Armor by Shelly Walker

August 14, 2019

“Some of us walk around with a necklace of hope, an armor of sanity, but at the end of the day, they always come off. We reveal our naked, vulnerable, real selves.”  ― Karen Quan, author

It’s been three years since we received the heartbreaking diagnosis for our precious wee boy: muscular dystrophy. No treatment. No cure. He would live to see 20 “if we were lucky.” I don’t remember much about the next year. I was swimming in a fog of grief and fear. Oh, I survived, but I did it by putting the needs of everyone before my own. Because what I needed was to fall apart and I didn’t have the luxury of falling apart.

I had grief and fear and four children to take care of. That’s when I started numbing, building an ambitious armor around my tender, hurting heart so I wouldn’t be pulled under by the pain. My armor guaranteed my survival.

Then the presidential election happened, November 2016, and the division that ripped our country also tore my family apart. As my naivete was stripped away, I learned that people I loved, adored, and respected shared very different values from me. This was the first election that I took personally. And it hurt. My armor became heavier as I learned to navigate this new world.

I call this time in my life, these two very difficult years, my miniature disaster. At some point in life, most people experience their own miniature disasters, these pivots in time where life gets REAL. Everything we think we know is put to the test. We learn who our friends are. They are the ones who don’t take our stuff personally, neither our outbursts nor our withdrawals, and just keep loving us. Loving us hard.

We learn where to look for God. We find God in the smallest moments of wonder and laughter and raw pain. We find God in the quiet moments of prayer and in the small celebrations, in the mountains and in the mundane.

And, eventually we learn that as seductive as it can be, putting on that emotional armor to try to protect our tender hearts just isn’t worth it. You see, the problem with armor is that the weight becomes unbearable and it keeps us from feeling the good stuff, too.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the good things in life in order to avoid the hard things so I keep putting the armor down and feeling ALL the feelings, knowing that the grief and pain I carry is, in Truth, also a gift.

As I lay my armor down, I find that I am, in fact, not drowning in my pain. I get sad. I get scared. But much more, I get grateful. Grateful for my family. Grateful for our human family. Grateful that the light is being called to banish the shadows.
What I know is that when I choose Love, when I choose connection, when I choose gratitude, the ways of Light open before my feet. As a friend of mine said the other day, “Strong back. Soft belly. Wild heart.”

A strong back, born of knowing Who You Are. A soft belly, making the choice to stay open and vulnerable. A wild heart, creative and daring and free to make this world a better place. As Dr, King said, “Love will have the final word.” Put down the armor. Be the Love.

Shelly Walker is a licensed Spiritual Practitioner, serving at New Thought Center for Spiritual Living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. You can join her Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/ShellWalk1.

A Tribute

July 30, 2019

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” 
― Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Story Girl

We first met while standing in line in downtown Portland to see the 1983 film, “The Big Chill.” Perfect first encounter for two youthful baby boomers, both of us in our early 30s. Big hair, shoulder pads, traveling the upward spiral in our chosen careers. It was an instant connection. So much of life ahead. Our 30s, 40s, 50s, and now 60s.

Our second meeting was in Eugene, Oregon. My boyfriend at the time was in law school there. One of Judie’s best friends was my boyfriend’s good friend. So, my boyfriend says to me, “We’re going white water rafting with Judie, Bryan (Judie’s husband) and Jeff.” OMG. I was frantic thinking Judie was this macho Pacific Northwest outdoors chick. A tough, risk taking adventurer. The opposite of me. That perception would soon change.

We arrived at Jeff’s house, me wearing a denim sun dress with a bright red sweater. Judie entered the room in a summer ensemble, green and brown top and shorts complimenting her lithe figure, and matching earrings. Judie says to me, “I love your red sweater.” My reply, “Thanks. I’m a winter.” Judie perked up and said, “I’m an autumn.” Thus, began a beautiful and colorful friendship of nearly 40 years.

Who remembers colors from the 1980s?

Given that Judie and I both refused to go white water rafting—way too dangerous for us city slickers–it was suggested that instead we rent roller blades and tool around Eugene. Judie and I looked at each other, shook our heads and at the same time say, “Nope.” What did transpire was a picnic on the bank of the McKenzie River. The men folk swam in the river while Judie and I stayed on shore and shared our visions for working with women and children. Empowering them to live their best lives, long before Oprah made that a meme.

