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Archive for May, 2011

It was Flying Lesson Day for the Osprey at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum. The noisy calls from high up in the air caught my attention as I walked through the gardens. I looked up to see the father, gently soaring near the nest as two of the chicks flew near him.

The bright blue sky dotted with wispy clouds provided a perfect backdrop for the majestic sight of the flying raptors: the father’s six foot wingspan allowed him to slowly circle the shorter-winged offspring as they made their own tight flight patterns within his. As they flew, he called out to the chicks, perhaps with encouragement or instructions, and they called back to him.

The large nest of sticks was high up in the weeping beech tree. Perched on the edge of the nest was the third chick, squawking, with its mother standing behind, gently encouraging it to try.

Youngest chick was having none of it.

The father and two flying chicks continued to call to each other, the father with encouraging squawks, and the chicks in a high-pitched peep as if to say “We’re Flying! Look at me!”

The mother stayed in the nest with the youngest chick, encouraging, first with only squawks. She then tried opening her wings behind the reluctant one, as if to push it off the nest, but the chick clung fast. It wasn’t yet ready to fly.

For half an hour, I along with other onlookers, watched and waited. Wanting to witness the first takeoff, I willed the chick to take the leap of faith. Youngest chick wouldn’t go.

Tired, the flying chicks returned to the nest with the father, noisily peeping as if to share the excitement of their adventure with their mother and their youngest sibling.

Tomorrow was another day, and the youngest chick would be offered another opportunity to fly. It would have the loving encouragement of its parents, who understood enough to let the chick go at its own pace.

It was a Seeing God in the Ordinary moment. Sometimes I’m like that reluctant chick, perched at the edge of the nest, afraid. Yet God is nearby, gently calling and encouraging, knowing I can do it, yet allowing me the time to gain enough courage and trust to take that leap of faith.

… Do not fear, only believe. Mark 5:36

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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The elevator doors open to the Pediatric Floor. A dozen teenagers joyfully poured out, arms loaded with stuffed animals, coloring books, crayons, and small toys. They were excited about the mission work their Youth Group was doing on their day off from school: they would be visiting the sick kids here at the local hospital.

The Head Nurse met them in the corridor, gave the ground rules, then paired the teens off and sent them to specific rooms.

Two of the girls were sent to Ashley’s room, where they found six-year-old Ashley lying in bed, her parents sitting by her side in orange chairs.

The teens bubbled with their greeting. Ashley gave them a grave look and didn’t reply.

In an effort to explain her mom said, “Ashley’s having her tonsils out tomorrow, and she’s scared. She hasn’t smiled in days.”

The teens responded with wonderful compassion and understanding: Both of them shared that they, too, had their own tonsils taken out. One of the girls opened her mouth for Ashley to look inside. They told Ashley about their own experiences before and the recovery after the surgery. Ashley perked up when she heard she’d be able have all the jello she wanted. Ashley had many questions, which the girls answered patiently and honestly.

The teens gently smiled at Ashley, then handed her a stuffed teddy bear, coloring book and crayons. Ashley gave the girls a bright smile back as she squeezed the bear tightly. She gave each girl a hug before they cheerfully headed to the next room.

A God in the Ordinary moment: The teens saw Christ in Ashley, and in turn Ashley saw Christ in them.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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She is Difficult, and a personal challenge for me to see Christ in her. I’ve tried,  but the friction is always there, my feelings blinding me.

I sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, thinking about our latest encounter.  It didn’t go well. I had tried to be nice, but she didn’t respond in kind. I was trying to be patient. But it wasn’t easy.

A ferocious squawking and loud bird screams from the front yard broke my thoughts. Pairs of Blue Jays and Mockingbirds had nests on opposite sides of the yard: the Blue Jays in the Crabapple Tree, the Mockingbirds in the Cherry Tree. The babies in both nests had hatched, and the parents swooped at the other pair, marking territories in-between feeding the newborns. Their battles were usually loud.

The noise I was now hearing was louder and more frenzied than usual. I went to the front window to see what all the commotion was about.

The neighbor’s cat had foolishly walked into my yard, getting between the two trees with the babies in the nests. In perfect synchronization, like miniature feathered Blue Angels, the four parents were swooping down on the cowering cat’s head from opposite corners, one right after the other, emitted loud screams. Blue Jays and Mockingbirds shared each others’ territory for the attack.

Finally the cat got up enough nerve to make a run for it back to his house, diving for cover in the thick bushes by the garage.

The pairs of birds which had worked together to protect their babies returned to chasing each other.

I reflected on what I had just seen, with a renewed hope that there will be a time when Difficult and I will be able to get beyond our strained relationship, and I’ll be able to see Christ in her.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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Little Jimmy was full of energy, with no place to put it. The waiting room was crowded, the News station on the television didn’t hold his attention, and he had finished playing with all the toys his mother had brought.

We knew his name was Jimmy because his mother had called him that, several dozen times, in the past ten minutes: “Jimmy, please sit down”, “Jimmy, let’s read a story”, “Jimmy, leave that alone!”, “Jimmy, SIT DOWN!” She was quiet now, lips pursed, seething and almost at the end of her rope. Jimmy was still bouncing on the carpet in front of her.

A married couple in their mid-twenties came in during one of these “Jimmy…” episodes, and sat in the chairs opposite Jimmy and his mom. They were holding hands; the pre-op hospital bracelet on the woman’s wrist told that she was here for her pre-operation physical.

Jimmy wore a hospital bracelet, too, but with his energy level you’d never know he was sick. With a new audience in front of him he showed off how his airplane could take off, holding it high and zooming in circles, loudly making engine noises.

