Many years ago, a woman, named Odette moved into my house. She taught me about faith and courage, a special kind of faith and courage. See, Odette was separated from her babies. They were tens of thousands of miles away and they were held apart by immigration and economics and seemingly impossible obstacles. For the longest years, Odette didn’t have her own babies close but she helped me raise my baby. She was his auntie and favorite babysitter. She sat at my table and told stories and told him to eat his vegetables and cooked and sang in my kitchen while Max and I danced. And sometimes after we put him to bed, I’d hug her and we’d cry together, thinking about her girls so far away.
One spring night, in a fit of possibility, a group of us held a party of the most magical sort. The girls were sick but we thought, in a moment of optimism, we could get them here. We raised thousands of dollars that night as bands played and we danced and mamas and papas stuffed money into shoe boxes. Thousands that could pay for their care and would one day help bring them home.
It was a long way from that party to the homecoming, to the magical day that Odette wrapped her arms around the girls she missed so much. Odette never gave up faith. There were many more moments like that party. Small moments (and big pushes) that paid expenses we never would have thought an immigrant mother could bear. Through networks far bigger than those here in our little neighborhood, through the courage of a friend who used all her super powers, through lawyers who work miracles and through hundreds of people who gave something tangible and real, those girls found their way home to their mama. In the darkest of days, with the worry and the pain, Odette and her girls were being carried in the arms of all the mamas who loved their babies.
Yes, through that experience, I learned about faith. Not about a kind of faith that is ethereal. The kind of faith that comes when hundreds of people recognize that their own divine generosity and create the way forward with a dollar or two or ten, their talents, something tangible. Love enfleshed.
When I was deciding to go to acupuncture school, my greatest fear was that I would lose my job or my health insurance, for one reason, and one reason alone. I had visions of myself at Max’s bedside, unable to pay for care he might have needed, imagining that desperate, helpless feeling I know many impoverished mothers know, that feeling of not being able to help him get well, that feeling of having to watch him suffer for lack of resources. When he cut himself on a rusty fence, when he banged himself up in hockey, I doubled over in gratitude for the insurance and the money in the bank and I paralyzed myself from moving forward with questions about WHAT IF? In those moments, Odette’s story reminded me that there are no guarantees, other than that love shows up actively in some way shape or form. If I was faced with the worst, well, I would need to have faith in God. I knew that sometimes that God shows up as a network of mamas. I one-by-one counted my band of soul sisters who would stand fiercely with me if my boy was in danger and leapt. I haven’t lost my insurance or my job but I know if I did we would find a way.
If I had any doubt about this lesson, my first day of school, my teachers gave me language to understand it clearly. They taught me to not refer to my child as “mine”. They said, the children belong to all of us. It is their world that we are creating together. While Max he came to the world through me, he is not mine. He is ours. All the babies are ours. And we are all the mamas.
Yes. Faith is love enfleshed. And Love is not a sentiment. It is an action.
I have been recently reminded of these stories and faith that is love enfleshed by another story. This is the story of another mama, this one someone I do not know–though I love those who love her. She is living a version of that nightmare of mine. She is afraid for her child’s life. She cannot wait for insurance to kick in. She is not sure how she will get her the treatment she needs but she is doing everything she can. And yet, while she labors to birth a new life for baby, she saw that she was not alone. She spoke her prayers out loud, and the Universe answered not with a fancy big solution but with a simple network of mamas and papas, aunties and uncles, love enfleshed into action. Women and men contributing small amounts, in partnership with the mama who birthed her, building a path forward for her daughter, (our daughter) brick by brick. Creating, together, a world in which she can live. In the last few days, her friends, family and strangers have raised money for several days of the treatment that can save her life.
Watching it unfold gives me so much hope, so much faith, moves me to tears. And yet there is more to do.
Sometimes I get so overwhelmed thinking about all the children of the world who suffer and I think that I cannot help all of them. And then I remember if I just do what is in front of me, it is enough.
Right now, in front of me, there is a precious child named Asia. She is our child, brought to us through her mama, named Mani. If you have found your way here, she is in front of you too. She is yours.
This is a kind of faith. Love enfleshed. Love as action. I lean into it and want to see it grow.
I was born on the 18th day of September. I have always loved the number 18 and been delighted how it, through ancient Hebrew, connects to the word “LIFE”. I wonder right now what would happen if we all took whatever prayers we may be whispering and enfleshed them with LIFE in the form of $18 or some other multiple of 18. How many more days of healing might it create, not just for Asia but for but for all of us who will be healed when we see prayers answered in the most simple of ways.
You can be part of this here. You can whisper your prayers for LIFE and then answer them.
There have been some big changes in our life lately. The biggest came at my paid work a couple of weeks ago. It was the kind of change that calls everything into question and frees me up for new possibilities. It was the kind of change that open windows when doors get closed; the kind of change that promise new adventures if you follow the string. It is also the kind of change that can stir up all my big fears and set my security-loving gremlins all a-tremble. Everything is in a sort of limbo and its completely unclear which way it will go.
