Our friends, Greg and Sherry, bought an old barn on a large piece of property in Minnesota a couple of years ago. Since then they have spent a lot of time between here, Jacksonville, and there, making changes, clearing a few trees around the barn, and putting on an addition to the original structure. Out of the old barn has emerged a lovely living space of two bedrooms, a bathroom, an open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge area, plus a nice comfortable screened in porch.
There is still a lot of work to do, but the main thrust is there. The rest is mainly “accessorizing”: putting in permanent flooring, deciding on décor and finishes, and painting the exterior. The barn-house is surrounded by woodland and even though there are two sets of neighbors living close by, the trees almost completely hide the other houses from view.
Five days into our retirement ride we stopped to visit with Greg and Sherry. In fact we spent 4 blissful days with them in their “little piece of paradise” (my label). One element of this new habitat that I really enjoyed is that they have installed floor to ceiling windows in the dining room and on both sides of the spacious lounge. This means that not only does a lot of natural light fill the home but it also seems like sitting in the middle of the woods – but with all mod cons!
While we were there, I spent my early morning quiet time sitting in a chair right up against one of these enormous windows. With my meditation books in hand and a cup of herbal tea close by, I was truly in “God’s space”. Greg and Sherry have placed several bird feeders within a few yards of this particular window and the morning activity was quite frenzied. Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers vied with Hairy Woodpeckers and Chickadees as well as some small sparrows and titmice, while the hummingbirds buzzed in and out. I also saw a bluebird one day.
The squirrels up there were enormous, about twice the size of squirrels down here in Florida. Although Greg and Sherry had installed a really interesting squirrel feeder for them, they still came and tried to access the bird feeders once in a while. But they also had a plentiful supply of corn down on the ground because our friends also took care of the numerous deer that would come almost up to the house in search of food.
Every evening at about 9pm we would spot movement out among the trees. We would turn off the lights inside the house, and soon we would see the deer emerging cautiously from the trees and coming toward a large block of salt that Greg and Sherry had attached to a tree, and also toward a long wooden palette that lay close by on the ground piled high with corn. They are such graceful creatures and are a delight to watch. One evening we were treated to the spectacle of a mother deer with her two young ones.
During the four days that we stayed, I also got to see an animal that I had never seen before – at least, not in real life. I’m sure you’ve all heard them “singing” and maybe even seen them in an animated movie. Yes, I’m talking about the chipmunk. I was so amazed at how small they were! I had always imagined chipmunks to be the size of a squirrel, but instead they are these tiny little animals probably about the size of a hamster. They were very entertaining scampering here and there in the undergrowth. Richard managed to get some really good pictures one day as a chipmunk decided to sit on a small fallen log not far from the window and complete his/her morning ablutions.
Although they did not come into the yard, we also saw many Canadian geese and wild turkeys not too far from the house as we made various trips in the surrounding area. There were two very large fields on opposite sides of a nearby road that had been mowed recently, and the geese were there in large numbers mainly in the morning, probably more than a hundred at a time, feeding on whatever geese feed on. The turkeys were usually in a lower section of the field apart from the geese.
It was such a joy to be surrounded by so much of nature’s wonders that God created for our pleasure. I am so grateful that Sherry and Greg gave us such great hospitality in their tranquil haven, and I hope it won’t be too long before we can go back and enjoy it some more. We have to go back anyway, so that we can see the finished product that is their summer retreat!
I received my first massage many years ago. I was living in the UK at the time. I believe it was sometime in the sixties and I discovered a small massage and facial salon had opened above a shop near my parents home. I very tentatively booked an appointment and remember how my heart sang and I knew that I was hooked from the very first touch. There is nothing quite like a massage for relaxation, de-stressing, pleasure, and coming home to yourself. Massage does for the body what a deep relationship with God does for the soul.
I probably received one or two more massages during the next few years because I really couldn’t afford more than that. Then, about five years later, I moved to Sardinia, Italy with my first husband and our two boys. In 1970, we helped to open a large holiday village called Forte Village in the southern part of the island not far from the capital, Cagliari.
There were many holiday agency reps working in the village and the two girls from the Swedish company, Vingresor, were extremely grateful for the “extra mile” that I went in order to help smooth difficulties for their customers. They came to me one day and said they would like to show their appreciation in some tangible way and asked me what I would most like. I knew they had their own massage therapist on call in the village, so I requested a massage. They were gracious enough to gift me with a series of four massages, and my love affair with receiving massage was rekindled. Since then I have received many massages and eventually, when I was fifty three years young, I trained to become a massage therapist myself. I feel as much joy giving massage as I do in receiving them.
Fast forward to April 2011. As I mentioned in my previous posting Traveling- Las Vegas & Sedona Rich and I enjoyed a wonderful visit to Sedona, AZ. I knew that I wanted to receive a massage in Sedona because it is a place of natural healing and there are many alternative therapy healers in the town. As Rich and I were settling into our condo, he checked out a file of information about various activities and points of interest in the area, and called my attention to an advertisement. The wording in the ad from Sue really spoke to my heart and soul, and I knew that this was who I would book my massage with.
A few days later found me in Sue’s studio. Little did I know that I was about to have a very significant and life-changing experience. For the next two hours Sue worked intuitively with my body. I have never received a massage quite like it. She used many different modalities during the course of the massage and I knew that something very special was going on, especially when she started chanting as she worked my heart chakra. I remember thinking, “I hope she is going to tell me what that was about”, as I felt a kind of a “whooshing out” feeling from my chest. Then shortly afterwards, as Sue worked on my lower abdomen, I could feel “something” going on and a great deal of heat.
