The Angels Survived
I received this letter in November 2013 from a woman who purchased some of my pieces at a boutique. I was so touched by her note and, although maybe it doesn’t make placement sense, I am including it here, as a testament to the Divine.
It will soon be a year since my girlfriend, Mary Ellen, and I went to our favorite “craft show.” Sometimes we looked for Christmas gifts. This time, I told her I was looking for crucifixes. I had seen some on my trip to Nashville several years earlier. I only bought one, and needed several more. We canvassed the whole area without success. Mary Ellen asked, “Did you see the angel display?” We walked back a short distance and there they were. Beautiful! I purchased three for my daughters. The cashier wrapped them up carefully; she included an insert with each one.
On December 7 a devastating fire burned my condo to the ground. I got out with only the clothes on my back. All of my personal items, filled with 23 years of family memories, now gone forever. I moved in with my son and tried to rebuild my life.
Several weeks later we were allowed back in the burned-out condo to salvage what we could. I gave my son a list of items to look for; the angels and a crucifix were a priority. In the afternoon, he returned and handed me a box. Everything was still wrapped, just like they had been on the day I purchased them. My son was successful on his quest to retrieve the precious angels. I could hardly wait for my children to open their gifts.
At our Christmas gathering, I handed the gift of an angel to each daughter, and a crucifix to my son. Everyone was in tears when they saw the angels and crucifix had survived the fire. We read the insert together. Tears of joy and disbelief were shed. We will treasure them forever. – Mary Ann
Random Thoughts Pre-Christmas, December 19, 2013.
Part I: On Ironing.
Yesterday I ironed. Ironing is not something I’m particularly good at and I only do it about twice a year. What’s wonderful about it, though, is that I use my mom’s ironing board and so I am in thought on her whilst I move the iron back and forth across the fabrics. I pictured my mom as she stood behind the ironing board, working hard at making the shirts and pants and dresses all look beautiful, freshly pressed and ready to be worn. I don’t think that she thought she was very good at ironing either, but she did show her love for us through the pressed seams, bodices and ruffles. ‘Wash, iron, vacuum, sew, embroider and pickle your prayer.’
Part II: Taking Time, Making Time, The Light of Christ, a Little Grief Thrown In for Good Measure and Being Present.
Last night I contacted Mary Bruno, an artist in St. Joseph, MN. Mary runs a letter-press print shop, doing it the old-school way, inherited when her father died in 2003. Mary and I met 20+ years ago when she was at St. Cloud State and a friend of my niece, Ellen. I decided I am in need of some inspiration, so I am taking time to tour her modest studio, share lunch and, as I expect, have a discussion and a few beers, too. ‘Fast and feast your prayer, argue, talk, whisper, listen and shout your prayer.’
Thoughts of going to St. Joe to take time with Mary caused me to immediately remember Sister Verenice Ramler, a Benedictine nun who I met at CSB in 1976. What if I could find her and spend some time before visiting Bruno? The impetus, you ask? Verenice had this light – it was unmistakable – it EMINATED from her. And even as a green 18 year-old, I knew that, whatever this was that she had, it was what I had been searching for; this incredible sense of light and peace and love and goodness. And that year, after several conversations and time spent together and alone, I was born again into the light of Christ. And I learned right away that the light and peace and love and goodness are all part of living in gratitude for salvation freely given. ‘Breathe your prayer.’
So, I got up this morning, scheduled myself a little personal retreat at the CSB Spirituality Center and then asked to speak to Sister Verenice. I was told that she was moved to the Benedictine care center in St. Cloud and that she suffers from dementia. I talked to her caretaker there and am scheduled to see her the day before I see Bruno. When I hung up, I cried. I am grieving not going sooner. I don’t know what this visit will consist of, or what I will do when I see her, but I am called to go, to make and spend time in prayer with her and to sit. And so, I will. ‘Run and weep and sweat your prayer.’
Part III: Presence is the Present.
We all hear it. We all know it. Are you living it? Being present in the moment, in the glory, in the alleluia that is Christmas; are you there?
Rest!! Stop pushing yourself with the malls and the pressure and all the commercialism and, instead, take some time to pause, reflect and live in gratitude for the wonder of Love Come Down. I am actively trying. I am going more slowly about these days, doing just what I have to do, and pausing as much as I can.
