Refugees: Becoming Refuges of Hope

Yesterday (20 June) World Refugee Day 2018 came (& went), but the issues facing refugees are not something to contemplate just one day of the year.

Imagine if conflict evicted your family (& you) from your home.

Where no place is safe, your country is engulfed in violent turmoil, and you fear for your children and loved ones every minute of every day, what can you do?

Escaping, even with nothing but the clothes on your back, is preferable to certain death that looms ever present. The decision to leave is not hard to make when you’ve also seen your home and everything you possess blown to bits by bombs and violence.

Most likely you have lost loved ones, family, friends, colleagues: conflict’s casualties claim tiny tots to the elderly, no matter how small the crawl or spry the step.

Forced to flee, you eventually make it to a refugee camp, finally accepting the fact that you’ll never return to all you’ve held familiar, because what was is no more. You eke out an existence in the crowded camp waiting (years and years) for an opportunity to make a new home in a new place.

A place where you can find a job, study, make a living, provide for your loved ones.

A place where you don’t have to be afraid every minute of every day.

A place where you can learn to live again, to hope again.

“Today if we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other – that man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister.”  Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)

Imagine if you live in one of the world’s wealthy countries, where peace and resources are plentiful: food, water, shelter, education, opportunities and freedom.

Is there room in your heart to welcome refugees who have suffered so much?

Refugees seek refuge, a safe place to be. Can you open a refuge in your heart to seek (& be) a safe place for refugees?

Can you be a refuge of hope for refugees to begin again, to learn to hope again?

Or, maybe you think it’s not your problem.

Hey you, someday that refugee could be me, or you.

grace, peace & refugees

Virginia

Today there are more than 68 million refugees and internally displaced persons. If you would like to help, or learn more, here are two organizations (among many) with a long history helping refugees: International Rescue Committee and Catholic Relief Services.

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Fatherless on Father’s Day (again!)

Celebrating Father’s Day in America this weekend, here’s another go at last year’s post…

Cherished and adored, two words that remind me of my father. And loved.

Although it’s been several years since Papa passed, there’s still a crater-sized hole in my heart. I don’t think that hole will ever get smaller because Papa loomed so large in my life. Center-stage with Mama, the two of them cheered me on with their love to do and be – whatever, whenever, wherever.

Their deep love anchored this red head through good times and turbulent times: always there, a constant port in any storm.

Papa cherished me (& my 4 siblings) through our growing pains in childhood, the onset of adulthood, and as we muddled our way into middle-age-hood. He would say, “You are beautiful!” (Growing up with a pimply face & skinny legs, really Papa?)

He pushed us to pursue our dreams. He supported us. He made time for us.

Growing up in a boisterous family with five kids, sometimes it was hard for my younger brother and me to get a word in edge-wise. Papa made space for us to speak through daily ‘round table’ dinner discussions where we each shared the highlights (or challenges) of our days.

He spent time with us. He took Section B (as we’re called, the three oldest = Section A) on monthly dates for dinner and every Walt Disney movie that came out. (There were many.) When we were a little older it was John Wayne westerns. (There were many of those, too!)

As I grew up these fun outings morphed into more serious encounters – a time set aside to seek his wise counsel and share worries, debacles, hopes and (ever changing) dreams.

An important part of cherishing is encouragement. Papa encouraged me to seek, to speak, to do, to be all that I was, and am, meant to be as his beloved daughter and precious daughter of God, our Heavenly Father.

When I moved away from home to work in Washington, D.C. and then overseas for many years, Papa & Mama called every week, faxed and emailed (as technology evolved.) They were always there for me. Even when several oceans separated us, I knew they had my back in prayer (their heavenly-hotline buzzing as I dodged bullets, stones, landmines and endured malaria, fractured ankles et all.)

Papa always said, “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

God dished out grace in many ways, in many places. But a big chunk of ‘hang-in-there-grace’ came through Papa and Mama. Despite incredible challenges, their example of faithfulness – to God, to each other, to us, to ministry – inspired me in hard places to keep going.

The will of God has now taken me to this place of being father-less on Father’s Day. I pray for God’s grace to keep me when my heart misses Papa. Lots!

I miss his larger-than-life presence, his love, encouragement, cherishment, the twinkle in his eyes, his sense of humor, his joy (even when as a bedfast quadriplegic he couldn’t move anything.) His zeal for life. His faith in God, and his faith in me.

Cherished.  Adored.  Loved.  All three, a gift from my father to me.