The people in the waiting room smiled at the distraction. Jimmy’s mother gave an exasperated sigh and shook her head.

Catching Jimmy’s eye, the young husband removed his wedding band, tossed it in the air, caught it, and then opened his hand to show that the ring had disappeared.

Jimmy stood still, wide-eyed.

The Magician made motions to sprinkle magic dust over his wife’s head, and then proceeded to take his ring from his wife’s ear.

“Do it again!!!” Jimmy said excitedly.

And the Magician did, over and over, for fifteen minutes, until Jimmy and his mom were called into the office for Jimmy’s exam. As they walked to the exam room, Jimmy’s mom mouthed “Thank You”. Jimmy and the Magician exchanged high fives, and then Jimmy bounced all to way to the exam room.

It was a God in the Ordinary moment: the young couple spotting Christ  in this rambunctious little boy, and he responding to Christ in them.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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I had just received a call at home asking me to take on a new project. It involved taking a risk and was way out of my comfort zone. I had told the caller I’d pray about it. When we completed talking, I put the portable phone back in its cradle, finished my tea, then took the mug to the sink.

While washing out the mug I remembered a time when Mike was 2 ½ years old, and Kathy was 11 months old. We were at the local playground. Kathy was watching as her brother zipped down the orange tube slide. It was at a steep angle; Mike would enter at the top, disappear for a moment, and then come flying out the bottom and land in the gravel on his feet. Kathy was really excited and laughed every time he popped out of the tube. She couldn’t walk yet; I was holding her as she watched Mike.

Kathy indicated to me that she, too, wanted to go down the slide. I placed her on the platform where the top of the slide was. She crawled to the tube, then slid belly down, head first to the bottom, and flew out laughing as I ran around to the bottom of the slide and caught her as she flew out.  We did this again and again, taking turns with Mike, for almost an hour.

Upon reflection, I realized Kathy was displaying the innocence of a child, joyfully throwing herself down the slide, fully expecting the loving arms of a parent to catch her. A time of God in the Ordinary: God in the little child, showing me how I should be with Him. Ready to fully trust, take a chance and risk, go for it, and know He will be there to catch me.

Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. Mark 10:15

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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The bright laughter of the children running around the grassy fields in the park drew Dorothy to a nearby bench. She put her grocery bag on the park bench, and then wearily sat down next to it. She had to admit, she didn’t want to go home to an empty house yet. There was too much light left in the day, and it was lonely at home. Her husband and children were gone; there was only so much company a television could give.

She was new to this town, and had met only a few people. What surprised her was that although she had passed dozens of people on the sidewalk from her home to the store, no one had made eye contact with her, or answered her “hello” or “good morning”.

The behavior of the people continued at the supermarket, even to the clerk who ignored her “Hello”, mechanically rang up and bagged her groceries, took her money, and not once look at her.

Dorothy had to admit that the indifference had hurt.

Turning her attention to the children, she smiled as she watched the kids as they noisily played their game of tag. A group of kids were picking dandelions, running back and forth to their mothers with the bright flowers.

One little boy spontaneously left the group and ran up the little hill toward her. Stopping in front of her, he smiled, and then quickly handed her the bunch of flowers in his little fist.  The Dorothy smiled back and thanked him as he turned and ran back down the hill, to continue his gathering of dandelions. It was a God in the Ordinary occasion: the boy had seen Christ in her, and she in him.

Renewing warmth filled Dorothy as she watched him fly back down the hill. She looked at the bunch of dandelions in her hands, and thought this was the most beautiful bouquet she had received in a long time.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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The screen door to the porch of the house at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum opened. Richard carefully led his wife Margaret down the ramp, gently holding her up with his left arm. They made their way to one of the plastic tables along the railing, and Richard helped Margaret get into one of the chairs facing the Connetquot River. He then quickly went back inside to get their lunch.

Sitting two tables down from them at my own table, eating my lunch and doing homework, I saw Richard return to their table carrying a tray of sandwiches and tall cups of lemonade. His cap told me he had served on a ship during World War II.

Returning to the table, he sat next to his patiently waiting wife. He then removed the paper from a straw, poked it through the cover on the lemonade, and held it to his wife’s lips as she sipped. A slight nod from her indicated she had enough, and he put the cup down. Breaking a piece off the sandwich, he helped her put it into her mouth, encouraging her to chew carefully. He continued to do this until she shook her head for “no more”. He helped her take another sip from her cup. Richard then put a straw into his cup, took a long drink on this extra warm day, and ate half his sandwich.

All the while as Margaret sipped and ate, Richard kept up a steady conversation, pointing out the kayaks and swans on the water, the geese on the lawn, and the osprey swooping in the sky above. When she wasn’t sipping or chewing, Margaret had a serene smile on her face. As Richard ate his lunch, Margaret continued to look out at the River, still smiling.

It was time for me to leave, and I packed up my notebook and textbook into my backpack. I smiled at the couple as I was walking past.

“Did you enjoy your writing?” Richard asked me. I indicated that yes, I had, and commented on his cap. The conversation continued as he proudly shared that he and Margaret had known each other since 1938, when he was at MIT and she was attending Simmons College. Margaret smiled. Richard repeated twice that it was Margaret who helped him through MIT’s program, the War, and how she took care of him and their children. He shared that Margaret has always loved coming to the Arboretum, and they have lunch there at least once a week, even though she’s been sick. We conversed a little more, then I said goodbye to each of them and headed across the lawns and gardens to the car.

As I walked, I realized how Christ was in each of those beautiful people, who had gone through over 70 years of life together. Richard had made it a point to make sure that others saw Margaret not as a handicapped person, but as a child of God, who was loved and valued by Him.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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