Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sylvia's Heart

Sylvia is my 8 year old daughter. She's a girl on a mission 95% of the time!  If she's not creating some type of artwork, she's practicing back bends and cartwheels or trying to dance like a more appropriate version of a "hoochie mama".  It's hard to work your mojo when your mojo is 8 and your Mom would rather you dance like a lady.  The thing about Sylvia is that she's all heart.

Everything she does is full throttle.  I love that about her.

The other day, Sylvia came up to me with her ever-present pad of paper and asked me, "Mom, how do you start a fundraiser?"  I have to admit I was only half listening at first.  Then she said, "Mom, this is really important!" So I started really listening.  "What is this fundraiser for?"  I asked, and her answer caught me totally off-guard.

"I want to raise money so people don't have to have heart disease like you, Mom.  I think Moms should be able to play with their kids and they shouldn't have to worry about their Moms dying.  If I raise some money, they can get rid of it, right?"

She was 4 when my heart stopped.  Half of her life I have lived with heart disease.  I really didn't realize that she worries about me dying.  That's the kind of heart Sylvia has. It's full of love for me, the other moms, and all the kids who have lost their moms to heart disease.  She knows how cruel and crappy life can be when your mom's beta blockers make it hard for her to get off the couch.  She's learned to accept that sometimes Mom just can't.  It breaks my heart.  She deserves the full Mom experience, and she's willing to do the work to make a difference.

Her timing was perfect, since the school was in the final days of their "Jump Rope for Heart" campaign.  She jumps rope, people donate, and the money funds research via the American Heart Association.  It's way easier than creating her "Cartwheels for Heart" fundraiser where people pledge money per cartwheel.  I like her idea.  We'll work on it.  (She's really into cartwheels right now.)

Sylvia understands first hand what it is to live with heart disease in your family.  She's jump-roping her little self silly to try to "get rid of it".  It's very important to her heart that no one else lives in fear.  She's blessed with a heart for others.

If you'd like to support her efforts, go to  http://jumpmwa.kintera.org/sylviaswager

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The 'Dirt Blessing'

Two years ago I waited in the hospital in Alabama for my granddaughter to make her entry into the world.  She arrived as scheduled, and promptly made us wait to get to hold her.  Her lungs didn't inflate well when she was first born, which reminded us all of a great lesson...we are not in control.

Yesterday she received ashes on her forehead for Ash Wednesday.  I should say, she and a good deal of the earth's population received these ashes as a reminder of that great lesson also.  We are still not in control.  We get to make choices and decisions, but the truth is exactly what the priest or deacon says as he traces the cross of Christ on our foreheads "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return."

Jordan told me Evie was all excited that she got a "dirt blessing".  She's right, it looks like dirt.  It's actually the burnt remains of the palms from last year's Palm Sunday Mass.  That was the one where we were all excited by the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the people were SO excited that he was there and laid palm fronds on the road before him as he rode in on the colt of an ass. Just before my sins nailed him to a cross.  Mine, yours, all of ours, because he didn't have any of his own.

Evie's right!  It is a dirt blessing.  We started as dirt and we'll end that way.  The important part is what we do while we are MORE than dirt.

For that brief moment of time between when our lungs inflate with the breath of God until we give back our last breath of God when our time here is over, we are more than dirt.

I have been taught that the breath of God contains within it some of His divinity, which is in each of us.  So maybe our job while we're here is to give it away.  Give your divinity to every person you meet by acknowledging theirs.  Give away the stuff that really matters.  Give time.  Give Love.  Give kindness and gentleness.  Give forgiveness and acceptance and find the beauty that this world is searching for and can't seem to see. Share your vision while your eyes are still able to see.  Share your laughter while your mind is still able to see the humor in life.  Share your song as long as your voice holds out.  Then just love.

Evie's a big girl now with her very own dirt blessing, and even though she's only been with us for 2 short years, it seems like she's always been.

This year, for Lent, use your days wisely.  Be a blessing, even if you're a dirty one.    

Monday, February 11, 2013

I Am What I Am....

Once upon a time I was a goofy crazy little child with chubby knees, big brown eyes, and a sense of adventure and imagination that never slowed down from the moment my eyes burst open until the minute I finally fell asleep.  I wasn't a pretty little girl in frilly dresses, but if you needed to find a lizard or a snake, there was a good chance I might have a spare one in my pocket, or at least knew a good spot to find some.

If a food fight was needed in the school cafeteria, I was your girl! I wasn't afraid to go fishing with the boys, since I could bait my own hook AND take the fish off with no problem, but I wasn't dumb enough to bite the head off the fish to join Jimmy and Rusty's fishing club either. I may have been the brother MY brother always wanted...except I was a sister.

But by the grace of God I am what I am!

For a while, I was a very awkward band geek that could play the bass clarinet despite having a mouthful of braces, and a very large white-girl fro that my Mom swore was "adorable".  (I have pictures. Don't make me share them.)  I had this weird new body with no operators manual and no clue what to do with all these...curves... and emotions.  So I covered them with T-shirts and jeans, and just kept being that crazy, goofy child inside, but knowing that I couldn't stay that little child broke my heart a little, and I needed something to ease that pain.

  But by the grace of God I am what I am!