At the end of the massage, when Sue gave me some water to drink, she asked me if I wanted to hear her perceptions. My heart lifted and I said I wanted to hear everything. She checked first of all if I believed in past lives and also asked me if I was familiar with any of the ancient civilizations such as the Mayans or the people of Atlantis. When I assented, she shared that while she had been working on my heart chakra she was drawn into a vision where she saw me as a tall, regal person, dripping with golden jewelry, and knew that I was one of the ancient wise ones. She felt that I was royalty of some sort and told me that whenever I walked into a room people were enveloped in a sense of tranquility and felt healed. I told her that many people told me this today also.
She then went on to tell me that it was no longer enough to just “walk into the room”, that I was “being called to more”. She said that I needed to be ready for more work and not to be afraid. I remembered Kevin’s words just a few weeks earlier at the Lenten Healing Mission. Sue then explained that while she had worked on my lower abdomen she had felt “something birthing”, and she encouraged me to be ready, to prepare myself for some new work that I was going to be called to undertake.
As I left Sue’s studio, I felt very blessed. I was filled with a sense of peace and yet was also aware of a very heightened sense of energy. I felt like I could have run for ten miles. I was very grateful for this because later that afternoon Rich and I went to experience the energy vortex at Bell Rock and I was able to climb about three quarters of the way up the rock formation without feeling tired.
I will always remember my massage experience with Sue with much gratitude. My main personal work since that time has been to quietly prepare myself for whatever work Spirit wants me to do. Just two weeks after this experience, I attended a Qigong event in Orlando and a complete stranger there repeated the message: “Margo, you are being called to more. Do not hold back.” I will share more about this experience in another posting.
In a previous posting, Musings- God and Chicken Soup, I mentioned that I had been involved in presenting a workshop about prayer and meditation. I use both of these activities/tools to help me through each day and to develop my spiritual growth through relationship with the God of my understanding. There are many people in my circle of friends who also pray and meditate and because we recognize that there is a growing hunger for the Spirit, we decided to put on the workshop.
We had an ordained minister, Amy, who agreed to talk about using prayer in every day life and to explain how powerful prayer could be in developing a spiritual life. We also had another person, Martha, who teaches meditation and who leads meditation groups. She agreed to “demystify” meditation and demonstrate how simple it is to practice. She also agreed to lead a guided meditation for the participants of the workshop. The plan then was to have a panel of three people, myself included, who would share their personal experience with prayer and meditation.
As people began arriving I was aware of a growing sense of anticipation. Our small workshops usually attract forty to fifty people. The room began to fill and I realized very quickly that we were going to have a bigger crowd than usual. This was more than exciting because the kind of people filling the seats did not look particularly “spiritual” (as if I could describe what spiritual looks like!!).
The room was almost full and, just before opening the workshop, one of the volunteers mentioned that he had given up counting heads after seventy five. I found this to be very heartening. This many ordinary working people wanted so much to hear about prayer and meditation that they were willing to give up a few hours on a Saturday afternoon to do so.
We began the workshop with an opening prayer followed immediately by a short, ten-minute skit. (We have learned that relaxing the audience with some humor at the beginning and feeding them some good food at the end is always a winning combination!) So after some good laughter, we then introduced Amy. Her talk on prayer was simple and straightforward. She shared from the heart, from her own personal experience, and from her perspective as a chaplain guiding her flock. She was well received.
Martha followed this with a basic but very dynamic talk about meditation and it’s use in every day life. As I listened I also glanced around to see how this “motley group” was receiving the information. Faces were focused in rapt attention and I was reminded of why we had wanted to put on this workshop. The average Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones are seeking a relationship with God. They are on a quest to find a spiritual path that will satisfy the hunger of the soul and fill the void that all the material things in life just do not fill.
Martha segued into a guided meditation by first having the lights dimmed and then lighting a candle. She also played some very soft music in the background. Then in a quiet but steady voice she invited us into a place of quiet and led us on an internal spiritual journey. Even as I focused on my own spiritual experience in that moment, I was also very aware that there was an intense quiet in the room, the kind of quiet in which you could hear a pin drop. There was no uncomfortable shuffling or shifting in chairs. Just a total peaceful quiet.
I felt so joy-filled in the moments following the end of the meditation. This is what we had worked so hard for: the chance to give the ordinary man and woman in the street the opportunity to experience the calm, the tranquility, and the peace of mind, heart, and soul that comes through prayer and meditation. After a short break we returned to the room and ran our panel.
To illustrate my personal experience with making time for prayer and meditation in my life I shared from one of my meditation books that I use every day. The title is Quiet Moments in the Presence of God, which is published by Bethany House. As I read some of the reflections that were themed, Be Quiet, Rest Up, and Always More, I looked out at the sea of faces and realized that they were hanging on every word I was reading and saying. I felt the awesome presence of Spirit in that moment as S/He touched all those hearts. I felt humbled to be an instrument.
But the best was yet to come. After dinner was served and people went home and the room emptied out, I was sitting at table finishing my food when a woman came up to me. She was someone that I would label a “down-and-outer”. She was shabbily dressed and had grey stringy hair and it was fairly obvious that she was “not very bright”. She looked me intently in the eyes and said, “when you talked, I listened”, and she smiled. I was stunned into silence for a moment, then said, “I’m glad, thank you”. Continuing to look intently into my eyes, she then said, enunciating each word slowly and carefully, “I liked that book you read, I’m going to find that book”.
It is in moments like this that I truly feel the presence of God. It is in moments like this that I think, this is my mission – to bring a God-moment to this woman. And in doing that I experience my own God-moment. I may not be an international circuit speaker. I may not be famous. But I am rich beyond belief when I am given the precious gift of moments like that. I am completely soul-satisfied.