And so as I pause right now, I wish for all that read these words to receive the Gift of Christmas, Jesus, and all that comes with Him. Light. Peace. Love. Goodness. Gratitude.
And so, Happy Christmas.
‘Be your prayer.’
What Good Shall I Do Today? On Life, On Change, On Doing.
Part I. I am just coming off of a very busy few weeks; preparing for the show at my own home, then the show itself and tear-down, and then a road-trip and very busy show in Grand Rapids.
Once in a while I am moved to purchase something at a show that “speaks” to me, probably much like the people that buy from me, I suppose; generally, it seems there is an angel or guardian or cross that speaks to them, or they talk to me and like me and get what I do, and so they are moved to buy.
Well, at my home show there was a new vendor that I had met at a little NE Minneapolis church show in September. She is quiet, humble, unassuming, and she makes functional and beautiful things out of stained glass. She is very sweet and I think a wise soul, and her work is very good.
She makes these very large garden dragonflies (amongst other glassy things). I can tell that she is very serious about her artwork, and she’s very fresh and diligent and I like that, and so I purchased a garden dragonfly for my garden by the entrance to the studio. The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world, symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.
So now, every time I walk into the studio, there is that beautiful, iridescent dragonfly, reminding me of her, reminding me that my life is constant, positive change, reminding me that I am realizing more and more who I am and what I am being called to do every day. How nice.
Part II. Anyway, I was up in Grand Rapids the next weekend, and the woman next to me at the Grand Rapids show makes signs. Some are funny, some are wise, some are quips. I’m not sure how she makes them, but they’re very nice signs, distressed, well put-together and at a price point that even I can afford. I noticed them when I was setting up and thought, “These are nice”, and then just got on to getting my booth prepped for the next day’s opening.
So on Saturday morning, I stopped at the Caribou and grabbed a cup of coffee and a turkey bacon, cheese and egg white sandwich (which was very good, actually), and made my way to the Lodge where the show was taking place. I walked into the ballroom and as I walked past the sign booth, I paused and looked a bit closer, and at the very top shelf of the display I saw a sign that read, “What Good Shall I Do Today?”
It made me mist because it immediately touched my heart.
I decided I had to have it; I purchased it, no guilt attached.
Part III. As soon as I unpacked my car after returning home from the weekend, I hung it in my studio in a prominent place, where I will now see it every day that I walk into the studio, and every time I walk between the slab room and the main room of my studio, and pretty much all the time I’m cutting or glazing. And every time I see it, I am – and will be – reminded that my purpose here is TO DO GOOD. I am called to action. And that action – whether making angels, or praying, or greeting customers, or listening to others, or saying hello to neighbors, or gently being me – is prayer.
So this morning, as I sit here sipping my second cup of coffee and typing, I pause now for a moment and think, “What Good Shall I Do Today?”
What is it about doilies?
I use doilies, tatting, laces and other handmade fabric pieces in my work to impress the clay. So here’s the thing about that: Energy.
Did you realize that it takes upwards of 20 hours to crochet a doily? During those 20 hours, I imagine the doily-maker to have been thinking on things, processing problems, praying on people, sending love and positive energy into her handmade piece.
And if you believe that energy becomes attached to things – or becomes a part of something, then you’d be likely to believe that the doily-maker’s energy passes from that doily (or tat, or lace) into the clay at the time of impression. And with that energy, all the love and positive thought and prayer that I send into my work becomes one in that clay piece, and around and around and around the energy goes. I love that thought and, so to me, that is what it is about doilies.
What is Prayer?
This was read at a women’s retreat that I went on a couple years back. I loved it so much that I asked for a copy, and now I share it with you. Thanks to Jill Rode, Luther Seminarian, for the submittal.
…Be awake to the Life that is loving you
and sing your prayer, laugh your prayer,
dance your prayer, run
and weep and sweat your prayer,
sleep your prayer, eat your prayer,
paint, sculpt, hammer and read your prayer,
sweep, dig, rake, drive and hoe your prayer,
garden and farm and build and clean your prayer,
wash, iron, vacuum, sew, embroider and pickle your prayer,
compute, touch, bend and fold but never delete
or mutilate your prayer.
