After our stay with friends Greg and Sherry in Minnesota, Rich and I headed west then south through the Dakotas down through Iowa and into Missouri. We had planned to stay in a small town just outside Kansas City. This was no random choice. We were going to spend a couple of days with some very dear friends from our time in Naples, Italy. I had been a team member on many CREDO Personal Growth Retreats with Rod, and Richard and I had both been involved with the CREDO Marriage Enrichment Retreats with both Rod and his wife Trish.
Rod and Trish had made a flying visit with us about three years ago here in Jacksonville. They had been doing some east coast travelling and decided to dip down a little lower than originally planned to spend a day or so with us. That had been the first time we had seen each other since they had left Naples, Italy back in the mid-nineties. So we were very excited to be seeing them again. However, even though they were the primary reason for choosing to make Kansas City a stop on our 4,252 mile retirement ride, I had a secondary motive for wanting to stop there.
During the period 1989-91, Richard was transferred to a ship that was home-ported in Norfolk, VA. Although it wasn’t my first visit to the USA, it was the first time that I had lived here. It proved to be a very difficult time for me. The culture and way of life over here is drastically different from Europe. Everything over here involves distance and there is very little public transportation. And the distance factor enters into creating relationships with other people. In Europe everybody knows everybody. In Norfolk I found it very difficult to make friends; people seemed to live in their own boxes.
However, through a specific fellowship that I am involved with I did manage eventually to create some meaningful friendships. One lady in particular, Gert, became a very good and close friend. In the spring of 1991 Gert gifted me with a a subscription to Daily Word, a small daily reflection booklet that is published by UNITY. That booklet became my lifeline. It is the most positively uplifting daily meditational book that I have ever read. Wherever I went, Daily Word travelled with me, and I have continued to renew the subscription every year since then. I have used their twenty four hour prayer line many times over the years and it is such a comfort and a joy to make a call and get a real person on the other end who truly cares about whatever issue may be bothering me in the moment, and who is willing to pray with me and offer comfort.
Inside the front cover of the Daily Word each month there is a photo of the Silent Unity Chapel. There is always a light on in the top tower of this building and the photo intrigues me. Every time I see it I think, wow that’s where the prayer ministers are who receive all the phone calls and pray with all the callers – at any time of the day or the night every single day of every year. For the last fifteen years I have held a small dream to go there and visit. And here we were, planning to go to Kansas City and I knew that Unity Village was located somewhere close by. So when Rod asked if there was anything particular that we wanted to do/see in the area, I jumped right on it.
On Friday 26th August, we set off with Rod and Trish to go visit the Unity campus. I had no idea what a spiritual treat I was in for; God was in a most generous mood that day. Upon arrival we parked in the main parking lot right in front of the Book Store and Café. We decided to go in there because we figured that we could get information as to the layout of the campus and get directions to the Silent Unity building and chapel. The store was an absolute delight and we perused for a while. The staff was so helpful and we bought a couple of items and received a map of the campus. Imagine my joy when I found out that there was a large, handicap accessible labyrinth laid out on the ground immediately opposite the store. Rich, Rod, and Trish were quite happy to indulge my desire to walk the labyrinth and so with a happy heart I took my walk. Below is a video that Rich made and towards the end there are some still photos that he also took.
While I was walking the labyrinth, a large red-shouldered hawk came and rested at the very top of a tree on the edge of the labyrinth and watched me as I made the eleven circuits. His photo is here below.
When I had finished my walk we all went through a walkway and up some stairs to go visit the Silent Unity Chapel. Nothing quite prepared us for the beauty that lay before us at the top of the stairs. The campus buildings were laid out in a long oblong design and centered in the middle of them was a beautifully designed formal garden with fountains and pools. The whole thing made me think immediately of Europe and of St. Augustine, Florida because there was a Spanish flair in the design. I could have stayed there for hours. It truly filled my heart and soul with great happiness.
We wandered along and crossed the a small bridge over the central pool then headed toward the chapel. Trish and I went inside noting that there were two other people already there – a man and a woman. As we entered, the woman turned around toward us and said, “we are just about to do a guided meditation, would you like to join in?” We both assented, and spent the next fifteen minutes being guided through a beautiful reflection. This was another highlight of the trip for me. We spent a little more time walking around the campus and taking in the peacefulness and serenity of that place, before heading off to have a lovely lunch together.