This autumn, like every autumn, I am enchanted by how nature is in transition too. Moving from the juicy goodness and abundance of late summer to the stark, bare essential-ness of winter. Leaves let go so the trees can rest. Birds fly away, frogs disappear into the mud. Oak trees lets their acorns drop with the hope that some of them will find fertile ground come spring. Letting go of everything without any promise but with every bit of faith that eventually the sun will come round again. Autumn is the exhale.
These days, as I marvel at nature’s transformation, this deep letting go, I am profoundly aware that in my own personal changes, I have no idea how it will all work out. I am letting go without any real sense of what comes next. The only thing that is inevitable is the change. And I am practicing finding peace in all the ways things are different than I thought they would be, practicing finding my center and exclaiming, “How fascinating” at every squirmy turn.
Yet, through it all I have found great comfort in the simple act of planting daffodil bulbs. Digging into the cold wet autumn ground and hiding a treasure. Its an act of faith, really, planting bulbs. It seems crazy this sticking something into the earth just before it freezes, trusting that despite the cold and ice and snow, the thieving squirrels and other hungry animals that it will ultimately spring into something lovely and green and beautiful. But I do it and I never really doubt my flower garden. I can’t say how or why it works but I believe that God and nature and Mother Earth will do their jobs and come spring my garden will be full of color. Like the trees who drop their acorns on muddy fall paths, I am trusting that if I just let go, something new will (one day) be born.
Its that kind of faith pure and simple that I need right now.
This fall, as I plant my bulbs I am adding a new practice. I am writing on tiny pieces of paper the things I am cultivating my faith around. I am wrapping each tiny piece of paper around a bulb and blessing it before I pile the dirt back into the hole. Every day for as little as 5 minutes a day, sometimes as long as an hour, I am digging, praying silently. I am, quite literally, asking Mother Earth to hold onto my dreams, my needs, my deepest wishes.
Here are just a few of the things I am holding the space for, opening up to, trusting in:
That there always will be enough and we will not want.
That an open path to the next phase of my life will appear.
That I will have the resources to support us and to do the work I am dreaming of
That the cat will stop peeing in the house and my house will smell good every day when I walk in.
That allies and friends will show up when I need them.
That life will slow down.
That Max knows how much I love him and that he always feel cherished
That abundance and goodness will find us and that there will be more than enough to share.
That creativity will guide me and I will grow into the healer I am becoming
That I will know what to do at the moment I need to do it
As the days get darker we need to trust more and more. These practices, which feel so ancient to me give me strength. I have a bag of daffodils and I want to share. Leave a comment here or drop me a line at meg (at) megcasey (dot) com and whisper what you are offering up to faith these days. I promise that between now and Thanksgiving, I will plant you a bulb with your wish/hope/statement of faith in my garden where it will rest all winter before it blooms into magic I promise will be just for you.
Before I post again, I needed to stop to offer a huge thank you to the many people who have stopped by this blog, emailed, called, or facebooked in the last few days. Your kind, loving, beautiful words are a gift.
The overwhelming emotion for this week has been great gratitude for the gift of Jenni that we all shared, that indeed we all continue to share. Jenni lives on in all us, whenever we reach out to stranger, whenever we are courageous enough to be raw, and real, when we speak truth to power, when we find humor, grace and beauty in the most difficult of situations. Jenni lives on when we hug our children, when sing at the top of our lungs, when we make our art (whether it is with paper, dance, music, paint, fabric, clay or words). Jenni is with us when we cry at night, when we worry about our babies, when we contemplate the suffering in our homes, our communities, the world. Jenni is with us when we giggle with our girlfriends, when we pour “a cuppa” and sit for tea with our sisters, when we tell our stories over and over again in the hopes that we will find healing there. If we follow our stories, we will find as that in the end, there is only love–love so big and messy and wide and deep. That was the lesson of Jenni.
I have been holding a small moment of silence over here for Jen, until she be laid to rest. But now it is time to keep doing what Jenni and I enjoyed doing together–writing, connecting, watching, witnessing, living and growing.
I will. I will. I will. Everyday I will.
So many of the notes in our holiday card have wished me a happier, easier year in 2009. While I have been touched by the friends who have recognized that this year was a big year, and challenging year at our home I have also been a bit confused. Looking back I feel nothing but gratitude for this year, for the gifts and the growth. Does that sound too Pollyanna? I don’t mean it to be…And its not that I am denying the difficulty of what we have faced this year. There have been real ups and downs.
Its true that 2008 has been a year that has felt a little bit like spiritual boot camp–but truth of the matter, I like I have been whipped into a new shape. Now that I am through it I can’t imagine where I would be without these trials. Sure, I hope 2009 brings us lots of blessings, but I guess I have stopped trying to define what “blessing” look like.
Still, this whole mental exercise, this questioning why friends thought our year might have been “tough” led me down a trip down memory lane. It lead me to this blog–which I so often don’t go back and read. Its lead me to want to post here some of the posts that captured my poignant, even if they were impossibly difficult moments in 2008, the ones that make me bow my head in gratitude, some of the moments that were teachers and and now, old friends. To honor them, these moments and acknowledge them before I bless them and let them go.