Learn and play your prayer,
work and rest your prayer,
fast and feast your prayer,
argue, talk, whisper, listen and shout your prayer,
groan and moan and spit and sneeze your prayer,
swim and hunt and cook your prayer,
digest and become your prayer.
Release and recover your prayer.
Breathe your prayer.
Be your prayer.
** From “What is Prayer” in Moving to the Edge of the World, by Alla Renee Bozarth, iUniverse 2000.
Strange Coincidence or Not So Much? I’ve always prayed over my work, but like I wrote above, I felt inadequate in my prayer. I had gone on various retreats and talked about my prayer inadequacy and trying to find a solution, met with other people and discussed my lack of focus in prayer, my inability to meditate, etc. I was actively searching for help in prayer, almost like I expected there to be this easy-bake oven answer to prayer – but just hadn’t found it.
So, one Sunday morning I was a guest artist at St. Mark’s Cathedral during the re-grand-opening of their bookstore, along with several other guest artists, all of whom have artwork at St. Mark’s. At the table next to me on my right, was a lovely woman from Northfield. She had all kinds of pretty blingy stuff that I don’t usually pay much attention to because I’m not much into pretty blingy stuff. But she was nice, and we seemed to have some sort of common spirit, so we started talking and, as it turned out, I learn from her that her blingy stuff is all different kinds of rosaries. I have to admit that as a bit of a “recovering” Catholic, I’ve had this love/hate relationship with rosaries. All that obligation, all that time spent doing repetitive prayer as a young child, but also all that appreciation for my mother’s continued rosary devotion, a daily thing for her that did so much good; so much love focused into that hour of prayer.
Well, through our discussion, I learned that rosaries are simply a method of helping a “pray-er” to focus on praying. She told me about many of the rosaries she had brought along that day – Lutheran, Episcopal, Holy Spirit, etc. Some of them were long rosaries (like the Catholic ones I’d grown up with), and others were very short – only a few beads and a cross. Suddenly, the idea of a rosary wasn’t quite so scary, and maybe not as much of an obligation, or maybe an obligation of a different sort. I bought the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit Rosary,” which was short (only 7 large beads), and it has helped me more than you can imagine to focus on my prayer, and to make my prayer regular.
So the coincidence (or not so much) was that there I was, searching for a way to make my prayer more focused and more, I don’t know, easy-bake I guess, and along comes Christine, next to me at St. Mark’s, teaching me a way to pray and giving me permission not to feel so incredibly burdened about it. Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude.
The Polish Festival. A story regarding prayer and angel making.
I was tending my booth at the Twin Cities Polish Festival and a woman walked in. I greeted her and she nodded, but didn’t say anything for a while. Finally, we started to talk and I told her how I make the angels and about how prayer is integral in my work. She gave me her thoughts, which I have come to see as such a wonderful gift. Here they are, paraphrased from our original conversation:
“When you pray over the clay, it’s soft and absorbent – it absorbs your prayer and your energy and holds it in. Then, when you fire the clay, those prayers and that energy is held forever in the clay, made permanent, kept in that piece forever. That’s what makes each piece so personal; a part of you, a tie to the receiver.”
I just feel like this lady got what I was doing; that she instinctively understood my mission, and she defined it for me, for which I am grateful. It put a picture in my head that I now see with every piece I touch. Prayer in. Energy in. Hope in. Love in. Positive IN.
I believe that this woman was sent to give me that message – maybe she was – or is – one of my angels?
The boy Samuel. Being open. Listening. Trusting intuition.
The story of Samuel from the Old Testament is hands-down one of my favorite Bible stories. It has been this story that draws me in, speaks to my heart, and that has taught me to give myself over to what God wants for me. At times, this “giving over” has not been easy; in fact, the leap of faith to leave a corporate living and pursue self-employment was one of the hardest things for me to do. But it seems to me that God kept shutting doors, moving me in one direction and away from another, calling me to be open, to listen to those He sent me, and to listen and trust their – and my – intuition for what God was pushing me to do.