There is a crater-sized hole in my heart and life, but it’s filled with the legacy of Papa’s love: the love of Jesus in and through him to me. Thank you, Papa! We miss you!!

A blessed Father’s Day to you fathers out there. Treasure the moments.

Cherish, adore, love: see what your children become.

grace, peace & legacies of Love

Virginia  : )

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Bluesy World Cup Grooves: Kickin’ It!

Virginia is trying to groove her way out of World Cup blues – the U.S. team didn’t make it into the mix for the first time in a long time (30 years); but far worse, those fiercely talented (& scenic) Italians missed out for the first time in 60 years (!!)

It’s hard to be too upset when it’s here: the 2018 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup, a month-long soccer competition the whole world takes pause to watch.

Most of the world, anyway. Maybe a few American buddies are not as familiar with this global event, the culmination of several years of regional play that sends 32 national teams every fourth year into a 30 day tournament that (64 matches later) crowns the best football team in the world.

This year all the football action takes place in various venues across host country Russia, with the final to take place in Moscow on 15 July 2018.

Another reason for Virginia’s World Cup blues – I miss my Mama! When Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup four years ago, Mama and I recorded and watched most every match. With her propped up on the sofa, we made sure to catch the flag ceremonies and team introductions then delved into the action (fast-forwarding slow bits.)

“The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.”  Pelé

We planned to skip through the early matches, but they turned out to be some of the most exciting of the tournament. After a few nail-biter matches, my 79 year-old precious Mama cheered along just as enthusiastically loud as me.

Oh, how I miss her.

VA’s soccer lamp (situated next to computer)

You can read Virginia’s previously shared soccer wisdom (cool quotes & life lessons inclusive) by clicking here: 2014 World Cup Life Grooves.

This year I won’t be able to watch every match (it’s good to note that Fox Sports offers daily late-nite ‘highlights’) but will definitely try to catch the knockout and final rounds.

(Not to miss Spain play Portugal Friday! Italy may be out, but Spain & Portugal, oh la la ole ole!)

“I once cried because I had no shoes to play soccer, but one day, I met a man with no feet.”  Zinedine Zidane (French soccer star)

One thing that’s so great about the World Cup, politics get shuffled aside to celebrate the joy(s) of the sport, teamwork, national pride, goals (!) … and love?

Opening ceremony: FIFA World Cup, Russia 2018 (Fox Network)

Something our world needs (lots) more to bust our blues into long-term peace grooves.

grace, peace & World Cup grooves

Virginia : )

 “The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when nobody is watching.”  Mia Hamm (1st woman inductee, World Football Hall of Fame)

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Flowers! Flowers! Flowers (& more!)

My brother and I plotted (for months) to attend a big Comic Con in Va. Beach held a few weeks ago, but instead of braving massive crowds we decided to have a stay-cation.  A vacation usually involves vacating your home to travel somewhere else, but we staycated at home making day trips to interesting places, including a few we had never visited.

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond (VA), is one of those places. I don’t know how we missed this amazing place before (we tend to go to Maymont, another gorgeous park in Richmond) but we thoroughly enjoyed zooming an hour from Williamsburg to see the delights of Lewis Ginter’s extensive gardens that dazzled us with so much more!

Uniquely cool origami sculptures turned up all over (some of them quite huge.)

A few (like these peace birds in flight) offered an opportunity to contemplate (& sit in shade for a few minutes.)

Other birdies (like these) directed us their way along the pond path. There were also unicorns, horses, and lots more origami all through wooded paths and open walkways.

We had to see the rose garden (Virginia’s fav flower: this blog is Roses in the Rubble?)

Truly a glorious abundance of roses of every hue!

Irises bloomed hidden along shaded wooded paths near a small lake (and did their thing out and about in the sunshine, too.)

Walking around for several hours (looking at flowers) is a hungry business! Lewis Ginter has a casual cafe in the main building with a wide range of food offerings (including cold drinks), but we enjoyed a lovely lunch splurge at the Robins Tea House situated with glass windows every which way amidst a gorgeous Japanese garden.

Food was delightfully delish: an amazing vegan veggie burger (homemade!) for me, a tasty Asian chicken salad for my brother, then a gorgeous cheese board for dessert that kept us going the rest of the day. Vegan Virginia splurged a bit on the cheese (cheese being the reason she is mostly vegan, because she loves it too much) but now she is back on the vegan wagon. (Sigh.)

There was more to see – these cool purple pompom flowers, a huge children’s section (with lots of activities), more shaded wooded paths with magnificent trees, a few mini-ponds…

…and the Arboretum with orchids, orchids, orchids! I took piles of pics, given multiple gorgeous varieties there that are continually replenished from greenhouses.

