Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Somewhere in the middle....

There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened. ~ Mark Twain

Early yesterday I learned my trip to Boston later this week, isn't going to happen. While I was at first not wanting to go, after reading the itinerary that included a trip out to watch whales, an auto tour of Boston...both of which included lunch and drinks. Three evening meals in very nice restaurants and breakfast...I love eating breakfast out! ... but I'm not going.
As disappointed as I was about not going, I am concerned about the reason why I am not going because it involves people who are important to me.

On top of this, other concerns crossed my plate, leaving me feeling scattered, anxious, worried, and lonely. Using Macrina's thoughts and examples, I opened my Message Bible, asking God to guide me to words that would comfort a Flaming Feeler (INFJ) who just wants everyone to get a long!

But, I was restless, and unable to simply sit still so I headed for the gym to ride a stationary bike to nowhere. I met the UPS man at the end of the driveway and he handed me a book I had ordered from Amazon that I tossed into the back seat. The box fell out of the car when I opened the door to get my towel and water. I grumbled as I bent to pick it up, but as I started to toss it back into the car, I paused...

I shrugged and thought, "Well, maybe reading will make this ride go a bit faster." (Riding a bike to nowhere isn't one of my favorite activities, but it is dangerous for me to ride a bike along the road now and with the oppressive heat, I wouldn't want to! So...a stationary bike it is!)

Earth's Echo, by Robert M. Hamma, was the book in that box.  With everything else that has gone on, I had completely forgotten about it so I was curious as I opened to the first page that held this thought:
Granddaddy Long-Legs, which way is...
"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life...Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." ~ Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
"Okay," I thought, "so maybe I'm not alone, I'm just not being aware. Ha, imagine that. My loneliness is of my own making!"

I began reading as Hamma shares his lifelong love of being in nature. He shared fond memories of lying on a blanket in the yard with his dad, star gazing but admitted that it has only been in hindsight that he realized those moments were the beginning of his encounter with the Divine.
"Nature may serve as a refuge for us, a place to go to get away from the pressures and distractions of our ordinary lives. We may find that nature's beauty or grandeur inspires us, that the beauty of creation reminds us of the Creator. But is there more to it than that?" (Robert Hamma, Earth's Echo, p 13)
Next Hamma writes about participating in the divine, paying attention, a path toward awareness, AND a sacred reading of nature. 

Ummmm does this sound familiar?

Macrina wrote about a sacred reading in A Tree Full of Angels.

Sacred Reading is also called Lectio Divina. I journaled many weeks ago that I felt as though God was determined I am going to learn more about this spiritual practice because it continues appearing in so many things I pick up to read!

Like Macrina, Robert offers me the opportunity to consider how I might use this spiritual practice in ways other than reading scripture. (Which is what I was trying to get my restless self to do before I decided to go ride that bike!) Briefly, using nature and the authors who have written about nature, Hamma names the steps of this practice as:

  1. Paying Attention - We see nature through their eyes, but hopefully with new freshness in our own. Their words do not replace our own need to pay attention to nature, but may enable us to see more, to see differently, or to see anew.
  2. Pondering - As we join these writers in the process of paying attention, their considerations give rise to thoughts of our own.
  3. Responding - to the One whose voice we have heard. Our response comes spontaneously and it will depend on what we have heard. We may be joyful, sad, angry, or enthused. Our aim is to recognize our heart's desire in response to the "word" and to express it in a personal way. The traditional name for this step is "prayer" or "oratio".
  4. Surrendering - The traditional name for this step is contemplation. This step begins where all our efforts at meditation and prayer end and we find ourselves caught up in the movement and presence of God. Hamma writes that such an experience is a gift, not something we can cause or accomplish.
There is more within the first few pages of the book, but where I began finding God's presence once again in my hurting heart began on page 32 with thoughts from again, Rachel Carson.
"Like the sea itself, the shore fascinates us who return to it, the place of our dim ancestral beginnings. In the recurrent rhythms of tides and surf and in the varied life of the tidelines there is the obvious attraction of movement and change and beauty. There is also, I am convinced , a deeper fascination born of inner meaning and significance.
"When we go down to the low-tide line we enter a world that is as old as the earth itself - the primeval meeting place of the elements of earth and water, a place of compromise and conflict and eternal change. For us as living creatures it has special meaning as a place in or near which some entity that could be distinguished as Life first drifted in shallow waters - reproducing, evolving, yielding that endlessly varied stream of living things that has surged through time and space to occupy the earth."
I have LOVED large bodies of water since my parents first took me to lakes, then the ocean when I was young. I can walk for miles, as water comes and goes... The sounds, the smells, the tastes, and the beauty of the shore tug at my soul like nothing else I have ever experienced. Several years ago, while in Grand Cayman, I spent hours walking the shore. Each morning, I would discover that the tide had brought up different items and that the water was coming and going at slightly different angles. Yet, even though it was different, the rhythms never changed.