It never ceases to amaze me how Creator speaks to me, affirming and reaffirming me as I make my way through the joys and sorrows of this earthly life. And right now I am filled with both joy and sorrow. Yesterday I spent the day at the Grand Canyon in Arizona and my heart was so filled with joy, awe and gratitude that I completely choked up several times, unable to even speak in the face of such vast beauty and majesty. At the same time, back home in Jacksonville, FL, my dear friend and sister-in-Christ, Susan, is very, very sick and probably in transition from this life to the next even as I write.
But even as I experience these two very raw emotions side by side, I am aware of the grace of God present in both situations. Two days ago I wrote about “grace”, and it does not surprise me that when I opened my Daily Word yesterday morning the topic was “grace”. And as I received the latest update on Susan this morning, I felt called to go back and read that reflection which I share with you in its entirety here.
“Daily Word, Tuesday April 12, 2011 Grace
There is no place that is beyond God’s love.
As part of God’s creation, I am blessed with the gift of grace. Grace is bestowed upon me unconditionally, without my needing to earn it or prove I deserve it. Like the father rushing to meet his returning prodigal son, God meets me when I seek the kingdom. Moreover, grace is active in me even when I am not consciously seeking, for there is no place in my mind or heart that is beyond God’s love.
Grace is visible in my life when the consequences of a mistake are gentler than they might have been. Grace is tangible when I feel blessed beyond all imagining. Love wells up within my heart until I feel the full impact of God’s presence.
Thank you, God, for your gift of grace. I know I am always in your loving care.
Grace be with all of you. (Hebrews 13;25)
Peace be with you.
The other day a friend called asking if we could get together. I opened my planner and started checking for my next available free time slot. As I shuffled through the pages I began to feel a hint of panic rising in my chest. I had nothing available until after Thanksgiving – at least a week after Thanksgiving!! Feeling guilty, I took a few deep breathes and managed to squeeze a small space of time for a cup of coffee together.
When I got off the phone, I took my planner and went and sat in the lanai and just breathed in God’s air for a few minutes. There is nothing calms me down quicker than sitting out there, surrounded by God’s creation, and just breathing. Then I slowly checked through my planner. Yes, it was very full but I could see that some chunks of time were carved-out-for-me (and husband Rich) time, and I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed and enjoyed the outdoors for a few more minutes before I went on with my day.
I think the panic had come because somewhere inside of me there was this little voice saying, “so you still haven’t learned the Time Lesson yet?”. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn on my life journey, to rest and pause and give myself some dedicated time to relax and restore. My life has been so much about doing for others and being busy and productive. I was a do-er, not a be-er. I was always taught not to waste time, and some of those lessons die hard, even when they no longer serve me.
This all got me thinking about how even more busy life seems to get around this Holiday Season, and I think that’s what caused the panic. I thought I had fallen into the old trap of getting ridiculously over-busy just because it was the Holiday season. However, a whole week of time is a mini vacation for me and Richard. Right now I’m also enjoying a sort of two-day vacation in Orlando as Richard is involved in a conference and I’m “along for the ride”. And on the way home from here on Friday he will drop me off in Sanford for my Audire program instructional weekend.
I have time slots marked down for Christmas card making, and other spaces for doing my Audire homework. I have some para-professional appointments with people and a doctor’s appointment too. Scattered in and among these appointments are my Pilates classes and a massage appointment; I have most definitely learned to take care of me even in the midst of busyness. There’s a concert with a friend and a Christmas party, even if it is an “official function” connected to Richard’s job.
I know I have written several postings about resting and pausing, sharing some of the reflections from the books I read each morning. Just a couple of weeks ago in the October Daily Word, I read:
When I am out of alignment, my body feels out of sorts, my mind races with thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow. I feel unsettled.
At such times, I have not lost my connection to Spirit, I’ve just become distracted. In conscious awareness, I pause, say a prayer and step away for a few moments in the silence. I immediately begin to feel the Spirit flowing within and through me.
I don’t think we can have enough reminders to “be still and know that I am God”. Fortunately I have a good husband, friends, and many tools that I use to remind me constantly of the need to give myself time, to just simply be. Thanksgiving and Christmas are times to be enjoyed, times to relax, times to give some thought as to why we are here in the bigger scheme of things. Frenetic shopping and filling our calendars with too many activities are not conducive to our inner peace or the harmony of our souls. I encourage everyone to make a commitment to plan some personal quiet spaces in the busyness of the upcoming Holiday Season.