Since Judie’s terminal diagnosis in February, due to pancreatic cancer that had already metastasized, I have had a jumble of memories surface. All good. I can’t say that about all of my friends, but I can about Judie. This reminds me of my wedding in 1995.

A videographer was roaming the reception, inviting people to share memories of Doug and myself. The photog asked Judie, “What does Kate mean to you?” Judie looked confused while starting to twirl a lock of hair, a life-long habit that meant she was thinking. Finally, she replied, very slowly, “I don’t think Kate has ever been mean to me.” We’ve had a lot of good laughs about that, even in these past few weeks as her life force was waning.

This same videographer mistook Judie’s 3-year old son for Tyler, my 5-year old stepson. The photog asked Blake, “How do you like Kate being your new stepmom?” Blake started to twirl a lock of his hair while looking mighty confused.

When it came time for the toast, we asked Bryan, Judie’s husband and Blake’s dad, to share a personal message about us. Which he did, and quite beautifully so. When it came time for the toast, Bryan lifted his glass and declared boldly, “Here’s to Kate and Dave.” Remember my boyfriend in Eugene? That was Dave.

Memories are what keep us connected, especially during times of loss. Memories are what allow us to move forward with life, even during times of sadness and sorrow. Memories are to be treasured.

Judie, I will forever remember you. Thank you for co-creating so many beautiful memories with me and my family, and so many mutual friends. “Family by choice” we used to say, and it’s indeed true. I’ve lost a beloved family member. A true sister of my soul. Now my forever anam cara. Judie, when we meet again, I wonder what movie will be showing in heaven? I’ll get the popcorn. You get the milk duds. And yet another memory surfaces. “Guilty pleasures,” she used to say.

Treading Water

June 17, 2019

“I had been simply treading water, settling on surviving and avoiding pain rather than being actively involved in seeking out life.” Kay Redfield Jamison, clinical psychologist & writer

Treading water is a favorite way to accelerate my heartrate in the arthritis swim class I attend. I chuckle when I remember how, in training as a water safety instructor, we had to tread water for ten minutes with both arms up and out of the water. That was nearly fifty years ago. Today I can easily tread water non-stop for two minutes, using both my legs and arms. I consider that a monumental achievement. But something occurred to me in this morning’s class during our first aerobic session.

Treading water in the shallow end is vastly different than treading water in the deep end. I’m safe in the shallow end. I can see the bottom. I can walk to the side wall. But in the deep end my life depends on keeping my head above water. I can’t see the bottom. I have to swim to the side wall. Using this thought as a metaphor, I wonder where I’m playing it safe in my life? Have I become too familiar with the status quo of the shallow end? Or, am I willing to risk going into the deeper waters of the unknown for a more meaningful experience of life? That’s where change happens!

Consider this passage from The Infinite Way by Joel Goldsmith: “When your spiritual study is sincere, the breaking-up of your material world—the desertion of friends, students, or family, a change in health or other outer activity—often ushers in the spiritual transition, or rebirth. This is the attainment of that which you have sought.”

My spiritual growth will not expand if I stay in the shallow end. The illusion is that I can control what happens there. Things will stay the same because it’s predictable and safe. But my spirit continually longs to go deeper. To dive into the primordial depths of this thing called Life. What is my life about, especially now that I’m swimming towards my twilight years? What are my relationships about, especially when there are dis-connects and dis-comforts? What are the stressors in my country that trigger feelings of despair?

As Goldsmith predicted, I have suffered a great deal with loss since my spiritual studies became sincere nearly thirty years ago. I could make a list. It would be a long one. Yet I can truthfully say that I am grateful for every change, even if it meant flailing my arms around in the deep end of the pool while shouting “help” to a lifeguard. It’s here where I remember that I am the guardian of my own life. This is my swimming pool. I have choice between the shallow and deep ends. Where does my spirit want to tread water today?

And more shall be revealed….

Stop!

June 2, 2019

STUFF I KNOW
© Rev. Angelica Martinez

TRIGGER WARNING Proceed knowing you were given the disclaimer.

If you feel the need to comment, please do not tell me “change your mind, change your life” and “what you get is what you think about” jargon. Trust me, I have read, written and heard the lot of it. But know this, I am allowing myself to bathe in the loamy richness of the Dark Night. Ebb and Flow Life goes. Trust me, I know what I am doing. I have been here before. I walked in the Sun again. This is The Alchemy of Life.

I am tired of Life.

