Saturday, December 04, 2010

Mindful Prayer Everyday

Oh, of all the things I should be doing, and need to accomplish, I decided to blog. I am hoping that the guilt will not overwhelm me and force my brain to stop in mid-blog mode. To be honest.... my brain was in full blog mode today. No kids, lots of interesting and inspiring and thought invoking conversation. Quiet. Did I mention no kids? But then I had dinner with them tonight and all that blog brain disappeared. It disappeared so much that I was disappointed. I was really hoping to write something meaningful tonight. Something like I wrote before these little hooligans sucked my brains out.

Last night it started snowing. And it kept snowing. And although most of you probably already know this, I am going to repeat it just for the sake of documentation. Because I want to someday have my children be able to read this and know that it was fantastically important to me.

We ate supper together and the kids and Evan and I were in the living room watching Polar Express. The kids were on the couch with Evan and I was crocheting myself a hat in my rocking chair. Marek was climbing the back of the couch and looking out the window and saying "snow! snow!" for the first time. I looked at Evan, and said "You know what would be really fun, going outside to play right now! (actually I think I spelled some of it, because I didn't want to get the kids' hopes up until I knew he was game.) He looked perplexed, and we discussed it further and mentioned that instead of putting them to bed at 10pm, we should put them in their pajamas (long johns) and then into their snow clothes and take them out and pull them in the sled.

Evan said "Hey Ardyn, do you want to go outside and play?" And I wish that I would have had a camera at that moment to capture the look of shock, disbelief, and excitement on her face. To think that she was headed for bed and then suddenly was headed outside to play in 5 inches of the first snowfall of the year? at 10pm? In the DARK? With mom AND dad?! She was soooooo thrilled. She said "Me?!?" "Now?!?" "In the SNOW?!?!" and she tore off for the potty, squealing with happiness. We got them changed and dressed and went outside. They played in the yard while Evan was getting the sleds from the garage, and then we pulled them up and down the entire length of our street. It was beautiful and still. The flakes were big and falling so slowly and thickly.... it was a dream. The kids laughed and squealed and Marek had the biggest grin. Ardyn drug her hands through the snow over and over, and made a snow angel in the yard and tasted the snow off the swing-set. It was great. Best decision ever. And they went inside, got undressed, and fell fast asleep!We got some great little photos, but my favorite of all, is this one, of Evan pulling Ardyn down the street towards home. Peaceful.
So it was a great night. And then I stayed up way to late and ended up regretting it when I had to drag my butt out of bed for my spiritual retreat today. But it was so worth it. I knew it would be, but I was so impressed and felt so stimulated and NORMAL (meaning I do still have brains in there somewhere) and I even felt invigorated to scrape 9 inches of snow off the van and barrel out of the unplowed drive and creep my way down unplowed roads to get to Pilgrim Park. I had no intention of taking my camera with to the retreat (lots of people are really bothered by having their photos taken. I don't want to offend anyone, but again, this is my life that I am documenting.) and then at the last minute, when I saw the snow, and realized that I was bound to run into some really beautiful sights today, I quick grabbed my SD Card and the D3000 and took off out the door. And I am SO glad I did.

It was BEYOND beautiful at Pilgrim Park. Beyond. It reminded me of home, and of Midwest Living Magazine, and of so many snowy days growing up. The chapel at the park is just phenomenal. It made me realize that my entire life, I have been cramped into churches with beautiful stained glass windows, but never really realized that a huge part (the best part) of God's presence here on earth was being obstructed from my view. Was this at the assumption that if I could see outside I wouldn't pay attention to the droning that went on inside? Perhaps. I don't know. But you sure know how I feel about conspiracies and religious ones at that.

Seeing the beauty that God brought around us, and the weather which brought us together and challenged us at the same time.... We all agreed it was a definite way of God telling us that he is here. That he is STILL SPEAKING. It was phenomenal to listen and let your thoughts roll around while looking out at the snow. Sometimes falling softly and lightly, sometimes heavily and thickly, and sometimes not at all, with the exception of large chunks sliding from the branches to plop through the fluff below. Before the retreat actually started I stomped all over the place in the snow and got soaked up to my knees, and spent the better part of the morning drying out my socks and sweatpants. But as you can see, it was entirely worth it. These pictures mean a lot to me, and will forever remind me of this day, and the things I pondered and learned.
So, about the retreat. There are so many things to say, although I don't want to spoil it, because it's something that Adam is working on and while it's probably not for everyone, it's for everyone like me :) There were several discussion points and learning opportunities, but perhaps the real reason that it stuck with me (oh there were several really) was the idea that there is a mindfulness in everyday activities. A mindfulness that you can (and should perhaps) practice, so that it becomes a way of life. So that when performing any type of task, it becomes not just another task or another item on your to-do list, but something entirely better. It becomes like a prayer to God. Wait, not LIKE a prayer to God. It IS a prayer to God. It's reveling in the marvel of everything, of every blessing we have been given. From the basic presence of God in the soil, the rain, the sunshine.... to the more complex things like the food we eat, the people and things we have to be thankful for, and to really pay attention to what we are currently seeing as just another piece of monotonous life. Adam drew some really fascinating pictures in my head. It appealed to me on this awesome level, more-so than I could have imagined it would.

He went back into the history of Christianity... even before Christianity, and filled my head with knowledge of Saints and stories of slavery and Catholicism and the fall of the Roman Empire (*cough cough* Tudors on Showtime anyone? :) and everything was just so fascinating. It reminded me how disappointed I am in the way Americans are "taught" this narrow-minded history of our country. This story about the greatness of America, and the rest of the world is really just left out, unless they tried to oppose us or fight us in any way. It is so frustrating to know that there is so much knowledge out there waiting to be discovered and that without people like Adam to inspire and take the time to share and talk with you, I might not ever feel connected to it.

