This morning I went out for my walk with my Netflix movie in my hand to deposit in the mail box along the way. At the same moment a neighbor was coming out of the next unit, one door down. And, in a very unusual and rare occurrence for Washington DC – she spoke to me!
Yes, she said “hello” and then went on to ask what movie I had watched. I almost didn’t know what to do! She must not have realized that she was living in DC and that NO ONE talks to people on the street here. Or, she didn’t get the memo that this was my year-long silent retreat and I couldn’t respond . . . or, she may have just moved in and did not yet know the local social etiquette.
We carried on a lovely little conversation until she turned to go a different direction. And, I couldn’t stop thinking about her.
Cultural differences are real. All you have to do is visit a different locale to experience the truth of that. But, recognizing and appreciating the differences that we encounter is a grace. Everyone doesn’t have to be just like us for us to appreciate them. And, yet, when we can share something with a stranger – even for only a moment – it can be cause for celebration.
The challenge is to be able to accept, appreciate, and celebrate the cultural differences that are not so familiar to us. Perhaps we need to open ourselves to the grace.
There are more than enough times in life when doors are closed to us that it can sometimes be a surprise when a door is open. What do we do when we encounter an open door? The most natural response in the world is to walk right past it. We can justify it all with words like “I don’t belong here; no one invited me in; I can’t go where I don’t know what’s on the other side;” and how many other admonitions that prevent us from taking the adventure through the open door.
Each new day is an open door. And each day we make the choice all over again to live life to the fullest or to hold back and be safe, comfortable, and familiar. And only we can make that choice. No one else can make it for us. The open door awaits us.
I noticed yesterday that even at the end of November roses are budding and, as is their destiny, opening to beauty, fragrance and full flower.
Are we choosing to remain buds forever, or are we willing to open up to our full potential by walking through the open doors into our future?
As anyone reading this blog knows, I love reflections – all kinds of reflections – the visual, the mental, and the spiritual. And, there are those rare times when they all come together in a kind of holy trinity – like yesterday.
Not wanting to be on the road with thousands of others for the Thanksgiving holiday, we decided to “shelter in place.” (Love that image from the hurricane warnings!) The time was lovely, the weather beautiful, and it offered many opportunities for reflections.
We had time for walks and talks, music and reading, cooking and eating, talking with our family back home, and photographing, of course!
So, yesterday, at Little Falls, I was stunned by the beauty of a simple reflection. How wonderful for nature to offer not just one image, but the reflected and intensified image in the reflection! It was almost as if the picture were clearer in the reflection! And I thought about how we only really know ourselves through reflections. They can be thoughtful and prayerful reflections, or they can be reflections offered by a good friend who knows us well and can reflect back to us what we are saying or doing, thereby allowing us to see the truth in our own nature. It is true that we only really know what we look like from the reflection in the mirror. Is it any wonder that we only really know ourselves if we can receive the thoughtful reflections of friends and family?
And, if we are best known in reflection, how then can we know God? In the reflected beauty of the landscape, perhaps? Or, in the face of a loved one, the smile of a stranger, or the unrestrained laughter after a shared story? God is reflected in all things. We have only to acknowledge the grace to see the Creator in creation.
Reflections are grace. Look for them to see more clearly what is real.
Just for today, a bit of folk wisdom that I ran across recently:
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”
Very funny. But there is some truth to it as well. It’s not unlike the old “We’ll never get out of this world alive” but there is more applicability to our everyday experiences in “Everything will be okay in the end.”
When the plumbing doesn’t work; when the job rating isn’t clear; when the children are rebelling; when the plane is canceled; when our ankle twists on the last step; when the burner in the oven goes out right before the meat goes in; when the rains won’t stop; when the car behind us meets up with our bumper; when we can’t sleep because of anxiety; when the phone call won’t come; when the communication isn’t clear; when we don’t understand; when the tire is flat; when there is nowhere to turn for help; when the future is uncertain; and we are afraid of what will be next . . . it will all be okay in the end. After all, it really can’t get any worse, can it?