Please note, that does not say “I am tired of living.” Two very distinctly different things.

Sometimes, it is okay to say “STOP!” Regroup and start over. Stop, look and Breathe. What is the information in front of you? How do you move forward? Forward is the only direction you can go, because Time is Linear – moving toward a Desired result. So, the question becomes, “What is it you Desire?” Now I know why Lucifer says that so much on the TV Series; in that one question you can find out so much information about what the driving force is for that person. Fascinating stuff. But I digress.

When I said “I am tired of Life” I meant, “Whoa, there’s a shit-ton coming at me right now. I need to Hard Stop and Reset.”

Hard Stop. Cessation of motion. Cessation of chaos. Cessation of external stimuli.
Breath One. Pause.
Breath Two. Gather information.
Breath Three. Release.
Reset.

There is such a deep richness in the Cave of the Dark Night. The watery, earthy goodness. The fertilizer of Growth. (In Alchemy Water = Emotions Earth = Grounding/Strength/Matter). A Dark Night is Alchemy. When you Allow yourself the moments in the Dark, you fertilize that Growth spurt that is about to happen.

If I think back over my life, it was those deepest, darkest moments that led to the most profound Growth and Change. (and yes, I have been seeing 555 lately). It still feels shitty sometimes though. I still get tired of Life and it’s ebbing and flowing.

Thing is, I know that once the rapids are over, there is a nice bend of river where it is calm, lazy yet still flowing. I just gotta get over the damn rapids.

Again, see the reference to water (emotions)?

Life is full of emotions, Energy (E =mc2) set in motion. E-motion.And like water they rage and they rest. Ebb and Flow. Oh FFS, is Life nothing but Ebb and Flow? Ebb and Flow. I am tired of ebbing and flowing. I want to get out of the river and rest. I want the world to stop fighting. I want Trump to be the best he can be, whatever that means, just be a decent human being FFS. I want to not have to worry about the welfare of my community. I want to stop being a mother. I want to stop being a manager. I want to stop!! I want to simply HARD STOP Life.

Life does not Hard Stop . . . only I can.

Hard Stop. Breath. Reset. (Originally, I accidently typed Rest. And that works too)
Dear Angels, Universe, God Almighty and Yeshua his Son,
Please Hear my Prayer.

I am tired of Life at the Moment. Can you take over and Guide me to the Right thing to do? Help me be the best I can be in this Moment, because it feels like I am muddying up the waters. Help me to Stop, Breathe and Reset. Help me remember you are always with me. I am Supported in your Love. Amen.

Thank you,
Rev. Angelica
Feel free to connect via Facebook: Angel Raven-Hawke or via email angel.martinez444@outlook.com

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=Awr9ImaUhPRcf_4ADGNXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyanFiZjI2BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjY4MzNfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=when+you+walk+through+a+storm&fr=mcafee#id=9&vid=8b6f9071b50bcc5d84edc9ae7e41c972&action=view

Untold Stories

May 17, 2019

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

One of the things I enjoy most while leading tours to Ireland is the gift of witnessing someone having an “ah ha” moment connected to their ancestry. Because my role is as leader and guide, I don’t always get those moments for myself. But I did this time. It happened in a flash when I heard the words “took the soup.” Suddenly, an untold story emerged.

Last April, with my group, I finally got to visit the ancient Hill of Uisneach. (Roughly pronounced ISH-nok.) That’s where I had my “ah ha” moment. Uisneach is considered Ireland’s 5th Province as well as the burial place of the Irish goddess, Eriu, from whom Ireland got its name. It’s considered a sacred and spiritual ritual site with monuments and relics dating back over 5,000 years. Our private guide, a seasoned ceremonialist, squired us around the many hills while leading rituals and ceremonies connected with the four elements: earth, air, fire, water. During a walk between sites, I encountered a most interesting man.

Although he was clearly clean and put together, he had that look about him that said he might be a Druid who just popped out the woods. He did, indeed, pop up from time to time. We couldn’t figure out how he got ahead of us and would suddenly appear, one time sitting on the gate of a fence. That’s where we struck up a conversation.

As typical of Irish people, he inquired about my ancestry. I told him about my mother’s Connolly line, likely hailing from somewhere in the northwest of Ireland. These were areas particularly hit hard during the Great Potato Famine. I mentioned that we were Protestants way back to the late 1700s. “Oh, so your people took the soup,” he declared. Took the soup? I’d never heard that expression before. He explained.