I never thought I’d be praying and making angels for a living. Who would think that, really? It seems like it’s a romantic idea with a bit of martyrdom tossed in to make it even more strange (if you should choose to buy into the martyrdom part of the deal). Sanity said, “Get your resume together, go out and find another position in a thriving business where a little creativity is appreciated.” Reality said, “You’ve had enough of the corporate world. You’re tired.” Others came into my life at this critical time and, like Eli, intuited that the calling was to something different than the life of an Executive Assistant. And my Spirit guide said, “Trust. Go for it. You’ll be fine.”
And so, like Samuel (in a way), I’ve had to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” What this has brought me in fullness of life versus fullness of a bank account cannot be measured. I have met people from all over the world, we connect on a spiritual level, and my life continues to be blessed. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.
If you’ve not opened yourself up to Samuel’s story, please consider doing so. Old Testament, 1Samuel 3:1-10.
Getting in tune.
And so it is.
A friend of mine, Coleen, is a healer whose methods are alternative to Western medicine. She is very practical, very intuitive, very kind, very open to accepting the gifts she’s been given and working to make the world a better place.
She was working toward certification for Tuning Fork Therapy and asked if I’d help her fulfill the required number of sessions and agree to a free session. I look at these opportunities as a win-win, so I enthusiastically said, “YES!”
What struck me most about the session was the way she prayed beforehand and afterwards. She ended both prayers very matter-of-factly with the words, “And so it is.” I hadn’t ever heard that way of ending a prayer before, and was immediately drawn to the way it positively concluded the prayer in trust that it had already been answered.
I need to work on remembering to say that at the end of my prayers; kind of like putting a period at the end of a sentence – finalized and completed. Done. Nice.
And so it is.
Lighting the Guadalupe Candle.
Prayers continue on, long past the words.
My mother was a native Californian of Spanish descent, and The Virgin of Guadalupe was her version of The Virgin Mary. My mother spoke Spanish, and her prayers to Guadalupe were pretty much always rendered in Spanish. I don’t know what the words were that my mother used in her prayers before she asked for intercessions, but I do know her prayers were serious business. She prayed her regular prayers every day, diligently, sitting in her chair by the window, often with rosary in-hand, always with her prayerbook close by. But when Guadalupe was lit, we all knew there was a great need and my mother had offered up a prayer to help.
I don’t know when post-it notes were invented (and I’m not going to take the time now to research the answer), but I do know that my mom glommed onto post-its with great tenacity and used them to record the names for whom prayers were offered and, if there was a definite (but short) descriptor my mom could add, she would (e.g., “Chopper. Hips.”). Then the post-it would be placed under the lit candle, the prayer would be offered, and the candle would be left to continue burning. Then, just before bedtime, my mother would return to the lit candle, say something else in Spanish that I presumed was a closing prayer giving thanks, would blow out the candle and then go to bed, secure in the idea that her prayer had been prayed fervently and continuously, for as long as that candle had been burning.
After my mother died, we were cleaning out her home and we opened up a cabinet she had in her bedroom. Inside were hundreds and hundreds and HUNDREDS of post-it notes, with the names of family members, dogs, cats, friends, acquaintances, causes, questions, etc., etc., etc. I still have them. What a lovely gift, and what a gentle reminder that prayers continue on, through fire and post-it notes, long past the words.
Moving from Light to Dark, and Dark to Light.
December 21 is the longest night of the year. It feels to me that when we start making the shift in June and our days become shorter and shorter, we can feel the darkness coming. There is a bit of sadness for me as our days change, the birds are less chatty, there is this minute time shift and it feels to me as though there comes with it a stress to capture as much light as we can because the light is diminishing. For me, all that darkness creeping towards me and gaining ground creates a darkness that weighs on my mind and heart.
So to acknowledge the longest night of the year, I went to a solstice event to celebrate the move from darkness to light, the changing of the season. This event took place at the Peace Chapel at St. Cate’s. The chapel is long and was dark and lit only with candles and a few spotlights at the front of the room. As a part of this night, the audience was invited to call out the names of people who were struggling or who had died, or events and situations that made their hearts hurt. “Bruce, struggling with bi-polar.” “John.” “The citizens of Newport, Connecticut.” “My mother.”
After each remembrance, the audience said together, “Our ashes fall in the night.” What was cool about this was that there were these lone voices calling out a thought, sometimes two or three voices crying out at the same time with their hurts, and then community releasing this prayer together, “Our ashes fall in the night,” acknowledging the pain. There became a rhythm; an ebb and flow; a release, a response, and with that response, an opportunity to heal.
