Vada

I had a friend who was so extraordinary , I have to blog about her.

I met Vada at church I went to about 25 years ago. She was like a sparkling diamond then and continued to be in spite of very difficult circumstances. I never met anyone since then who even comes close to her aliveness.

Her son was a drug addict and we used to pray for him every week for a long time. He eventually did die of a drug overdose in a park. Even though he was extremely handsome and talented and had the potential of a great life , it was over for him at a very young age. I went to her house before the funeral and she sat down with me and showed me the “Cupons” he had made for her when he was a boy. They were for hugs and promises to wash dishes and little chores that a six year old could do. Vada said well I will have the “Cupons” to remember him by. She was not devastated as you would expect especially as we had prayed so long for him and it seemed not to help. But you know I think it did because she did not lose her joy and that was a miracle

She helped my family move about three times and each time it was a party even though we had to move a million books over and over.

One example of Vada doing what only she would think to do is this little pink lamp in the picture. She found this lamp and thought I would like it as it was pink glass and she knew I loved pink things. Plus it was a lamp so I could light it too and that made it even better. I lived in Tacoma and she lived in Everett. She drove down to give it to me and I was not home. Normally if you drove through traffic for hours to deliver a gift and the recipient was not home you would be upset. She told me she was coming down for a visit and I just plain forgot which is pretty horrible in itself.

Anyway I came home and found the little pink lamp on my stoop, with a note that she thought I would like it. I felt awful for all the effort she did coming and going for hours just for that and then I wasn’t even there. I called her and she said that it was just fine and she hoped I liked the lamp. Vada never complained about anything in her life ever.

She went through many more things in her life , all without a frown. Even when she got stomach cancer at 70, she called me and said she was excited to see what the Lord would do . Well He took her home is what He did and now I look at that lamp and think of the profound light She was to this world. She volunteered as a Chaplin at Harborview Hospital and saw the people with the greatest needs there. I remember her stories about how grateful she was to be able to be there with people when they were at a crisis time in their lives. She used to say that it was sacred space.

Vada was sacred space . She was like being with being with an angel.

So my little lamp is reminding me of her every day and Im so glad she brought it down to me when she did.

The Mountain Top

Here is a thing that happened that I can’t even get my head around yet. It is such a big experience that I have to write about it and maybe it will unravel here.

A year ago my husband and I found a secluded retreat center by accident. We were just driving around in a new place and we saw a sign along the road. The sign said St Andrews Retreat Center and we just drove in to see what it was. Because i have a Catholic background , I was wondering if it was like a monastery or something to that effect. We went in and the chef greeted us and was totally fine with us walking around and exploring. He told us groups met there for all sorts of reasons. There was a quilting group there when we walked around. The building felt almost intoxicating , like a place you did not want to leave. He said there was only one opening for a weekend the entire year. We told him we wanted it. Then we went home to figure out what to do with it, some kind of retreat , but we did not know what yet. First I thought the ladies retreat would be good there but the council nixed that idea. Ok so what kind of retreat?

We decided on a prayer retreat because you actually felt like praying when you walked in the door. There is a stillness there that feels like that. I had never been on a prayer retreat so putting one on was a little intimidating. I asked my Pastor if he had any ideas and he said he knew a guy that would be great. We asked him and he said yes right away. He had been to monastery and had actual first hand knowledge of such things.

It was not easy to get people to sign up ,as it was pretty expensive and we did not know what to expect. We got 8 but needed 12 to hit the minimum requirement. After a lot of announcements and emails and a good month we still had only 8. Then one dropped out. I was totally discouraged and wanted to just forget the whole thing, but the wife of the man who was going to lead it asked to just try one more time and see if we couldn’t get enough. So we tried one more time , even though I had a terrible attitude . That Sunday we got the other 4 and then later in the week two more. One woman even sponsored someone else to go unexpectedly.

I was very embarrassed at my bad attitude when I saw people come through like that at the last minute.

We went on our way to find out what it would be like. Everyone arrived and found their little bedrooms and then were congregating in the front room. The chef had dinner cooking so we could be inspired by that. We all got in line for dinner and had a fantastic fresh healthy farm to table type of meal that pretty much thrilled everyone.

Our first session was sweet with a fun opening ice breaker that actually was insightful as to where everyone was starting out emotionally for this retreat .

The leader started the session with a simple but profound talk about the Our Farther and we had one hour to go find a special place to answer questions and pray and be quiet with God. It was something I had never done before in this manner. Everyone came back after the hour and we talked about our experience in a small group.

That took awhile so it was about 9 thirty when we got done. One of the retreat goers built a fire outside and played his violin by it and several of us joined him to sing and be together in this new experience . It was one of the sweetest surprises that he did that.

The next morning some people went for little hikes before breakfast and some talked in the front room about their lives. Then they rang the bell for breakfast we we had another fabulous meal. I remember sitting by a friend of mine and just looking at her and we both said at the same time”Can you believer this food?”

One of the guests said they felt so special last night getting serenaded by angels . That was funny as we were the angels!

The next sessions were the same with a short teaching then one hour spend doing the teaching and thinking deeply about what we read. This method is very effective to make the retreat yours and your alone. The silences we did were a new idea too for me.

It continued like this till night when we finished up and decided to pray together as a group and sing and just be together. This was very delicious too as most of us were getting in the silence , read, ponder, write, groove. Everything started to melt together.