Ironically, over our morning snack I started a conversation with a new friend about our history and the way that our names changed when our ancestors came to America. I explained that my Husband's last name of Johnson wasn't the last name at all. McShane. I could be Meagan McShane. And my Paternal Grandma would have been an Immesote, but instead became and Emmerson. She was talking of her family names that were changed, and others began joining our table with their pastries and fruit and coffee and soon we had a full discussion going on about our ancestors and our heritage and how sad it is that so many things are lost or changed in order to Americanize.... or for other reasons to many to mention here.

Little did I know that mentioning our names, and that Evan and I feel a strong pull to Gaelic names, and that is why we chose Ardyn and Marek for our children's names.... would all be coming back around in our afternoon discussions.

Adam brought out the stories of Gaelic (Irish, Scottish, Celtic) traditions that were suppressed by the Christian Church. Practices that were centuries old, and had been going on before Christianity itself, were suppressed. Documents destroyed and People told that saying the prayers that they had passed down for generations (even though they had been adapted or amended for Christianity) were now heresy. Gaelic prayers that were said for everyday chores. Praying Mindfully. Including worship for God in your everyday life. Saying a prayer while making the bed. While washing your face. While starting the fire or welcoming the day. Prayers while cooking or farming or raising your children. Recognizing God everywhere was an everyday part of life. Being mindful was as natural as the daily activities they performed. Tasks were blessings from God. They were done methodically and with joy. These Common prayers helped us stay connected to God continually. Informally. It was REAL. Luckily the common prayers were saved and written down, protected in Ireland. And I intend to get those books and read them. Because every prayer that we were given as an example today was PHENOMENAL. They spoke to me. They reminded me of my daily tasks, and of how many things I have to be thankful for. To be MINDFUL of. And of the way I can build my relationship with God. On OUR terms. Not someone else's. Not only on Sunday. Not only with religious people. But by myself. And of ways that I can pass that mindfulness on to my children.

No matter how you feel about religion, no matter what you believe or IF you believe, I believe that there is a God, and that I need a REAL relationship with him. A relationship that is not about what my MOPS group thinks I should do, not about what my Pastor thinks I should do, not about what my mother thinks I should do, not about what my church family thinks I should do. Prayer is between myself and MY father. And I choose to be mindful.

Am I rambling? sorry.

Two of the most amazing things struck me today.... just gave me an "Aha!" moment. Things that spoke to me and that I felt were those "meant to be" reasons that I attended.

I am planning the baptism of Ardyn and Marek. I don't want it to be the traditional "three-ring circus" in which you have to have the church watching, the Godparents chosen and present (a Catholic tradition to bring more people into the church), the baptism gown, the entire family drug to church in ties and dresses whether they believe or not. I don't want that for my kids. I want them to be baptised in the presence of the church family that I am growing to know and love. I want meaningful things said to them and I want it to be peaceful and mindful. And one of the Gaelic prayers of baptism was astonishingly simple. But real. And to the point. And believe it or not (irony? Destiny?) It was a birth baptism performed by Womb Women (midwives) at the mother's side while the baby was being born and while the baby was just fresh and new. It was sweet and melodic and it brought tears to my eyes just hearing it. And I was instantly taken back to my children. Ardyn Labored and Marek Born in the water. And I thought about how it felt so RIGHT to have Marek in the water, and I thought how RIGHT it would have felt to have him baptised right then and there. And I thought how right it would be to have the same Gaelic baptism prayer said when they are baptized this winter. Ironic? Meant to be? Certainly.

The other AHA! moment was when Adam asked us about modern mindful prayers. I was reminded of the book I read (okay, I lie. I didn't read it. I just Perused it.) titled "Real Moms, Real Jesus." It had to go back to the library before I could actually read it, but I gathered enough from the excerpts I was able to read. Enough to understand that Our Father put Jesus here on Earth to walk with us, to experience our life, and to relate to us. Jesus can relate to me as a mother perhaps even more than God can. Jesus knew what it was like to be in high demand. He knew what it was like to be wanted and needed and touched everywhere he went. He knew what it was like to be called upon to heal people, feed people, care for the sick, the weak, the weary. He was in high demand. Much like a mom. Much like a Stay at Home Mom like me who doesn't get a vacation day. Who lives her job 24-7, 365 days a year. Jesus understands what it's like to live that life. He understands the joys and the pains and the overwhelming happiness and the occasional despair you feel when you have to be everything for someone, or for many someones. This gives me a courage and a closeness to Jesus that I never felt before. I always got so confused about the Father, Son, Holy Spirit business. Seriously? Which one was I supposed to be listening to? Whose job was what? Why are there three? I think I have learned where this is going, but it's something I learn every day. And today Adam taught me that St Patrick was a slave. That he was a tax collectors son who had been stolen and sold. That he lived in terrible circumstances.... and that he turned to God. And I learned things that are simple, and that I should have been TAUGHT. Like St Patrick using the Shamrock (hell-o!) to teach of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.... Three leaves but one plant.

Why are we not taught these things?! In my religious upbringing we were just told that the bible said so and this is what it says and so you need to just blindly believe. So frustrating.

So anyway. You get the picture. Hopefully I haven't spoiled Adam's teachings by rambling on about them. I can't wait to read the first three chapters of his book's rough draft.... now if I could just remember WHERE I put it!?


Here's hoping that I can make it to church tomorrow and the wind doesn't blow all this snow silly!

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