During Ireland’s tragic potato famine, people professed to be the religion of the church that was serving soup to the poor. So, a Catholic would say they were Protestant, while a Protestant would say they were Catholic. Many were forced to convert. They betrayed their beliefs in exchange for food. My leprechaun friend fully believes that my Connolly ancestors were originally Catholic. Regardless, it was the thought process that ensued that got my attention.

Because my Connolly ancestor(s) immigrated before the Great Famine of the mid 1800s, I thought they were free from the trauma and despair of their homeland. Surely, they left behind many family and friends who literally starved to death. The Irish Potato Famine began in 1845 and went on for four years. It is estimated that between 500,000 and more than one million people died in Ireland during that time. Keep in mind that the potato, the staple of every poor Irish family’s diet, was the only crop that failed. Ireland’s beef, dairy, and lumber, as well as jobs, went to the wealthy British that ruled over them. Approximately two million Irish people left and immigrated to other countries, mostly the U.S. and Canada. That’s where my focus has been throughout my entire life. Thank God my ancestors were not impacted by the Famine! But that’s not true. My people who stayed in Ireland were innocent victims of a tyrannical ruling class and subjected to torture in the form of starvation. Like all people, I carry the stories—told or untold–of my ancestors. Is this why Ireland keeps calling me back, in search of the untold story? Is this why many in my family, including myself, are overweight? Is this why it’s been hard for me to declare one particular religion? Is this why any form of betrayal hurts so deeply? To my ancestors I say:

I’m sorry you had to suffer.
Please forgive me for forgetting.
Thank you for my new level of awareness.
I love you.

Some Irish men were imprisoned for stealing food to feed their young. This haunting ballad shares a story that needs to be told. When someone sings it in an Irish pub, locals stop what they are doing and sing along. I finally get why.

Ann Breen ~ The Fields Of Athenry

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=mary+black+fields+of+athenry#id=6&vid=501a470e7ec72eaa97f5e37c43d174ff&action=view

What if…

February 18, 2019

“You see, the what ifs are as boundless as the stars.” 
― Sally Gardner, Maggot Moon

What if you just walked out of your life? Literally, right now, just got up and started walking, with no destination in mind? That’s what’s unfolding in a delightful book I am re-reading: The Elegant Gathering of White Snows by Kris Radish. It’s about a group of women who gather for a weekly book club, which translates into deep sharing and lots of wine. On one particular evening, the women end up in a cuddle puddle on the floor of the kitchen, comforting a distraught sister of the soul.

The woman in despair says, between sniffles, “Sometimes I just want to walk out of my life.” Another woman sighs, “Me, too.” Several “Me, too’s” echo the sentiment. Together they say, “Let’s do it.”

So, this group of eight women, of various ages, body types and lifestyles, start walking. And walking, and walking, and walking. As they walk, they talk, disclosing dark secrets that have, until the walking, been simmering on the back burners of their soul.

Soon their walking is all over the local news. Strangers meet them on the road with cheers of gratitude and delicious food—and wine. Plenty of wine. This brings national attention. Some people offer overnight accommodations, free of charge. The conversations between the walkers deepen. The tears flow yet the smile never leaves a face. Suddenly their walking becomes international news. These eight women inspire women all over the world to do the same. Unhappy with your life? Then just walk out of it.

What a bold endeavor! I’m not sure I would have that level of courage. Yet the story has reminded me of the times when I have walked out of my life. When I answered the voice that said, “What if I stepped away from unhappiness and discontent, knowing that there was something greater Out There for me. And, each time, the outcome was better than I could have expected?”

A college friend said to me, “What if you moved to Portland with me?” I left Iowa in 1975 for greener and wetter pastures in Oregon. I had $300 in my pocket, no apartment, no job, just a desire to be somewhere else where the thermometer read -24. Pieces fell into place very quickly. Sometimes I wonder, what if I had stayed in Iowa?

I left a job in 1993 without a safety net. Single, alone, with a house payment. Yet my psyche and soul could no longer tolerate the destructive environment of that work place.

What if I had stayed with that job?

My husband and I left Portland two years ago for rural living outside McMinnville, Oregon. I remember thinking, how do I make friends at this stage of life? That didn’t take long. And still I wonder, what if I had stayed in Portland?

I can “what if” myself into a corner. What’s relevant to me is to reflect on the bold actions I’ve taken through my life, each time rewarded. To give myself a pat on the back for such boldness. “I did that!” It also occurs to me that every great endeavor in the history of the world started with a What If. 