I didn't know those words then.  I may have read them, but they didn't really speak to me like they do now.  

Some time later, I awoke to find myself married with a couple of kids.  "Worthless." "Ugly." "Ridiculous." When you hear them enough you begin to believe them.  Turns out he has a problem with lying.  

But by the grace of God I am what I am!

Then in another stop along the timeline of my life, I find myself surrounded by beautiful people, except they don't know their own worth.  Like me, they're broken.  "Queer." "Fag." "Homo." They've heard it all.  They know you don't approve, so they put up a shell.  Inside they are dying to know the truth, that they are wonderfully and beautifully made in the image and likeness of their Creator. Just like you. Just like me.  My best friend wears a mustache to hide the scar on his lip where he was beaten in the face for trying to feel beautiful. I'd love to go back to that time and yell with them from the rooftops: 

 But by the grace of God I am what I am!

Through the times when a bottle was my friend, and the times when I had no joy left in my soul save the tiniest micro-dot of love. In the times when I was completely alone and scared and learning to care for myself again.  As I nursed my wounded soul back to health and started looking, tentatively at first, into the mirror, I began to learn the truth about myself:

   But by the grace of God I am what I am.

I spent a few minutes of "quality time" with the Creator when my heart stopped.  Just long enough to feel the most perfect, complete, flawless, all-encompassing, forgiving, rejuvenating, renewing, joyful Love that ever existed. Love so intense in that one moment that it's enough to last forever!    

Now I can hold my head high because I don't just think I'm loved.  I KNOW that I am the beloved child of my doting Heavenly Parent! Lizards and perms and braces, and sadness and brokenness and all!  Loved!  

All that I was.  All that I am.  All that I will EVER be is a gift of grace from God.      

...and his grace to me has not been ineffective..."- 1 Cor. 15         

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Feast your Eyes!

New York City was a feast for the eyes!  It was full of amazing architecture, beautiful skylines, and gorgeous people!

I was blessed with the opportunity to represent WomenHeart at the Red Dress Collection Fashion Show, which was attended by tons of people far more fancy and famous than I will ever be.  The gowns were lovely, the hair and makeup was impeccable, and the love in the air was palpable.  It's this last part that I found so incredible. Many people were at this event, not just to see and be seen, but because they legitimately care about women's heart health. They have mothers, sisters, aunties (and lots of men, too) in their lives who have been affected by heart disease, and they showed up to support all of us!  Kudos, and thanks to all who support those of us living with heart disease, and working to make the world a healthier place!    

Those of us who are not "city dwellers" have a hard time understanding those who prefer the city life. It all moves so fast, and us Country Mice prefer things a little more laid back.  Everywhere you look in New York City there is something shiny or flashy or newer or bigger to see!  It would be easy for little old me to feel very small here, but instead, I felt strong and capable, and like things are truly possible for me.  Not on my own merit, or of my own accord, but because of where my hope lies. This may seem odd that I felt this in the middle of one of the largest "concrete jungles" in existence.  This place seems very much like "Babel" of old, with it's super towers climbing to Heaven, and the people below speaking a myriad of languages.  It sounds odd, but I kept finding God everywhere, even when I wasn't looking! In the middle of Times Square, is a smaller area known as Duffy Square. There's a big statue of a Celtic Cross and a man identified as Father Duffy.  Here's what the New York City Parks Dept. website says about Father Duffy.

   Father Francis Patrick Duffy (1871-1932) was a military chaplain and a priest in the Times Square area. Born in Cobourg, Canada, Father Duffy moved to New York City in 1893 to teach French at the College of St. Francis Xavier (now Xavier High School). He was later ordained as a priest and in 1898, he accepted a teaching position at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, where he remained for the next fourteen years.
Father Duffy’s military service began in the Spanish-American War of 1898, serving as First Lieutenant and chaplain of the legendary Fighting 69th Infantry of the National Guard as well as Post Chaplain at the military hospital in Montauk Point, Long Island. In 1912, Father Duffy left St. Joseph’s Seminary and moved to New York City to establish the Parish of Our Savior in the Bronx.
In 1916, Father Duffy returned to the 69th Infantry, serving in Europe during World War I as part of the Rainbow Division and earning a number of medals. After the close of the war, Father Duffy returned to New York, and in 1920, was appointed pastor of the Holy Cross Church, located at 237 West 42nd Street. Serving the theater-district community for over a decade, Father Duffy died on June 26, 1932. In 1949 veteran character actor Pat O’Brien portrayed Duffy in the Hollywood film based on his life, The Fighting 69th, which also starred James Cagney.
There he stands.  Right in the center of it all!  It's a reminder to me of exactly what St. Augustine was saying here in the passage at the top.  LOOK at all the beautiful things!  Look at the handsome young men and the beautiful women.  There's no denying that Kelly Osborne and Jillian Michaels are beautiful young women! See the beauty in the natural horizon behind the buildings that men dreamed of, then built with their hard work and sweat. See the beauty in all of it! Then remember who is the Creator of it all.  If my Creator can plan such undertakings as the Empire State Building and the Museum of Modern Art, just think of what He can do with the raw materials that are me?!? 
See the beauty.  Love the one who created it.  Lord, my God, please be my hope, too!