene’ Brown, Shauna Ahern from Gluten Free Girl, Jen Gray and Katrina Kenison (which is being mailed this week) and have started a list on my desktop that is titled “Acts of Bravery” where I keep all of the things that I have done, and those that I plan to do.

On Saturday I ran into some friends who mentioned “Oh Erica, you read Anne Lamott right?  Did you know that she will be doing a book signing in the cities on Monday?”  (Enter a chorus of angels singing)  Really!?!?

An opportunity for another committing another “Act of Bravery.”

(A blurry) Anne Lamott and I tonight (with my book and my letter!)

What you can’t see is two of my friends cheering me on in the background as I committed another Act of Bravery.

I am reminded every time I do this, it is a lot easier to be brave when you have your cheering section at your side.  When I share with others what I am doing, why I am doing it I have gotten amazing amounts of support.  I believe people are drawn to support dreams [and I do believe you have to choose your support system carefully.  As Brene’ Brown reminds us- “share with those who have earned the right to hear your story”]  I believe we want to see the best in each other and we want to encourage each other to shine brightly in this world and to do that we have to give others an opportunity to support us, to be in on the dreams.

People can’t support what they don’t know- they can’t share in dreams that aren’t spoken.

I have been reminded time and time again that courage expands when it is spoken, bravery grows by leaps and bounds when given the right nourishment and that we sometimes need a nudge to keep dreaming big.

So here is your nudge to keep dreaming big, here is your invitation to bravery…

What Acts of Bravery will you commit?

The world is waiting!

 

P.S.  The connectedness of all of this- these lessons, these themes, the weaving together of reminders I need and the ways that the Universe/God gets my attention never ceases to amaze me… and leaves me in awe, feeling known, loved and held.  Tonight while going to Jen Gray’s site for the first time in awhile to link to her name her most recent blog post from March 13th included an Anne Lamott quote… grace indeed.

I do not understand the mystery of grace only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us..

~ anne lamott

 

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