Today, I ask myself, and you: What has become intolerable in my life? What if I just stay and tolerated? Or, what if I made a bold change? Is there something calling to me that needs to move to the front burner? What if listened to the What If voice? Took a leap of faith? Trusted my intuition?

As expected, each walking woman in the book has some level of introspection and revelation. Some joyfully return to husbands. Some don’t. Some quit jobs to pursue a new career. Some awaken to stirrings they didn’t know they had, but now had to be pursued. One particular story is about a woman following the walkers on the news. Unbeknownst to them, she too walks out of her life in pursuit of a sunset that has called to her for 70 years. I can visualize her tears and her smile.

No more “what ifs.” The time is now, and we are the ones.

Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walking
https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=youtube%2C+these+boots#id=25&vid=b5bab7061340cfb3b037c0e4a4c19ba4&action=view

Doorways

February 3, 2019

“If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.” Anonymous

Have you ever tried and tried and tried to do something, be a part of something, to align with something, only to have the door slammed in our face, over and over and over again? As quoted above, “If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.” I thought I was long past that in my life, until some uncomfortable experiences this past year and one even this past week. The stories are irrelevant. My reaction to it is relevant as a reminder that not all doorways are meant for me. Walking away is sometimes the best option. Here’s a time when I did just that.

Years ago, I was invited to serve on an advisory board for a group of ministers serving large congregations. Their goal was to take their spiritual teachings out into the greater world. The first meeting was held at a fancy retreat center perched high in the hills above Malibu, California. My assigned roommate was the minister of a small church, similar to the community where I was serving as staff minister. We caught ourselves giggling like school children, wondering why we were there.

Right from the “get go” I felt invisible. Yes, the high-powered ministers were all nice and cordial, but I didn’t feel like I connected, like I belonged there. I kept asking myself why. Low self-esteem? Because I’m from hippy dippy Oregon and not sassy flashy California? It was mind boggling, and yet I hung in there, wanting to grasp what was unfolding before my literal and spiritual eyes.

I muddled my way through the first retreat, coming home confused and befuddled. A friend advised me that it was low self-esteem making me invisible in the eyes of what I called “high-powered ministers.” She encouraged me to look in the mirror and get that I too was a high-powered minister. I tried, but couldn’t quite get there. But that wasn’t going to stop me. This open door was too enticing to ignore.

Given that this was an incredible opportunity to serve and connect, a way for me to become more visible in the global arena of ministry, I decided to return to the next year’s retreat. The same woman was my roommate. We enjoyed a dinner out upon arrival, each wondering why we were on the advisory board, and why I personally felt so invisible.

The next morning, after prayer and positive self-talk, my roommate and I walked into the conference room with dignity and grace. Ministers were hugging and laughing, filling the air with enthusiasm and joy. It felt good. Soon a minister from Southern California—looking very surfer dude like—started walking towards me. We made eye contact and both smiled at each other as a way of recognition. As I extended my hand to him, he walked right by me and hugged another minister standing right behind me. He didn’t even see me. I was flabbergasted, even more so when similar patterns emerged throughout the day. I was totally invisible, even after gearing up my energy body. By now this was amusing, as I knew something deeper was going on.

It wasn’t until the closing circle that day that I finally got the message. I saw this door and was beckoned in, but I never really entered. My participation was half-hearted, for a reason. This organization was not my Tribe. I do not resonate with their desire to take their agreed upon teachings out into the world. In my thinking, the world has enough religions. No one was wrong or bad. It just wasn’t my tribe. It was time to stop knocking on a door that was not mine.

What happened next? I don’t know. Either they stopped meeting or they decided to leave me off the invitation list. I am grateful for the two advisory retreats I attended, and even more grateful to the many doorways since that have revealed my true Tribes.

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Iva.
Iva who?
I’ve a sore hand from knocking!

Friendship

January 19, 2019

“When your spiritual study is sincere, the breaking-up of your material world—the desertion of friends, students, or family, a change in health or other outer activity—often ushers in the spiritual transition, or rebirth. This is the attainment of that which you have sought.”  – Joel Goldsmith, The Infinite Way

One of the assignments I was first given in ministry school, way back in 1993, was to make a list of the most important current friendships in my life. This did not include family members or partners. Then I was told to put the list away, and notice how those relationships may change over the next three years.  And change they did!  I was shocked the first time I returned to the list, just one year later.