Well, it probably can. But in the meantime, what we probably need to remember most is that grace is surrounding us through it all – all the way to the end. We are not alone and “nothing can keep us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.“ Nothing! So, it will be okay in the end.
There is one grace that every parent dreams about. That is that our children will find a place in life with their own skills and abilities using their unique gifts and talents and enjoy what they are doing. Just this has / is happening with one of our sons.
He is a musician and is creating / making music from his North Seattle base that is moving, inspiring, and slowly being recognized. What a joy to know that the talents of our progeny have begun to be recognized and appreciated.
He and his girlfriend are OwlPussycat and this is their website:
The final day of our explorations brought us to Appomattox Court House, the site where Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Ulysses Grant. The spot is another beautiful site in the rolling hills of Virginia and we were there as the sun was setting and the day was coming to a close. The little village is preserved much the same as it was in 1865 and most of the buildings are the original structures.
We walked along the trail where the Southern troops paraded past Gen. Chamberlain and surrendered their weapons. We explored the McLean house where the generals sat and Grant wrote out the terms of the surrender. It always amazes me to think how compassionate Grant was with his terms, given that he was victor in this four year battle. History tells that he refused to allow the Union troops to cheer or celebrate a victory, as anyone who fought for their beliefs should be respected. Southern officers were allowed to keep their sidearms and anyone who had a horse could take it home with him for farming. All that was required of the surrendering troops was that they vow not to raise arms against the Union again.
When we are faced with situations where there is victor and defeated, how do we respond? It doesn’t have to be after an all out war – it could just be opinions of difference in the work place or among family members.
If defeated, I would like to think I would hold my head high and carry on, going home to quietly begin again. If victor, I would like to think I would react like Grant and respect the defeated. But somehow I know that is not how I would naturally act. Visiting this spot has made me resolve to be more sympathetic and understanding, more compassionate and willing to embrace and respect a difference of opinion with dignity.
Grace surrounded me as I thought about all the lessons to be learned from this encounter in history.
A short hop, skip, and jump from Hardy, VA and the birthplace of Booker T. Washington and we found our way to the home of Patrick Henry of Revolutionary War fame. It is another beautiful spot nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His house has been reconstructed to what it was like when he lived there and his law office and grave site are close by. Notable on the grounds is a huge orange tree that was growing there when he lived on the property.
Henry is best remembered for his outspoken oratory during the war for independence. His words “Give me liberty or give me death” remain with us to this day.
For what would we like to be remembered? What bit of wisdom or oratory or kindness would we like to live on in the memory of others long after we have left this earth? It’s something to think about. I’m sure Patrick Henry didn’t say what he said to be remembered, and yet we remember him for saying it. How will we be remembered?
Take a moment to consider the grace bestowed upon you and reflect on what of that grace you would like to leave as a legacy. Too often we think that we do not matter and no one will remember us. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We each have things we have said and done – and perhaps even without our intention – that are remembered by others as grace.
Perhaps we should take some time today to be intentional about what we would like others to remember. Thinking about it, and acting on it, does not insure that someone will remember us in this way, but it makes us more aware of the grace we can and should share with others now.
A short half hour drive south of Roanoke and we found the birth place of Booker T. Washington. The farm where he was born still exists and has been recreated to look like it did when he was born a slave in 1856. It is beautiful country, but sobering to think of what life must have been like for a small slave boy.
Booker’s greatest desire was to learn to read and to get an education. Once the Emancipation Proclamation was read, Booker at the age of 16, walked 500 miles to attend a school for Black students. His desire and his hard work earned him an education that he then went on to apply as he helped others to gain an education as well. He was the founder and guiding force behind Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
With education such an expected quality in our day it gives me pause to think of the difficulties and hardships that Booker encountered in his desire to be educated.
How much of our education have we taken for granted? Just thinking about that made me want to thank the teachers and mentors who have given me their time, their expertise, and encouragement in my quest for education. And then I thought about what I am giving back to others because I have had the privilege to be educated.
What are we giving back? Does our education have worth if we simply keep it to ourselves? Passing some of it on to others so they can also benefit from the grace that is education might be the cost of our enlightenment.