Hamma writes how...
"...the movement, the change, and the beauty of the sea offers us an 'obvious attraction.' But there is also, as Carson says, 'a deeper fascination.' The obvious attraction of movement, change, and beauty leads me to examine the dynamics of 'compromise, conflict, and eternal change,' not only at this elemental meeting place of earth and ocean, but in my heart and soul. In the give and take of sand and sea I recognize the giving and taking of love and friendship, the reconciling compromise that unites what was broken. In the conflictual crashing of the waves upon the shore I hear the pain-filled cries and the unfulfilled longings - my own, my loved ones, and those of the poor and the oppressed. In the eternally changing faces of the beach, I touch the ever changing lines of my dreams, my hopes. Ever changing, yet still the same.
"As life once emerged in these frothing, swirling waters, new dreams, new hopes, and new possibilities continue to emerge within me." (Hamma, p 34)
By this point, I was hopelessly immersed in my own memories of the ocean and the tide coming and going. Closing my eyes, I could once again feel the sand beneath my feet and hear again the sound of the water as it came and went from the beach. With my eyes closed, I began walking along that beach at Grand Cayman feeling the sense of awe... Holding Carson and Hamma's words about change... I continued to walk and began to feel the anxiety and the fear subside.

Hamma is absolutely right in reminding me that within the frothing and swirling waters, new dreams, new hopes, and new possibilities emerge, not only in my own life, but also in the lives of those I love! And, just as it is difficult to see the sand or what is being brought up when the water is frothing and swirling...I cannot see what new things or new relationships will come as this tide changes and recedes.

Robert closes these thoughts with a poem that I assume is written by him:
At this elemental meeting place of earth and sea and sky,
I sense your call to look inward
even as I gaze outward at the horizon.

The waves wash over my feet
and I sink gradually into the sand,
rooting me in the earth and the sea.

Simply by being here
I know I am part
of the rhythm of the tide and the energy of the surf.

I am a unique expression
of the endless and varied stream of living things
whose life is your life.

With each wave I sense
the giving and the taking, the tears and the laughter,
the longings and the fulfillment of all living things.

With each wave I am touched
by the constancy of your presence.
And I dare to believe that all shall be well.

Yes, I am a Flaming Feeler who wants everyone to hug, make up, and be happy! Yet, over and again, what I have wanted has often not happened and the sun continues to rise and set just as the tide comes in and goes out! In other words, the world does not end!!!

I cry out, "Why is this so difficult for me to remember!! Why, do I let the pressures of life get to me?"

Before I left for the gym, I had sent an email to a friend telling of the cancellation of the Boston trip, the whys of the cancellation and several other concerns, all of which I have no control over. Leaving the gym, I checked my email and discovered he had responded. He began by writing, "Sandi, Life comes in waves...sometimes its hard to keep our heads above water..."

I laughed at the irony of his words and paused to pray for help in letting go, of trusting him [God] in situations/relationships of those whom I love and I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for thrusting Hamma's book in my hands as I was leaving the house and for the encouraging words of my friend. I ended with a wink of sorts and exclaimed, You are so good! 

I'm sure he enjoys hearing he is good, even though he already knows!

Life is hard and I have known much heartache, but as Twain says, some of it actually happened! So much of my heartache is of my own making...when will I ever learn this truth!!!

As I rode the stationary bike, I heard this song by Casting Crowns from the woman's headset riding next to me. (I said a short prayer for her hearing) ...somewhere between my faith and my plans, when I'm caught in the middle... deep water faith in the shallow end...

Somewhere in the Middle - Casting Crowns....

Many Blessings ~ Sandi


  1. wow...powerful post for me....I am a INFP....I certainly understand the feelings stuff and wanting everyone to get along.... Nature is where I've my GOD EXPERIENCES tend to be most's where my healing from the pain of being a liberal woman in the churh began to scab the solitude of the woods, amongst the rippling streams and waving leaves and cruching leaves.....God came and provided balm to my raw spirit. thanks for sharing and listening....just ride the wave always comes to shore.

  2. I really liked the paying attention, pondering, responding, surrendering part of your post! ANd thank you for the insight in your life and the struggle you had to overcome and where you are now! Thank you, thank you thank you!


  3. Love Casting Crowns, love the thoughts on water - I could go with this concept for a long time - reflecting and relating