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Posts Tagged ‘God’

Begonia Plant

Flower-of-Gods-Presence-111116

Begonia Plant

It’s nature’s sign of Endurance and of Hope: this simple, beautiful Begonia Plant. Begonias had been in a hanging basket on the deck, about 20’ away this summer; the plant seed must have sailed with the wind. Somehow, the seed found its way through the small rocks and landscape fabric surrounding a metal bucket in the lower garden. There wasn’t much room. The soil wasn’t very good, it was hard, surrounded by rocks. Sunlight shone there only a couple of hours a day.
Yet, through endurance and determination, this seed grew roots, and then found its way up into the sunlight, bending as required to grow from under the base of the bucket. It continued to grow and presented its beautiful flower for all to enjoy.

God’s Presence is seen in this flower: at times when we think we’re in a hard environment, when we feel we are trapped, this Begonia is a reminder that God is always near. Through His help, and our endurance, He will help us grow.

By your endurance you will gain your souls. Luke 21:19

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With a cheery sound, the metal tines gathered colorful leaves together in an ever-growing pile as I pulled the rake through the lawn. It was rather musical: thin metal bands moving across the lawn, the gentle sound from the drying leaves as they moved. The sun was warm on my face in this late afternoon, the air crisp. Not cold; sweatshirt weather. I had come home on time from work this day, a rarity, with the goal of gathering up and bagging as many leaves as possible for the following day’s town collection. My property has several tall oaks, maples, cherry and other trees on it. Both the front and back lawns were covered with leaves of various shapes, sizes, and colors. Weather and work schedules had stalled this particular chore. I had two hours of daylight in which to get the job done.

The squirrels were my companions as I worked: chasing each other around the yard, burying acorns. As I quietly went about my task, I reflected on the changes in the trees through the seasons: the stark branches against the blue-gray of the Winter sky; the gentle buds and growing leaves in the Spring; the shade cooling the house and the yard in the Summer, branches catching the ocean breeze; the spectacular colors in Autumn. I became nostalgic, thinking about the changes in my own life and how precious time was becoming.  My two children, now young adults, were almost independent. There were particular times in their childhood, especially the challenging teen years, when I thought the clock was especially slow, but looking back now it all seemed to go by so quickly.

 My thoughts were interrupted when my son, Mike, returned home from a moving job and joined me with a second rake. Together we worked, side by side, me building up the pile, he taking them from the pile and placing them into the bag in the pail. Every once in a while, Mike would stop, put his foot in the pail and with a loud “crunch!” the leaves would compress making room for more. When the bag wouldn’t hold anymore in the pail, Mike would lift it up with a “whoosh!” compress it again, and fill it with more leaves. The full bag was tied, and then taken to the street for the next day’s pickup. During our work, we shared the events of our day.

 It was a simple task, raking the leaves, repeated every autumn. At the end of leaf raking season almost 100 bags will be gathered. Finances didn’t permit a budget for a landscaper to do the job. Last year, when Mike was away at sea for the fall, I had done the job myself. This year was different: Mike was home from his duties as a Merchant Marine. I thought ahead to next year; with Mike possibly away at sea and me preparing for the GOEs hopefully in January 2015, I will need to figure out another way to get this done.

 Luke 12:22-23 popped into my mind: Do Not Worry. “He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  From Morning Prayer a gentle reminder: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: Come let us adore him.

 I was aware of God’s presence around me: in the companionship of my grown child, the dancing squirrels, strong trees and their colorful leaves, the warmth of the sun, the seasons. God has it all under control.

 A sense of peace and an overwhelming feeling of joy suddenly came over me.  I was grateful Mike was home safe after four months away at sea, grateful for the companionship and help with leaf raking. Mike being home was precious, a gift I don’t take for granted anymore.

 I offered up a simple prayer: Lord, I thank you for the gift of family, for children and for the precious time we are able to spend together. I am grateful for the safe return of Mike, and ask you to continue to hold Kathy in your loving arms. I thank you for the gifts of nature, for the trees and the seasons; for the warmth of the sun on my face. Help me not to be fearful about the future, and to remember you are with me always.

 © Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2013

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Sandia Mountain trailKathy waited patiently for me in the middle of the mountain trail. I gazed from a distance at the path we were to climb: steep, rocky and looked like it would be a challenge.

The trail was in the Cibola National Forest, located at the top of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were well over 10,000 feet up; a big altitude difference for someone who lives at sea level.

“C’mon, Mom! Let’s get going!” Kathy encouraged me to put down the camera and start moving up the trail.

As we hiked through the woods, I took a closer look at the path we were on. It wasn’t as rough as I had imagined: the rocks had been worn by previous travelers. At the forks in the path, each way was equally worn; which fork to take was at the preference of the hiker. One fork afforded a view of the woods, the other a view over the valley.