We finished our visit in the butterfly conservatory, a lovely place to (carefully) appreciate the beauty of these winged wonders (watching where we stepped.)

grace, peace & flower groupies

Virginia : )

“Love is the answer, and you know that for sure; love is a flower, you’ve got to let it grow.”  John Lennon

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Just Keep Goin’ On

As a long-time groupie of Putumayo World Music compilations (grooving to multiple iTouch playlists & CDs in my car), ’twas so exciting last weekend finding one previously unseen (& unheard.)

If you haven’t heard of Putumayo, you can click here to read how they connect inspiring international musicians to a wide audience with music grooves from around the globe: Putumayo World Music.

new Putumayo find

Just realized this compilation is for kids (of whom I’m a slightly older one.) No wonder its filled with happy grooves, something we could all use a bit more of these days?

While the songs on World Playground come from artists from all over (Ethiopia, France, Congo, Brazil, Greece, Canada, Jamaica, Bolivia, Australia, and my favorite so far, Touré Kunda from Senegal singing, “Fatou Yo”) the last song from the USA seems like a good mantra for today: “Just Keep Goin’ On” by Eric Bibb & Needed Time.

Here’s a YouTube of Eric Bibb singing it (email readers, you know the drill…)

“Take every knock as a boost, every stumbling block as a stepping stone, lift up your head… and just keep goin’ on.”  (Eric Bibb)

For anyone knocked down today by life storms, blocked dreams and tumbling stumbles – just keep goin’ on.

grace, peace & inspiring music grooves

Virginia : )

p.s. Looks like Erib Bibb has been singing it out for a long time! Here’s a link to his inspirational story & website: www.ericbibb.com

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The Power of Love (@ a Royal Wedding!)

Virginia’s plans for a chill Saturday cleaning out stuff went askew, hijacked by the Royal Wedding. You know, the one today @ Windsor Castle with British Prince Harry & American actress Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex?

Hadn’t planned to watch, but last night my brother asked to record it (history and all that) so I set our DVR to capture it in the wee hours. Checking in on network coverage after breakfast, suddenly all the chattering highlights intrigued me into a look-see.

But first, watching a royal wedding ‘tis best done in style (even @ home.) On went the kettle, out came my finest china cup from England (a gift overseas 20+years ago), whisk went a tablecloth on the TV table, and out came an English serving tray from the depths of the tray cupboard (another treasured gift.)

Stymied by the tea selection for such an important viewing, it didn’t take (too) long: Jane’s Garden Tea by Harney & Sons (a favorite green tea made with roses.) Fortified with cuppas from the first (of three) pots of tea, tuned into the wedding service.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow!

Royal British pomp & circumstance met Gospel traditions and American liveliness, with Love (note the capital ‘L’) the connecting factor.

So many lovely details – Meghan’s dress, elegantly classic (& gorgeous), the way Prince Charles accompanied her down the aisle (after she walked part-way herself), Meghan’s mother (classy, classy lady!), ethereal music, but loveliest, how Prince Harry’s eyes lit up when he saw his beloved.

When the Most Reverend Michael Curry, leader of the Episcopal church in America, began his message, Virginia geeked out with her notebook. He brought his A-game (& God’s, too, methinks) with a fiery message about LOVE.

He began by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr, “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And, when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. For love, love is the only way.”

He went on, “There is power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any shape, any form of love because ultimately the source of Love is God. There is power in Love to help and heal when nothing else can. There is power in Love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There is power in Love to show us the way to live. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself… if we do that (& love ourselves, too) there’s real power, power to change the world.”

Bishop Curry said so much more, so eloquently, but his basic message: There is power in Love, especially God’s love that knows no boundaries or division, and we need to love each other, more.

The Kingdom Gospel Choir sang a rousing ‘Stand by Me’ that moved hearts there & across the globe, then later sent off the happy couple with a thoroughly uplifting Gospel ‘Amen’ interspersed with ‘This Little Light of Mine.’  Truly glorious! Truly groundbreaking @ a royal wedding!

What got Virginia teary-eyed? When 19-year old cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason launched into Franz Shubert’s Ave Maria, and when commentators shared afterward that Prince Harry had picked flowers for Meghan’s bouquet, including Princess Diana’s favorite forget-me-nots.

Learning more about Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, her life journey and how she has served as an advocate helping others all around the globe is truly inspiring. She reminds me of Princess Diana – her work with landmine awareness, HIV/AIDS, and many other issues. Surely, Princess Di would be pleased for her son, for England, America and the world.