Sunday morning we had more good food and then we did our own Sunday Service. This was the first service I had been to where we all contributed to the order of Worship. We also contributed our two cents during the sermon which was very fun.

Communion was Port and fresh bread and at the end we all hugged and agreed that this was one sweet Sunday. Nobody wanted to leave so we stayed for lunch and then nobody wanted to leave again. We were full in every way you could be full.

All this prelude to this the actual mountain top experience which occurred after we got home. It was sort of like an onion unfolding. I started to not be able to talk about it. It seemed like a dream state after we got home. We floated off to evening service at our home church and everything was different. It was as if I could see past the service to what was happening in the spiritual realm . I know that sound spacey but I can’t thing of another way to say it. Then I felt as if I was coated in Gods love. Let me tell you that is a feeling you don’t want to every lose. It feels safe and clear. The great thing is that my husband felt the same way. I was glad I wouldn’t just sound like I was making this up. I still feel like this three days later and I don’t know how long it will last, but as long as it does i am thrilled to be here . Two other things happened. The words of the Bible seem to be jumping out at me in a way they did not before. Everything seems like it applies to me and it all makes sense. The other thing that is real is that nothing else matters to me. When you feel this close to God you feel complete and all anxiety is gone. My husband feels the same way.

This is the only time in my whole life that this has happened and I don’t know if it will happen again but it certainly was worth writing about . There is nothing i wish more that to have others experience this in your life. I don’t know if it was the prayer retreat or it just happened but it did happen and is still happening.

Blogging

I write this blog for myself to clarify ideas and to make commitments and to grow. I don’t think I am having any profound impact on anyone else , but it is a good exercise none the less.

Blogging is similar to the morning pages that I write by long hand each morning.

Julia Cameron got this idea and it is a powerful tool thousands of people do each morning to help spark their day . Writing long hand is not something we do on a regular basis anymore and it isn’t even something people did when she first wrote the book “‘Vein of Gold.” We had computers back then but they were not as pervasive as now.

The act of physically writing down your thoughts with a pen on paper somehow makes your real self come through. You are less likely to have that experience using a key board. It is a spiritual practice because it engages your deeper self . There is nowhere to hide from yourself when you incorporate long hand.

Just this very morning , I found myself ruminating on what anyone does anything for .

I get pretty philosophical about work because I have to or I forget why I’m doing it. I get distracted from the big picture and before you know it things get small again .

But the reality is nothing is small. Every single thing we do is important. Every word I write, every second I spend with someone, every single breath I take is important.

This blog is important, washing the dishes is important. Nothing is not important. Everything has meaning. You don’t just live and die and that is it like it is no big deal.

But I forget that all the time and when I do everything seems dull and small and meaningless and then I feel anxiety and then I watch stupid movies on the computer to stop the anxiety.

I don’t know why I forget so fast but thats how it is. That is why the morning pages are great for connecting back to the focus of life.

It is like when I went to the doctor . I was very anxious about the procedure I was a about to have and started to hyperventilate. The nurse said to look straight ahead and not look down, then I would not be dizzy and pass out.

That what the morning pages are. They are just looking straight ahead.

Working through it

I’m doing a Vein of Gold cluster group with two other friends . We usually have more people in a group like this but this time it is a small group. Small groups mean one thing, no place to hide. If you say you are going to do a project and then don’t , well let’s just say there is a lot of pressure to do it.

We get together and get all excited and committed about doing all these creative projects but push comes to shove, Monday morning comes pretty fast and you better actually do it.

That is the blessing of doing any Vein of Gold. The deadline may be self imposed but it is better than no deadline. People will procrastinate till they die if you don’t have a dead line.

You could literally die before you do your plans. You might think so what but in reality , dreams are given to you and are sort of marching orders. You better do them.

So here is a promise I made to my Vein of Gold group. I promised to get that book started about ceremonies that I have been thinking about for 15 years and here is the first page.

The Little Book of Ceremonies By Sharika Roland

When I turned 50, it was a surprisingly hard birthday. I found myself feeling like I had accomplished nothing in my life yet and time was not only slipping away but it seemed to be too late to do anything significant. It was as if I wasn’t paying attention and suddenly time was up .. This was depressing and so emotional for me that then and there I made my mind up not to let others experience the same fate. The idea to do a ceremony for something not usually ceremonied, seemed like a possible way to make a big impression on the recipient Other cultures have ceremonies but not so much in America.

My brother turned 50 just a year later and so I wrote a ceremony for him . The general response was fear that this would be so uncomfortable tor everyone that nobody would want to do it. But thats not how it turned out.
I wanted it to be a physical thing that our family did for him. So we found a trail going through the woods and everyone in our family came out on the cold January afternoon and we all walked the trail with him. Beforehand we had each brought something from his past that he could reminisce about along the way. We have six kids in our family so each sibling wrote him a letter that he read as he found each object. This whole thing took a good hour to get through all the stops , so when we got to the end of the trail it was totally dark and we still had to go back. We packed in candles and the procession back was quite lovely and almost enchanting with the bobbing lights parading down the hill.
After we finished up we all felt close and we were aware of how precious a life is and how it deserves at least once to have an elaborate production to mark your time here.

Once I had done the first one, I could not bear any other close friend not getting the same treatment so I started making more up.
This book is about the ones we actually did perform .
I hope this idea catches on so that everyone can have one special day to reflect on their relationships with family and friends and find creative ways to express love to them that not only benefits the receiver but also the giver. Giving a ceremony is tremendously satisfying and makes you appreciate the receiver in a new way.