I had never really acknowledged the gloominess of the winter solstice before, and I’m still processing the event I attended. How did it change me? What will I do differently from this point forward? What I can say is that now the days are getting longer, the nights shorter, and the shift has been made from more darkness to more light. Ever so slightly, each day.
And with this change, I sense my own movement from a focus inward to one outside myself and wondering, “How can I serve?”
I pray this prayer at the start, several times during, and the end of my working days. When I pray this prayer, people pass through my thoughts, fitting into each category.
I love this prayer – it reminds me who to pray for and I have come to realize that as I say “your angels,” it can also be said that my angels are really His angels – my angels have been given charge over those to whom they go.
Watch now, dear Lord, over those who wake, or watch, or weep, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, rest your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones, pity your afflicted ones, shield your joyous ones, all for your love’s sake. Amen
The Booth Prayer. I needed a prayer to help me focus my day after set-up at shows. Sometimes it’s really difficult to sit and wait – and wait – and wait some more, until the right people find me. So to center myself on a sale day, I wrote and now say the following prayer:
Dear Lord: gratefully I sit here, thankful for any opportunity You give me to spread Your love.
I ask that you bless all the people that pass through this space and time today; bless their endeavors, bless their families, bless their work, and their comings and goings.
Please bring to me those that need Your hope, a reminder of Your love for them. and encouragement for whatever situations come their way – good or bad.
Thank you, Lord,for guiding me. For trusting me enough to be a good listener, to be open and available to all those whom You send my way. Bless my ministry, keep me humble, show me the right way to talk to people and to spread Your love. I am so grateful to be where I am, placed in this place, in this time, with these people. I praise You and thank You for all that you do for me. In Your name, Amen.
St. Francis. What a guy. Kind to the animals, open to accept the life God called him into. Born rich, lived poor. Walked the talk. His prayer is simple and known all over the world. A gentle reminder of how we should simply “be.”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
I’ve added my own spin with three more prayers, tieing into my mission to bring healing, harmony and peace:
Where there is hurt, bring healing.
Where there is dischord, bring harmony and peace.
Where there is indifference, bring understanding.
My Northfield bead-making, rosary building friend, Christine, gives a booklet of prayers specific to the rosary you buy so that you have a place to start with your prayer. Here is one of my favorites from my Gifts of the Holy Spirit Chaplet Prayer Booklet:
Spirit of Christ, stir me; Spirit of Christ, move me; Spirit of Christ, fill me; Spirit of Christ, seal me. Consecrate in me Your heart and will, O Heavenly Father. Create in me a fountain of virtues. Seal my soul as Your own, that Your reflection in me may be a light for all to see. Amen
When I get myself to church, I am always looking for prayers I can add to my collection or to my prayer wall in the studio. I am selective about what I collect, and really try to discern the messages presenting themselves in the prayers. Below are a few that have resonated with me, and that I pray on a regular basis. What I really like about them are the “God descriptors” – Insistent, Everlasting, Living, Beckoning. I like to think that God is insistent and beckoning. A friend from church describes God as “yearning” to have relationship with us. To think of God in similar terms as myself – sometimes insistent, sometimes yearning – makes God that much more real to me.
Insistent God, by night and day you summon your slumbering people. So stir me with your voice and enlighten my life with your grace, that I may give myself fully to Christ’s call to mission and ministry.
Everlasting God, you give strength to the powerless and power to the faint; you raise up the sick and cast out demons. Make me an agent of healing and wholeness, that your good news may be made known to the ends of your creation.
Living God, long ago, faithful women proclaimed the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, and the world was changed forever. Teach me to keep faith with them, that my witness may be as bold, my love as deep, and my faith as true.
Beckoning God, who called the rich to travel toward poverty, the wise to embrace your folly, the powerful to know their own frailty; who gave to strangers a sense of homecoming in an alien land and to stargazers true light and vision as they bowed to earth – I lay myself open to your signs for me. Stir me with holy discontent over a world that gives its gifts to those who have plenty, whose talents are obvious, whose power is recognized; and help me both to share my resources with those who have little and to receive with humility the gifts they bring to me. Rise within me like a star, and make me restless until I journey forth to seek my rest in you.