A Mother’s Blessing

 

I thought it would be a little tacky to take a photo of a mother and child I didn’t know this morning in church. I was so tempted to sneak a cell phone shot and apologize later if caught.  It was a tender, intimate moment that I wish could have been captured. But I hold it in my heart instead.

Imagine this: an expectant mother (I would say about 34 weeks into her pregnancy, if I were a betting woman) and her 7-ish year old daughter. The young girl, head resting on her mother’s belly, was tenderly caressing and then, curiously poking at the outline of a baby foot or hand in her mother’s tummy. This simple gesture was a blessing for her sibling, the unborn baby—a welcoming, a communication of love and hope.

Blessing my unborn baby

It is an awesome responsibility for expectant parents to consider bringing a new life into the world.  An avid reader, I couldn’t get my hands on enough books about parenting—parenting an infant, a toddler, a teenager.  I wanted to be the best and most prepared mother I could be, but I experienced an information overload, even without the not-invented-yet, scary, paranoid, hypochondriac rabbit-hole called the Internet, and I started to freak myself out, thinking about all that could go wrong and the weight of this responsibility. quote2

So I scaled it back a notch, deciding, gratefully, to focus only on the moment, on welcoming the life of my unborn baby. In the womb, a baby hears, feels, moves and senses. Despite the 1980’s new agey-ness of the title, I read a book when I was pregnant with Jessica called “Communing with the Spirit of Your Unborn Child”.  I believed that “Every parent has an unceasing responsibility to the child to be the light, to represent the light.” I prayerfully welcomed the baby we had so desired, sending her light and blessings while she was still in my womb. Throughout my pregnancy, I documented my thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams and prayed that we would be good parents.

pregnancy collage

When Jessica was a toddler, I read “The Blessings” by Gary Smalley and John Trent, about the value of blessing a child with words, touch, visions of a positive future and more. Blessing a child doesn’t just happen once; blessing a child continues through their life in a variety of ways.

Recently, Jessica asked her dad and me for a blessing.  While visiting Jessica in Washington DC during her senior internship, she broke it to us, ever so gently, that she had fallen in love with DC. She said she really wanted to pursue working there after college graduation.

And then she said, “Do I have your blessing?” My 21-year-old confident, brilliant, talented, highly employable daughter wanted her mom and dad to say it was okay for her to move away from our hometown and follow her dream.collage2

It was a touching, respectful-of-her-parents-kind-of-request, but she must not have realized that she already had our blessing. Our blessing has always been for her to pursue her dreams, to find her place in the world and to become a joy-filled, independent adult.

SoulCollage ® has become an intuitive, yet intentional, way for me to pray, so when my daughter asked for a blessing, I created an image, a blessing card, that could be a visual way to pray for her—to pray that she listen to her intuition, follow her dreams, and know that she would always have our blessing.

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I’ve been praying with the blessing card for several months, but recently decided to share it with Jessica for an end-of-year celebration at her sorority house. The images I had used to create the collage meant something to me, had help me capture a mother’s blessing, but I added these words to share with Jessica. With her permission, I share them here:

As we said your nighttime prayer as a child, our hand on your head, we gave you our blessing. God bless Jessica’s mind, body and spirit. We give you our blessing now for your journey, wherever it takes you. The bond between a baby elephant and its mother is the closest of any animal on earth—this image represents our connectedness as family, no matter the distance between us. In an African village near a Benedictine monastery, it is tradition for a mother to paint her face when her children are growing into adulthood.  She hides her emotions and opinions so her children will forge their own paths and make their own decisions without the influence or bias of their parents. Our blessing for you is that you bloom into the Jessica you are meant to be. You have been more precious than jewels to us and we look forward to seeing you become a jewel to the world. We love you and give you our blessing as you fly into your becoming.

baby JessA

Blessing Jessica, as my grown-up child, is a journey of becoming comfortable with the uncertainty and the many possibilities for her future, letting go slowly, surely, courageously. The blessing card is as much a reminder for me as it is for Jessica.

