February 22, 2010

Ice Crisis

It's February . . . still. January felt long as well, with cold, icy, dark days that felt longer than their allotted twenty-four hours. But February is the final month that ends the bleak winter days (at least in the area I live), so the anticipation of March and spring just weeks away makes me want to move quickly through February. Sometimes I think it would be nice if humans could just collectively hibernate right about now. Just shut down, regain our strength, and avoid the feelings of bleakness that this season can bring. Then we could wake up as the warmth settles around us and the natural world comes to life with buds and flowers, inviting us once again to the world of renewal and hope and life. But the more I think about it, if humans could hibernate, we would miss out on many experiences that the "winter" months could teach us, if you look at the winter months symbolically . . . as times of tribulation. Read the following quote from author Caroline Myss in her book Invisible Acts of Power:

"Many of the crisis in our lives are divinely scheduled to get us to head in another direction. No one gets off a comfortable couch. We need stress, often an enormous amount of it, to muster up the willpower finally to try something new with our lives. As . . . Scott Peck writes, '. . . our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.' "

Everyone gets challenged by a crisis. But what usually happens with me is that I become paralyzed, useless, and unable to find my center. I generally don't take any action, even though my thoughts are spinning. A good word to describe my reaction during these times would be frozen . . . in a metaphorical winter ice crisis. When ice and snow come upon a landscape, it really cements things in place for a time. Small twigs are not likely to blow away until the ice releases its hold; rocks are almost impossible to dislodge from a frozen forest floor; and, on a lighter note, I've even had my daughter's jump rope become frozen under the ice, only to be rescued when the warm sun shines on it days later. When it snows here in Tennessee, life basically shuts down because no one is prepared to move fluidly along the roads, since our driving skills in icy conditions are lacking and the city rarely salts the roads thoroughly in preparation. So, I've had my fair share of days through the years in Tennessee of simply being stuck in one place for a few days because of the snow and ice. But recently, I've begun to take a new perspective on the benefits of the various internal "ice crises" I've found myself frozen in.

For example, if I reword being "stuck" and "frozen" during a difficult time with being "still" and "receptive", then my attitude can change and the end result moves to a positive. Being still and receptive while moving through a difficulty also echoes of silence and meditation, waiting on God to reveal the next step, discernment, and rehabilitating the self through patience and gentleness.
I searched the Bible for references to snow, and I did not find anything negative associated with that word. In fact, the purity and renewal of snow was reiterated again and again. And it's true. Snow and ice can represent a new start, acting like a blanket, covering over the old decay of the past season. When it thaws, the water is set free, affirming life by allowing new growth to take root and established trees and plants to keep thriving. Can you see the need for stillness and patience as we learn to wait on God to move us through the difficulties? Help will come to us, but shutting down and becoming paralyzed by fear shuts down our ability to perceive God around us. He is always there, but we have to look and listen through our STILLNESS without letting our feelings of being frozen and stuck get the better of us. The crisis we are going through will "thaw", and the new growth that takes place when the Living Water runs through us only makes our souls more beautiful.
Note: The above picture is a brachiopod fossil half, filled with tiny crystals, sitting in the snow.

February 6, 2010

The Prayer of My Child

This past September my sister gave my youngest daughter, age seven, a crucifix for her birthday. No, neither my sister nor I are Catholic, but we both respect other denominations and often intermingle various religious customs in our own to enhance our spirituality. The crucifix she picked out was silver with pink beads, and it came stored in a sweet little ceramic dish in the shape of a bed with a child sleeping in it, holding a bunny. Very child-friendly. She felt that this gift was appropriate for my daughter because she has displayed an ease at talking with God and "connecting" to Him through prayer and the songs she writes . . . ("Heart of Gold" topping the list as my favorite.) When she opened the gift, she kinda knew what it was, but my sister explained more fully what a crucifix was and its use during prayer. She then gave her a simplified way to use it with prayer: just hold it while praying and use it to help feel closer to God. Simple enough . . . even though some Catholics might be in an uproar by now at this modified usage!

She doesn't use it very much, but it sits in its ceramic dish on her nightstand day after day, a sort of zen spot amid the cluttered mess of her extremely disorganized room. One night, though, I walked in to say goodnight and tell her that her Daddy would be in soon to say prayers with her (as is the nightly ritual), when I noticed she had her crucifix out and cradled in her hand, in the dark. She asked me to sit down and tell her of any prayer requests I had. I was a little thrown off, since I had never heard her say the words "prayer requests" before, but I sat down and smiled, knowing that my heart was in fact a bit troubled by a particular issue that day in which I had not yet prayed for help. For a moment I was tickled at the situation; it felt as if I was going into a Catholic confessional, and she was there to listen in the cloak of darkness, as if I was one of many people who would be passing through her room that night seeking peace and redemption. But I quickly reminded myself that God had simply stirred in her heart, and without her questioning it, she asked me to tell her my requests, so I did . . . to my child . . . but really to God (while we both touched the rosary): "I pray that my body feels better very soon and that I stop worrying about it." That was all I said; then I asked her for a prayer request, and she chirpily replied, "Oh, I don't really have any. I just wanted you to say one." Well, well, well, was I caught off-guard. That was the whole purpose . . . my prayer for myself, with my daughter (the power of two or more). Children are so open to the divine when it calls. And she, unknowingly, answered the calling of God to specifically ask to pray with me and for me.

I thank God every day for the blessings of my children! Amen!