One friend had moved to the East Coast, seemingly out of the blue. I greatly missed our spontaneous coffee dates and long conversations.  Another friend suddenly divorced and relocated two states away. I didn’t see the split coming, nor did I see her moving away. Like with the East Coast friend, our day-to-day interactions quickly faded.

I remember pulling away from a friend who had become toxic for me. Her negativity was predictable and a real downer. Not just with me, but with others when I invited her to gatherings in my home. These were spiritual gatherings! I heard from a mutual friend that she was very hurt by my withdrawal. I chose to do nothing, and just let it be. 

Then there was the woman I considered a sister of the soul. She dumped me as a friend because I was enthralled by my new boyfriend and his young children. “Kathleen, I never thought you would be the type to use me as a friend until you got a boyfriend.”  Ouch!  I didn’t even go through that in junior high but I sure remember the curse of it. What she didn’t recognize was that, in addition to school three nights a week involving a one-hour drive each way, I was working four days a week at a publishing company 20 miles away. During that time, I was building a relationship that would lead to marriage and step-parenting. Something in my life had to take the hit, and, sadly, it was her.

Did I lose friends that year because of my spiritual studies? Did I think I was too good for them, which is what the toxic lady accused me of? Or had these friendships just taken their course and needed to fade away?

Two years later, in preparation for ministry licensing, I was again told to revisit the list. I was surprised this time because of the healing that had occurred with some of the friends who had been filed under “former.” Facebook re-connected me with my friend who moved to the East Coast and the divorced friend that moved two states away. She’s remarried and happily so. The woman I labeled as toxic was moving away and wanted to have lunch. I was able to less clumsily speak my truth. We wished each other well. I became friends again with the woman who said I used her until I got a boyfriend. A few years later, she dumped me again. This time saying my request to not receive her right- wing rants post 9/11 was selfish. “If we can’t talk about everything, then I can’t be free to talk with you about anything,” said she. The bye bye was for good.

I share this memory inspired by Mark Dodich’s astrology forecast for this upcoming Full Moon & Lunar Eclipse. (see below) I share it too because of the Joel Goldsmith quote. (see above) I now know that when my spiritual studies are sincere—because I will be a forever student—some of my safety nets will fall away. Might be friends, might be heath, or might be financial security. That is as it should be. The blessing from this curse is that my friendships today are deeper and richer, with both parties more authentic.

Words

January 4, 2019

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”
― T.S. Eliot “one of the twentieth century’s major poets”

Do you ever get tired of your own story? The voice in the head that weaves a tale when trying to explain something unexplainable? A feeble attempt at making sense of the senseless? Proof that I’m righteous in my indignation? Always blaming someone or something else rather than taking responsibility for my reactions? And the more I tell it, the realer it gets? Affirming that I am indeed a victim and there’s no way out? These are conversations I’ve had in my head after nearly two years of health issues.

With the turning of the calendar from 2018 to 2019, I found that I had grown weary of explaining when and how my back pain started. “With the election,” was my common reply, to friends, family and a myriad of doctors and other health professionals. And I meant it. But in truth the election of November 2016 did nothing to me. I’m the one who chose to wallow in my sorrow and fear, for two whole years. “Enough,” I heard a voice in my head say right before New Year’s. Create a new story. One that is generative, supportive and, dare I say, fun! It all starts with a word. What word will guide me throughout 2019, making sure I stay on course and don’t slip back into stink’ thinkin’?

Nearly 20 years ago I had lunch with a friend who is a writer. She shared with me that every January she chooses a Word of Intention to guide her through the next year. I loved the idea and started doing this myself in 2001, sharing with friends, at churches, with social clubs, and with my mentoring clients. Take a gander at my list:

2001 Aliveness
2002 Visibility
2003 Allowing
2004 Co-arising
2005 Liberation
2006 Vision
2007 Presence
2008 Trust
2009 Connection
2010 Focus
2011 Grace
2012 Confidence
2013 Action
2014 Courage
2015 Audacious
2016 Believe
2017 Discernment
2018 Diligence

I use my Word of Intention every day in prayer. Regardless of your spiritual/religious beliefs, the Word means nothing unless you incorporate it into your day. Every day!!! Here’s my prayer that I say aloud each morning.

Heavenly Father, Earthly Mother, Beloved I Am.
I am alive. I am awake. I am the holy.
I am the Diligence of the Living Christ in me.