This morning, watching the young girl tenderly embrace her unborn sibling, it reminded me of the vision we had for Jessica before she was even born-that she become fully who God intends her to be.  It is a prayerful process, a standing-witness-to the becoming of this young woman, who as an unborn child was welcomed and blessed into this universe so that she could become who she is meant to be. She has our blessing, then and now.

 “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.    -e. e. cummings

I don’t know nothin’.

I don’t know nothin’.

After trying to solve world problems, philosophizing and sharing his wisdom over a glass of wine at our kitchen table, my father-in-law, Marv, would exclaim, “What do I know? I don’t know nothin’.” He had thoughts and opinions (oh, yes, he did) and plenty of experience, but, self-admittedly, he knew he still didn’t know much.131207_10200564020853354_135052895_o

Marv said it often enough that it was the opening line in the eulogy my husband gave for his dad’s funeral. So much is held in those few words: I don’t know nothin’.

Perhaps it meant—I surrender. I am humbled. I don’t know it all. I don’t know hardly anything. I can’t see the big picture. I raise up my hands and proclaim, “I don’t know.” I thought I had answers. I thought I knew a lot, but now, I’m not so sure I know much at all.

I’m not sure if Marv meant all those things when he said “I don’t know nothin’,” but it does show that he left room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times.  

Feeling blinded by the dust and debris of life, his words speak to me when I feel my plans are not going according to the playbook I’ve written.  I’m not special; I know dust and debris fly for all. Life is humbling—this is what I think my father-in-law meant. And I am missing him right now because I know he would’ve comforted me and brought it all down to that one line-“I don’t know nothin’.”

Marv, even though he’s been gone now for 3 years, still lives on in my heart and head. He is my inspiration for this SoulCollage card, “Surrender Supergirl”:supergirl

I am one who is young at heart, brave and courageous, but I am still growing. I have a ways to go before I am the Supergirl I wish that I was. I am one who isn’t quite as brave as I might look.

I wonder, how do I look? Do I care what I look like to others? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps I should surrender this idea of Supergirl….or at least the idea that her strength and knowledge comes from me alone. 

Part of me is hidden from others and even myself. I’m still discovering who I am and where my strength comes from. I am at peace knowing that I don’t have everything all figured out right now, and maybe I never will. I will grow either way- whether I strive to or not.

The tree does not wish itself to grow. It just grows. In wind and rain, drought and snow, being cared for and being neglected, the tree grows. I am growing into the freedom of a cautious and courageous spirit. I am growing into knowing nothing, of letting go what I thought being strong and brave, courageous and peaceful looked like. 

It doesn’t look like anything. It is experienced. It is lived into. It is not an easy thing to grow, but I raise my arms in surrender, dancing on the beaches of freedom, the freedom from having to know everything. I surrender Supergirl.  

I don’t know nothin’.

Marv was almost 80 years old when he died and I am almost 50, but age doesn’t really matter when we are on a journey to knowing (and unknowing) ourselves. Marv was a humble man who gave of himself in so many ways. If this is what it means to know nothing, sign me up.

Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. –Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7 MedalBlueGold180

Learn more about Benedictine spirituality and the Rule of St. Benedict.

 

Protectors of Creation: An Earth Day Challenge

Seeing the beauty of nature is the first step to taking action to protect it. Unless we can appreciate the oneness we have with creation, we will do very little to protect it.

“Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” –Pope Francis

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For Earth Day last year, SoulFully You readers were challenged to share their love of nature using images and creativity for a project that my daughter and I collaborated on titled,  “Soul Collage® and the Environment”.  To view all Earth Day entries, including cards and responses from readers, and the research paper that Jessica submitted for her Environmental Politics class at Nebraska Wesleyan University, see Earth Day blog entries.