Kathy had made sure we were well prepared for the three mile hike we were taking: we wore our hiking boots, had jackets for the temperature change, and plenty of water and snacks. She advised that due to the altitude, we would take our time.

We passed by many beautiful flowers growing through the rocks, in the woods, and along the side of the path, The birds sang to each other, and the sun through the trees was warm on our faces.

Along the way, fellow hikers would greet us with a “Hi!”, “Hello!”, or a “How y’all doing?” depending which part of the country they were visiting from. People coming from the direction we were heading made sure to tell us of a particular path or site up ahead to see.

Albuquerque from 10500 feet It took us a while to climb up the pathway to our destination, but the view was worth it – we overlooked Albuquerque from almost 11,000 feet.  

What I had initially thought of as a difficult path and what would be a challenging journey was made easier by having a companion with me, to walk beside me. People who had walked that trail ahead of us smoothed the way; others pointed out things we should make sure to experience.

It occurred to me that my life paths are like this too. Sometimes they seem difficult. But my life journeys are easier to travel with a friend, and with the advice and encouragement of those who have been down a similar path before me. God sends the right person I need when I need, and if I take the time to see Him in them, the journey is far more rewarding. God in the ordinary.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2013

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“Please stand for 26 seconds of Silent Meditation” the Principal’s request sounded over the PA system at 9:30am on Friday, December 21.

Students and teachers stood up in their classrooms; the clerical staff quietly rose from their desks. Support staff en route in the hallways on an errand, stopped in the hallway.  Building maintenance workers put down the wrench they were using to address a plumbing issue. The kitchen staff took their hands from the day’s meal preparation, and turned off the radio.

For 26 seconds, we stood, 1200 of us at a local Junior High School, to honor the memory of the children and staff who were slain the week before at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The deaths of these Holy Innocents did not make sense to anyone. Deaths of children, and our colleagues, were difficult to deal with. Hard questions were asked: Where was God when this happened? Where is He now?

During these 26 seconds, the entire building was quiet. 1200 people in Silent Meditation. The Quiet Voice of God can be heard: I was there with them. I am with their families. I am here now and I will always be with you.

A sense of peace… He is with us always.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord…Amen. From the Collect for the Holy Innocents, Book of Common Prayer

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

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“This one…” Mom slowly said, pointing carefully to the Easter decoration with her left hand while tightly holding onto the walker with her right. Dad reached over and added the colorful egg to the collection in his arms; mine were already full of rabbits.

It was July, and the Easter decorations were finally getting put away. Mom was home on a few hours break from the rehab center this sunny Saturday, and it bugged her that the Easter decorations were still up. Mom’s fall and traumatic head injury came just before Easter, and Dad had left everything where it was during Mom’s months of hospital and rehabilitation stay.  It was a good sign in Mom’s recovery that she could articulate she wanted the decorations put away.

Mom adjusted the helmet on her head. The bone wasn’t put back yet, so she still needed the protection. My sisters Tricia and Sue had come up with the idea of decorating the helmet.  Sue came in one day to the hospital and Bedazzled it with colorful plastic jewels. Mom was pleased with the compliments about her helmet that she got from the nursing and therapy staff and fellow rehab patients.

Dad and I were using the search for Easter decorations as part of Mom’s home therapy – a kind of “Where’s Waldo” game. It helped Mom to focus, as she tried to remember where she put the dozens of festive items she places around the house each Easter season.  Dad and I would fill our arms with items,  put them in the back room for temporary storage, then come back to Mom who would use the walker to move to the next room to show us more.

Mom standing and able to move around with a walker, speaking and reasoning: truly a miracle based on her injury.  It took her almost three agonizing weeks to briefly open her eyes after the brain surgery.  There were long weeks in the first hospital, three weeks of acute rehab in another, and still more weeks in the current rehabilitation facility. Each step in Mom’s recovery was a milestone, her progress amazing her doctors and nursing staff. 

Mom says she doesn’t remember most of the first two months, but there was a determination in her even then to get better and back to her full capabilities before the fall. Prayers have been around the clock for Mom, and yes Dad and the family. These prayers are what hold us all up during the dark times and times of  joy, as Mom continues to recover.

Dad has been at Mom’s side every day during these past months. God in the Ordinary is showing through Dad in his offering of support and encouragement to Mom during the visits. And in turn, I can see God in Mom, as she supports Dad in her own way.

Mom’s recovery is looked at as a miracle. She understands that, too, and shares that this is very humbling. We don’t have any explanation, no logical reason, just very, very grateful hearts.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

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“No Bone!”  the words on the bandage covering Mom’s head were the first thing my eyes were drawn to as she lay heavily sedated on the hospital bed in the CCU. Eyes then scanned down to her face, to the ventilator and feeding tube, to the IV lines connected to her neck and each arm – twelve medications dripping into her body. The hospital room noises were jarring: loud swooshes of the ventilator machine, the hissing of the blood pressure cuff, the hum of the cooling pad machine, loud beeps when an IV ran low.