There are juicy stories that go with each of my Words of Intention. I selected Diligence for this past year to help me complete a variety of on-going projects. I’m not sure what my word for 2019 will be, but I’m pretty sure it will be more uplifting. A word that will come to mind when I find myself spinning another tale about how who or what has let me down, disappointed me, hurt me, made my back hurt, yadda yadda yadda.

What will your Word of Intention be for 2019?

How can you incorporate it into your daily spiritual practice?

Consider a year from now when you look back and say, “WOW, that word really guided me!”

Foreign Nationals

October 24, 2018

“When people rely on surface appearances and false racial stereotypes,
rather than in-depth knowledge of others at the level of the heart,
mind and spirit, their ability to assess and understand people
accurately is compromised.” – Rev. James A. Forbes (retired pastor)

 

If I remember correctly, it was around 2006 when Ireland saw the arrival of 150,000 Polish immigrants. Known as “foreign nationals,” they were welcomed by some and not by others.

A Dublin taxi driver complained to me that crazy foreign nationals were now driving taxis. They not only got lost and created traffic hazards, they took the jobs from hard working Irish men. A tour bus driver told me that soon there would be foreign nationals serving as tour guides. “Imagine,” he said, “taking your groups around Ireland with a Pakistani driver.” A friend who works in the tourist industry complained that foreign nationals were taking hotel jobs away from hard working Irish nationals.

During that window of time, when the Irish economy was thriving, I had only pleasant taxi drivers and wonderful Irish bus drivers. But I did notice a difference at the various hotels. Most obvious was a language barrier. For example, I wanted to ship a box of gifts home to Oregon so I didn’t have to lug them around. I inquired at the front desk of my Dublin hotel. After several minutes of research, a very polite Polish man told me that the nearest UPS store was in a suburb of Dublin, perhaps a 20-minute taxi drive away. I stepped outside feeling frustrated because this didn’t seem right to me. Suddenly, around the corner came my bus driver. “Hey. There’s a UPS store just around the corner. Shall I carry your box for you?” Yep, the language barrier would have cost me dearly, both in time and money. But there’s another foreign national story that haunts me to this day.

My group of 22 women was staying at a lovely country hotel in the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. Every hotel worker I met that year was from Poland. As a tour group, we were required to dine together, alone in a banquet room taking up several tables. There appeared to be only one waiter for us. A young man, tall and thin, likely Polish, tried to describe the dinner menu. I could see some of my travelers getting a little antsy. The beverage and bread course took several minutes to arrive, with a variety of mix-ups. Now more women in my group were getting annoyed. In whispered voices I heard things like:

“He can’t speak English. Why is he here?”
“This is bad business-. They should hire someone who knows what he’s doing.”
“Maybe they should stick with hiring Irish people, or at least people who speak English.”

I understood the annoyances, yet something didn’t sit well with me. Were we reducing a live human being to an ethnic stereotype? I found myself sitting quietly and just observing our waiter and my travelers. Although I knew our diners weren’t happy with the dining experience, I told them I would speak with the manager, and, they should still leave a tip. “Remember, we are guests in this country.”

When everyone had departed, I stayed around in hopes of speaking with the young man. He emerged from the kitchen, looking very sad and despondent. I apologized to him for my group’s impatience. He replied with a weak smile and shrug of his shoulders. After a long pause, I very gently asked, “Are you okay?”

Suddenly his head dropped as his shoulders drooped. I could barely make out his reply. “I got word this morning that my father in Poland died and I cannot go home to be with my family.” We both stood there in silence. All I could do was be his witness.

I see you.
I hear you.
I believe you.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be seen, heard and believed? Whether we are U.S. born, Irish born or a foreign national from wherever? I think about appearances with the immigration stresses in our country. Someone can appear one way—as a clumsy waiter—but underneath the appearance can be something vastly different—a real live human being with a broken heart. I think too about the millions of Celtic immigrants to the U.S., including my Connolly ancestors from Ireland and McKern ancestors from Scotland. Unless we are Native American, we are a nation of immigrants. As my grandfather-in-law, of German heritage, said on his death bed, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Have a listen to one of my favorite Irish ballads. Imagine what immigrant songs are in the hearts of those currently trying to come peacefully to the U.S.

Immigrant‘s Song Daniel O’Donnell – Cutting the Corn in Creeslough (County Donegal)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZyy8a65d0s