Earth day card 2

For Earth day this year, I have been invited to write an article for the April 2016 SoulCollage® newsletter, SoulCollage® Community Update, reflecting on how creating with images of nature can impact and influence our sense of gratitude for God’s creation, our sense of belonging in and oneness with nature and, ultimately, how we respond to the call to conserve and save our earth’s resources.

I would love your insight and feedback! Please consider sharing your reaction to the SoulCollage® cards posted on this page by responding to any or all of the writing prompts.

  1. What is the effect of one (or more) cards on you?
  2. What does it say to you about God’s creation?
  3. Consider writing an “I am one who” statement or using a card to pray with or meditate on during this week. Does the meaning of the card change or deepen as you “read” it differently?
  4. How does this blog and/or the images inspire you to action?  Consider how you might conserve and save earth’s resources.
  5. What inner shifts or feelings arise when you contemplate your responses.
  6. Be creative.  Give yourself time to savor the images. Watch and listen for what bubbles up within.

earth day my fairy world card 3

Share your writing in the comments, send through Facebook messages or email jodigehr@aol.com. Also consider creating your own card and sharing how that process impacted you.

earth day card 4 just sit

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” Pope Francis, Laudato Si

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It’s about time we start sharing the same breath.

prayer beautiful 2“You say a prayer in your religion, and I will say a prayer as I know it. Together we will say this prayer and it will be something beautiful for God.” -Mother Teresa

 When it comes right down to it, we pray the same way. All of us meet God in our breath.

“Sometimes breathing is the only prayer we can pray, and God hears our sigh and once again breathes the breath of life into us. We exhale, and it seems like such a little thing. But some days it is everything. It is communion—intimate and more than breathing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. It is sacred and it is holy: this agreeing with God that we need God, for all of everything, and his joyful entering into our lives and ourselves and our very souls to make us one with him. We are gulping and breathing and sighing and gasping, and we realize our deep, deep hunger inside.” –Deidra Riggs, Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where We Are

One of the many troubling aspects of this week’s terrorism is the reminder of how little control we have in our life. Our first instinct is to build up walls of safety in our mind or our world—we plan, we change plans, we compulsively think, we reconsider. We realize we cannot control terrorists or anyone else.

We grieve this lack of control.  But, unless we want to travel down the road of fear, spinning circles in our own angst, we have to come to terms with this illusion of control. It is not something we have ever had. We cannot know when we will take our last breath.

Keep death daily before our eyes, Saint Benedict writes. (RSB, 4.47).  Being aware of and honoring our mortality may seem morbid, but it ultimately gives us freedom from fear and brings peace. This is the moment to moment surrendering of control that becomes our prayer.death before your eyes

We just need to breathe. This surrendering takes time; it is a practice.

“The breath is a primary example of how we cannot control our happiness despite our best efforts. Our bodies breathe automatically, without contrivance, clinging, over-thinking. The air is freely given. We can only realize our dependence upon the air that surrounds us and surrender to the gratuity of air coming and going….The Jews did not speak God’s name, but breathed it with an open mouth and throat: inhale–Yah; exhale–weh. By our very breathing we are speaking the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world.” –Richard Rohr

We have in common that we breathe the same air, the “Yah-weh” breath that comes from God. We breathe the same air as the refugee, the terrorist, the Muslim, the Hindu or the Christian. Republican or Democratic. Liberal or conservative. Protestant or Catholic. We breathe the same air as those we disagree with and those we live with (and sometimes they are one and the same.)photo

It’s about time we start sharing the same breath. A beautiful example of this shared today- 
Five religions in Thailand send powerful message to people of Paris.

What can we do to stand next to the one who believes, speaks, looks differently? How can we in our ordinary lives honor that same breath of God in others?

My friend, Deidra, writes about her experience of growing up in a black church. “One of the richest traditions in the black church is what is known as call and response. When the preacher preaches, it is not one-way
communication. Preaching, in the black church tradition, is a beautiful dance between the pulpit and the pew with the Holy Spirit orchestrating the sacred exchange…Words like Amen or Hallelujah or Thank you Jesus or Preach are shouted out.”
#EveryLittleThingEveryLittleThing-DeidraRiggs-BookReview

Her church may be different than mine: call and response versus incense and sacraments; silence versus shouting. But what we both have in common, what we ALL have in common is that every little thing we do is for the benefit of the Body of Christ, the whole world, everyone who breathes the breath of God.