Thank you 2008…Thank you for the sweet gifts of laughter, joy, love that I experienced in your embrace. And thank you for the lessons, the growth and the opportunities you gave me to dive deeper into my own heart’s wisdom.
- A Good Year: The reappearance of my dear Jenni’s cancer called on both of us to question how we would live if we had only a year left.
- Somebody Loved: My divorce hearing in February called me to look back at the journey of love I had been on with Juan, and how at the end of all this mess, I really found myself.
- Everyday Magic and the Gift of Wings: A reflection on what happens when the Universe is in charge
- Rum, Serendipity and the Lass…:An ode to faith, the magic in the universe, the gift of friendship and things working out exactly as they should
- Transition : What happens when the bottom falls out and when things get turned on their head.
- Real: What Max taught me about seeing and being seen
- Held: My birthday card to myself.
- Things that Go Bump in the Night: On fear and facing it
- Stay:What I learned about winter when I finally settled in.
Saturday afternoon found me in the country. I sat in the breezy sunshine with an amazing and powerful woman and I watched while horses ran about in a pasture and Max and her children climbed trees and swung on swings. I was there as the first step of my year’s quest to explore what it would mean to become a healer. We talked for awhile about tuition and student loans, grad school schedules and homework, the difficulties of working while going to school and the financial viability of setting up an acupuncture practice. The data was useful but I still felt adrift, a little scared and completely at a loss for how I am going to make this dream come true while working and being a mama.
I asked her how she decided to become a healer. She told me that she was sitting on the couch one day, praying, meditating and wondering what it was that she should do with her life. And then, suddenly, and she just knew it was something she should do. She said that day she just opened her heart to it. She didn’t question or fuss, even though it required moving halfway across the country. She just heard her heart whisper its dream and she obeyed it without question. There was no process. There was just a decision.
I am always amazed when I meet people who listen to their inner wisdom the very first time it bubbles up. Who take the dreams in their own hearts seriously. Who don’t think but act when their heart, their soul, their own inner voice of God starts to nudge them. I am in awe of those people who know what it is that their hearts were meant to do and can just fearlessly leap into the void and trust that if they only do it, all will be well.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just leaped, joyfully instead of hemming and hawing, weighing facts and figures. I wonder what it would feel like to just run, spread my wings, open my heart and let go. I wonder what it is to just trust that voice inside — to know it is stronger, smarter, wiser and truer than any of the other facts, opinions and experts I seem to want to consult. I wonder what would happen if I could float in that place of radical trust and not question the how or the why or the when but just to go with what is.
I wonder what would happen in this world if we could all feel free to leap so joyfully into our dreams–the things our hearts somehow seem to be calling us to do. I wonder how the world would be if we could all just recognize our bliss and follow it, unafraid.
My dearest Jackie, who breaks all the rules, brought me a birthday gift tonight. This rockin’ Celtic T-shirt fits me like a glove, and resonates at exactly the same frequency of my little Irish soul. I am never taking this shirt off!
The words around the heart say: Like all things that are precious to us, we tend to keep our emotions under lock and key. Love itself is far too beautiful a gift not to share with everyone.
After a dinner of perfectly grilled kebabs, kick butt fish stew and the best carrot salad this side of north Africa, after a homemade ice cream cake that beat any other I have ever tasted, we sat in a circle and they, my beloved tribe helped me to create my list. My list of things to do before I turn forty. What’s beautiful about this exercise is that in adding an item to my list they pledged to do something (big or small) to help me get it done, to be my a co-conspirator, an angel to assist me, to hold my hands and jump feet first with me into the wild and messy river of my life.
In the spirit of love for them, in the spirit of my love for this life, I embrace this to do list, this plan. I hearby pledge to wrap my heart around these items and sink into the joyfulness of them.
- Take a kayak lesson on the Potomac
- Learn to throw a pot
- Perform at an open mic night
- Sing a duet with sweet Andy McD
- Learn to Irish step dance
- Go see Step Afrika
- Take Max to see Sweet Honey in the Rock
- Start to build my Goddess garden I have been dreaming of
- Paint my living room and hallway
- Create (and dare I say perfect) a gluten-free pizza dough recipe. (Homemade pizza and Eric’s homemade bread are the only two things that will tempt me off my healthy gluten free path. This gets me 50% of the way there! )
- Explore acupuncture and my calling as a healer
- Start that girls’ (age 8-11) knitting club I have been talking about
- Ride a roller coaster
- Stay a night at the Purple Fiddle
- Learn to swim
- Run a 10K
- Learn to count to ten in three African languages
- Finally master the f’in F chord
- Teach Max to knit (my sweet boy added this to my list, saying he would help by doing the learning!)
- Go out to hear live music at least ten times (this is an easy one which just makes me feel productive!)
- Figure out how to live migraine free
Wanna jump in with me? What do you think I might do in this crazy wild messy year before I turn 40? Lets do it together.