Three pots of celebratory tea (all for me) later: Jane’s Garden Tea, then Empress Grey (a loose leaf favorite from Stash), followed by a Darjeeling (the champagne of teas.)

Once when I forgot to pour my brother his cup of tea, he said, “I need to get in touch with my inner feelings, but it’s hard to do without my Darjeeling!” (A creative way to get a cup of tea – and he got his!)

Inner feelings? Today, unexpectedly overwhelmed watching this slice of history. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted in a royal wedding? Love with a capital ‘L’ messaged for the world to hear? Gospel choirs mingling with choral meisters? People from all walks of life rubbing elbows and hearts to celebrate a joyous occasion:

Two young people in love creating bridges of love, possibilities of what can be.

grace, peace & Love (!!)

Virginia : )

“Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of Love and then for the second time in the history of the world man will have discovered fire.”  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

(p.s. All wedding photos taken of CBS coverage on our TV.  : )

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A Letter to Mama (on Mother’s Day)

Since last year I posted about being mother-less on Mother’s Day, here’s something else I wrote (hoping the Heavenly postal system can forward it on to her!)

13 May 2018

  • Mrs. Virginia Johnson Woodward
  • c/o The Angels
  • 76 Streets of Gold
  • Heaven, 23621

Dear Mama,

Oh, how we miss you! Oh, how I miss you, heart of our hearts. We are so grateful to God for the gift of your life. The legacy of the love of Jesus in and through you lives on – in the hearts and lives of all you touched.

Shere, Cindy, Dean, Dwight & I blubber on, what with missing you and Papa.

It’s been over two years, but we feel your presence, still. Hear your voice around the corner. See you smiling up at us in photographs.

But, there’s no you to hug here in this place.

My heart aches with a big Mama-sized hole in it. You’ve graduated and are (hopefully resting) in the Everlasting Arms of God. Not sure how Heavenly assignments get designated, but after all you did here on this earth (so selflessly) I hope there’s a long Heavenly vacation before you’re called up for active celestial duty.

I miss you, Mama. We miss you, Mama, and love, love, love, love, love you!

You were so beautiful, Mama. You were concerned about your crooked back, slanted by sclerosis, and how you had shrunk a bit and leaned a little sideways. But everyone always oohed and ahhed when I rolled you out in your wheelchair. With your elegant white hair and porcelain features, you were so lovely.

Just like Papa always said, “Isn’t she lovely?!”

You were, and are, and will always be, lovely and beautiful in our hearts, Mama.

I can hear Papa say, “Ginny Woodward, have I told you how much I love you today?”

The mush would continue as you whispered sweet everythings to each other, not realizing just how loud your ‘whispers’ had become (heard clearly by minion daughter at the other end of the house.)

I miss you, Mama. I miss Papa, too. I miss you both, together.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord.”

That sums up the two of you: God’s faithfulness to you, your faithfulness to God, to each other, to us, to ministry. And love, so big, so bright, so real in the trenches of life, the good and the challenging (especially 28 years of Papa’s quadriplegia.)

When people came in the door of our home, they felt it: love, God’s love, spilling over and over through your lives.

We could see it in your eyes beholding each other with beauty and awe, you two were literally one: Mama, you as Papa’s hands and feet for years, and Papa as your foundation (with Jesus.)

No buts, just “both ands” – bookends that completed each other.

Moving away from the mushy bits of your lives (lest the mush police ticket herself!)

Without you and your love that has been such a constant in my life, sometimes your kid feels rudderless. You have always been there, Mama, through every scraped knee and life scrape. When I was sick, you were there with comfort, gingerale (& ice cream.)

Even as a bratty teenager!  Remember those long rides from Va. Beach to Norfolk through frustrating traffic to pick me up from after school activities, when I wouldn’t say a word the whole way home because you were a few minutes late?

You would cheerfully ask, “How was your day?” My response: silence, bratty silence.

Please forgive me for that and so many other bratty things growing up.

Yet you were there loving me through all that (and more.) Thank you for being by my side holding my hand (& later my heart.)  Thank you for all your love and prayers, Mama, that saw me (and our family) through so much.

You are now on the other side at home with Jesus. I don’t know how thin the veil, or thick, that separates us. But, please, Mama, know that I thank God every day for the precious gift of your life.

Missing you & loving you on Mother’s Day (& every day.)

grace, peace & ethereal hugs

Virginia Lea : )

Mama with Brighton Eve (one of her 4 great-grand children) & Lynn (my sister-in-law)

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