We are here to make a difference. 

I’ve been Catholic, charismatic, United Methodist, Benedictine and a Catholic-come-home. I practice contemplative prayer in the style of Zen. I am a Benedictine Oblate. I’ve been to Tarot card readers, psychics and mediums. There have been years where I gave God little thought. I’ve explored the writings of authors from a variety of perspectives and traditions: Buddhist, new-age, self-help, Catholic, Sufi and more. I write this to say:

This journey is my own. We each have our own spiritual journey, religious tradition, opinions, beliefs, family dynamics, traumatic experiences, country of origin and so on—but we all breathe the same breath of God.

We may not have control, but we hunger for peace despite our differences.

We want to make a difference, despite our differences.

Perhaps this can be one little thing we can do to help tear down walls and build peace.

Breathe in “Yah”. Breathe out “weh”.  And let there be peace on earth. May we honor the breath of God that flows through each of us.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”
~ Gandalf, Lord of the Rings

 

 

Praying with Scissors

“Why run with scissors when you can pray with them?”

After attending a recent SoulCollage® workshop, feeling inspired, a participant hashtagged this question, “Why run with scissors when you can pray with them?”

praying with scissors

It’s impossible to be creative or prayerful when either we are running around with scissors in our hands or our head spinning off from the self-destructive-crazy-busy-way-too-many roles we play in life. Our days filled with tasks, whether worthwhile or mundane, are scheduled to the minute. We either count our minutes or count our minutes slipping way. We feel a scarcity of time when we operate in this “chronos” perspective of time. When we function from a place of “not enough” and we don’t invite moments of silence and solitude, we miss the glimpses of grace that could slip through a sliver of unscheduled time. Continue reading “Praying with Scissors”

We are made in the image of God

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy” ~Rumi

We are made in the image of God; we are created to create.life a work of art

Perhaps you doubt whether there is a creative bone in your body, but you would not be giving your Creator the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has an Inner Artist, but often our Inner Critic expresses itself more ardently. And we believe in the voice that whispers (or screams), “I’m not creative. I don’t have talent. I’m too self-conscious to create in front of others.”  Continue reading “We are made in the image of God”

Standing in the Flow

priest archetype

I stand in the flow of God
The flow that rises the sun
the flow that grows plants
the flow that moves the river downstream
The flow of my breath going in, going out

© 2014 Jodi Gehr

Card name: I Stand in the Flow ~ Priest Archetype

Solvitur Amublando: It is solved by walking

Solvitur Amublando: It is solved by walking. -St. Augustine

We move so quickly. We drive places to get where we are going as quickly as we can. The journey, the driving, is simply a means to an end–get where we need to and then move quickly to the next task. We run, run, run…but often our thoughts and feelings are in another location. They are running, too. Our body, mind and spirit are rarely in the same place at the same time. Perhaps we need to  let our souls catch up with our bodies. Continue reading “Solvitur Amublando: It is solved by walking”

Altars: A Sacred Space

“Altars can be very powerful…We acknowledge an incarnate God who speaks through symbols and the things of our everyday lives, and responds to our longings. A personal altar is a sacred space where we can re-center and reconnect with the Holy Presence dwelling in our midst–a place to honor the desires of lives with beauty. Altars help give voices to the longings bubbling up within us, long before we can put them into words.” ~The Artist’s Rule, Christine Valters Paintner

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I have to confess that having an altar was not my idea. It was a gift of love from my daughter, Jessica, and my friend, Joyce, when I was going through a difficult time. I came home from school one day to furniture rearranged and an altar created with some of my favorite sacred objects, as well as some new ones Continue reading “Altars: A Sacred Space”

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