A fall at the beginning of Holy Week had caused bleeding in the brain, a part of Mom’s skull was removed and surgery undergone. Meds had to be constantly tweaked to adjust for pressure in the brain, to adjust blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, fluids, lungs, the list went on. 

My Dad, my sisters Sue and Tricia, and I had taken turns sitting by Mom’s side 24/7.  Clergy visited daily. I personally was exhausted and terrified. I couldn’t see God.

WHERE ARE YOU AND WHY ISN’T MOM GETTING ANY BETTER?! I asked again and again.

He wasn’t working fast enough; Mom’s status went up and down like a yo-yo. I was going through the motions of Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Week services, yet I still couldn’t see God or feel His presence and I was scared that I had lost my faith that He would heal Mom.

It was Easter Day, four days after the surgery. Dad, Sue and I were around Mom’s bed with our family friend Mother Ann and her husband Jason. Ironically we were all supposed to have Easter dinner together, but the original plan was to have it around Sue’s dinner table with my brother-in-law, niece and nephews. Mother Ann brought out her hospital communion kit and prayer book and began to gently lead us in prayer.  I tried to focus, but fear and doubt had my mind racing. 

“…have confidence in your loving care…”

“…help them with their faith…”

The words of the prayers broke through my wanderings. How did she know about my doubts? I wondered, somewhat embarrassed. We all received communion together, and gradually everyone left. I stayed in the room, it was my turn for the night shift. The prayer service was on my mind as I settled in.

Fitfully dozing in the chair the nurses had given us for the overnights, I was awakened by the sound of one of the nurses as she was changing out an IV line. After the line was changed and the other lines checked, the nurse gently took a cloth and wiped Mom’s swollen eyes and bruised face, carefully stretched Mom’s arms, put pillows under her swollen hands, readjusted the sheets.  As I quietly watched her in the dimly lit room, I was filled with warmth as I finally saw God, in the gentle caring of the nurse.

 My heart and eyes were now fully opened, and then I realized where else God had been: in the gentle hug of a church friend who had 60+ years experience as a nurse telling me that healing is happening even though I couldn’t see it; in the faithful, literally world-wide, with their prayers for Mom’s healing and for our family; the phone calls, texts and emails of support and encouragement from so many family and friends; in the maker of the prayer shawl  and writer of the prayer it came with; the nurses and doctors and in the hospital worker who got Tricia and I into the staff dining room for breakfast when the coffee shop was closed; the chance meeting in a municipal parking lot of a coworker who reassured me that her father had the same surgery and complications and was fine now; in the clergy as they made daily visits to Mom and to whichever family member was at the bedside; in my brothers-in-law, niece and nephews as they held down the fort on their respective home fronts;  in my sisters as they sat with Mom and kept encouraging Dad to take care of himself; and in Dad as he gently patted Mom’s hand at the end of each of his visits reassuring my sedated Mom that he’d be back the next morning.

Thank you, Lord, for this Easter Blessing of finally seeing You, and for those around me who held me up when I was unable to was my quiet prayer.

You’re welcome, came the gentle reply.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

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The conversation had turned, and God was to show me that the world was small and about to get smaller.

A vendor and I were at a breakfast meeting to review outstanding items for a recent project. We knew only a little bit of personal information about each other, keeping to business tasks during the two year high-pressure project. This meeting day was different: it was at a diner and it involved food. Conversation was a luxury not to be missed. Before we got to business, she shared a little about her weekend, which included visiting a restaurant near the neighborhood I had grown up in. Coincidentally, so had she.

Stepping outside my comfort zone, I told her that when I was very young I attended a church up the street from where she lived. To my astonishment, she share that her grandfather had been the Priest at that church. When she told me his name, I said I knew that Priest from the parish where I attended in my elementary through college years. “Yes, that’s him” was her reply; he moved from one parish to serve at the other.

I shared that her grandfather was one of the reasons I was a Postulant for the Ordained Ministry. I told her stories about his pastoral ministry and how he helped many people. She was grateful to hear them: it was Valentine’s Day; he had died years ago and she missed him.

We were remarking at how small the world was. Then she shared that she, too, had attended that parish. Somehow her age popped into the conversation, and I did  the math. To my astonishment, I realized that when I was in high school, she had been one of my Third Grade Sunday School students.  We were both taken aback at how, after over 30 years, our paths had reconnected.

A wonderful God in the Ordinary Moment:  God took two people who knew each other only in a professional sense, to show the both of us how small the world was, and how much we have in common. We only had to step outside our comfort zones and share.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2012

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