Posts Tagged ‘ordinary’

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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“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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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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Blue eyes sparkling, he moved his right arm into an upright “L”, bent his wrist, and then touched his four fingers to his thumb.  He turned his hand toward his face, opened and closed the fingers, and without speaking pretended to have a conversation with this creative goose he had made.  The shy child smiled.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and Nursing Home Courtyard was filled with families enjoying the sun, visiting loved ones who were residents or Rehab patients. The entertainer continued his show for a few more minutes, until the child’s attention was drawn elsewhere.  Watching the child return to her mother, the entertainer’s eyes continued to sparkle and he smiled as he rolled his wheelchair across the courtyard toward another resident, sitting alone. His antics continued with her, until she dozed off.

He turned his chair around, and then wheeled over to a woman sitting next to her sleeping mother. The daughter was holding tight onto a tissue, which she used to dab her eyes every now and then. The entertainer’s eyes softened, and he gently took a pen from his pocket. Without speaking, he caught the daughter’s attention. Using a wide-eyed expression and his mouth in an “O”, he held the pen upright between two fingers, and moved it to make it look like it was rubber. The daughter smiled, and thanked him. He smiled back, turned his chair around, and headed toward another corner of the yard.

A gentle face of God in the Ordinary: an elderly resident with no visitors of his own, unable to speak, had communicated volumes about the love of God to the lonely and afraid.

Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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The activity level was high in the middle pew on the left side of the church. Two toddlers were in church worshipping with their mom on a warm summer Sunday.

Kiara had just turned one. Not quite walking yet, she stood on the floor, holding onto the pew seat, cruising up and down the pew, singing in her own language. Her brother, Kaeden, a month shy of three, fluctuated between crawling along the pew on the seat following his sister, asking questions of his mom, reading a board book, looking around the congregation, requesting something to drink, and poking his sister. Occasional crashes were heard from the pew when the board book would drop on the wood floor. A squeal from Kiara jolted those around her when Kaeden tried to thoughtfully clean her nose. Patiently the mom would separate the kids when necessary, redirect Kiara back into the pew, or pick up the board book for Kaeden.

The activity level in the pew grew as the service progressed. Then suddenly, the fidgeting stopped as the first words of the Lord’s Prayer began: “Our Father…” The toddlers moved next to their mom, clasped their hands, and joined with the congregation in praying the Lord’s Prayer. Kaeden’s soft voice prayed each word clearly, Kiara’s louder voice with her own interpretation. The congregation, accustomed to setting the pace of the prayers with those around them, slowed down slightly. It was a God in the Ordinary moment, the voices of the children praying with the community of worshippers.

Amen”, said the congregation. A moment later was heard the “Amen” from Kiara.

Amen indeed.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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He pushed his metal cart slowly down the suburban street. Stopping at the end of a driveway, he opened the lid of the recycling pail, dug through, pulled out a plastic soda bottle and placed it in his cart.  Closing up the pail, he moved his cart toward the next driveway.

He’s a regular every Wednesday, Recycling Day,  in the neighborhood where I work. An elderly man, he uses the cart to help him down the street, holding onto it with one hand while he digs through a recycling pail with the other. His weekly travels include a stop at the empty lot in the middle of the block, picking up beer bottles, soda bottles or plastic water bottles, all of which can be turned in at the store for a deposit refund. At the end of the long road, his cart is full. He turns his cart in the opposite direction, heading toward the local store’s  bottle return machine.

On this particular Wednesday, while The Bottle Man was at the empty lot picking up items to return for deposit, the neighbor who lived across the street came out of his house with a bulging shopping bag . Crossing the road, he handed the bag of empty soda bottles to The Bottle Man, who took it with a wide smile. Placing the bag into his now full cart, The Bottle Man turned his cart around, and slowly headed to the store to return the bottles for the deposit money.

A God in the Ordinary moment: this elderly man, cleaning up the neighborhood where he lives. And a neighbor showing his appreciation with a small kindness.

 © Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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 My five-year old nephew Charlie and I were spending the day together. We were exploring the local village, visiting cool places like the motorcycle shop, had played on the space shuttle and slides in the playground, ate ice cream, and were now heading toward the “kite store”. My sister had given me the heads up about Charlie’s favorite places, and this one topped the list.

It wasn’t so much the store itself Charlie enjoyed, but the displays on the outside: colorful garden spinners lined the banister along the boardwalk leading to the store. Dozens more were stuck into the ground in a large area just off the sidewalk forming a garden of spinners. Many varieties of colorful circles, spinners in the shapes of cars, planes, a dog riding a bicycle, and a train cheerfully whirled in the summer wind.

Letting go of my hand, Charlie gave a squeal of delight and quickly scampered up the hill into the garden display. His excitement was infectious as he pointed to each in turn, laughing and running with them and the breeze. In a short while another little boy came up the hill, joining Charlie, and the two played through the garden, laughing with the spinners.

The boy’s mom and I chatted while the boys played. We were concerned about what the shopkeeper would say about the boys playing in the display, but the shopkeeper was too busy to notice. The boys were such a great advertisement for the garden spinners, the store now had many customers looking to purchase a spinner for their own gardens.

A God in the Ordinary moment: two little boys, strangers, enjoying a simple pleasure together in the summer breeze.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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Her name is Mary. She sat in the hospital chair, next to her bed, shivering.

“I’m so cold. They’ve turned off the air conditioner, but I’m still cold.” Two blankets were covering her thin hospital gown.

She then listed a few of her current medical problems, any of which would have produced a different statement than what she said next:

“But God is good. Any day I wake up and have another day is a good day. God is good.”

Her smile was infectious, and we laughed together. The two of us  tried to wrap the blankets so they covered her better in the chair, but she still couldn’t get warm. We visited a little longer, and as I left the room to look for another blanket, “Yes, child, God is good” were her departing words.

A little while later I returned to the room to find her shoulders wrapped in a beautifully crocheted Prayer Shawl: large rectangles of greens, surrounded by beige edging, with a stripe of burgundy running through it.

Responding to my “That’s beautiful!” Mary cheerfully told me one of the nurses had just brought it.

“There’s a tag somewhere on here that says where it’s from.” I helped her find the tag, and then read off the name of the women’s guild from one of the local churches.

“God is good. I’m so warm now.” She said with a contented sigh as she pulled the Prayer Shawl back around her.

A God in the Ordinary moment: In the faith of this hospital patient. In the kindness of a stranger who spent countless hours crocheting the Prayer Shawl. I wish the creator of this special gift could have seen the contentment in Mary’s face, her soft smile at finally being warm, and hear her words:

“God is good!”

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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Why couldn’t she see things from my perspective? I asked myself as I wheeled my bicycle out of the garage this early summer morning. My daughter Kathy and I were taking different views on a particular issue, and neither one of us was budging.

I snapped on my helmet, got on my bike, and headed down the driveway. The early morning sun was streaming through the trees, just rising just over the rooftops of the houses in this suburban neighborhood. The weather wasn’t too warm yet, and the humidity was low.

My usual morning exercise bike ride route was a couple of 2 mile laps in a clockwise direction around my neighborhood. Bored with that routine, and somewhat frustrated by the disagreement, I took a deep breath of the clean morning air, and turned my bike in the opposite direction.

The usual chorus of songbirds accompanied me. The rabbits were out feeding on front lawns, the squirrels chasing each other around.

Going in this counter-clockwise direction, my eyes were drawn to a different side of the street, and I saw gardens, trees, bushes and other sites I didn’t see in my usual direction. I got fresh ideas for my own front yard, and saw some beautifully decorated porches.

During the second lap, I reflected how simply changing my direction gave me a new perspective of my neighborhood.

What if you tried to see things from Kathy’s perspective, instead of insisting she see things from yours? asked the Quiet Voice.

The question made me a little uncomfortable, because He was right. Instead of insisting on my own way, I’d try to see it from hers. A different perspective can open my eyes and mind to new ideas.

© Diane L. Neuls DeBlasio 2011

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