World Water Day: Water! Water! Water!

As we commemorate World Water Day 2018 there is certainly much to celebrate. Since this day began 25 years ago many more people (2 billion) have access to safe water globally. However, 11% of the world’s population still do not have access.

11% of 7.6 billion people. Do the math. That is still way too many people.

There are many reasons for this: drought, arid regions made more arid by desertification, polluted natural water resources, expensive price tags (prohibitive costs of wells & water systems where people live on less than $2.50/day), conflict & water apartheid (swimming pools of oppressors overflow while oppressed people barely have enough to drink.)

Do we think about the scarcity of water as we fill our tubs, wash our cars? Or how ’bout that glass of cold ice water we slurp down when we’re really thirsty (especially after a workout?)

For some folks, that glass of clean water is something they spend hours & hours to bring home (on foot) by bucket.

Then there’s water needed for crops that we need to eat, to live? Ever think about how much water it takes to grow the food we eat? Where water is scarce that is something that must be carefully considered. With water a precious resource there are many ways to make it go further: permaculture, crop rotation, drought resistant crops, better irrigation systems, planting trees to keep the water table working, and conservation.

As a relief & development worker living places where every drop had to count (managing a shower and washing my hair with a 1-liter bottle of water) and at one point coordinating a safe-water initiative for 14 countries during a globetrotting job, Virginia appreciates that water is a lifeline for people & communities.

community water source (unsafe!)

More from a younger Virginia (in a Christmas letter, circa 2000) :

“Visiting communities in areas with lack of safe water access has been a humbling experience. After listening to women in a drought-stricken community of Rajasthan (India) describe the struggle of spending up to 10 hours a day collecting water, they asked me: ‘how do you get water in your country?’ Gee, I just turn on the tap.

You can’t imagine the health challenges, the deaths of children caused by contaminated water. In East Timor I spoke with Aurelia, a 35 yr old who looked like she was 50. After the birth of her daughter, Rosa, she couldn’t breastfeed so the doctors in the refugee camp put her baby on formula. When Auralia returned to her village, the community’s carefully constructed water system had been destroyed, so she made the formula with river water. ‘I had no choice,’ she told me, ‘I knew it was bad water.’ Her baby died 2 weeks later from diarrhea, an ailment solved so simply here that kills over 2 million children a year, most from unclean water…”

To learn more about our current global water crisis, check out this overview on UN Water’s website. The challenges can be overwhelming, but we can do our part to conserve and share water as a precious resource. Run the shower a little shorter, fill the tub 1/2 way, don’t let the kitchen sink run & run. Support a safe-water filtration system for a family or community water source through organizations like WaterAid.

“When you give a cup of water to the least of these, you have given it to Me.” Jesus Christ

If we each put drops – however small – in a bucket, maybe one day that bucket will overflow with safe water for everyone.

grace, peace & water, water!

Virginia : )

 “To defend the earth and to safeguard water is to protect life.” Pope Francis

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peace within…

Today here’s a quote from one of my favorite saints for our hearts to contemplate.

“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.  May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.  May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God. 

Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and everyone of you.”    Saint Teresa of Avila

grace, peace & infinite possibilities

Virginia : )

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A prayer for nights (& days)

Last night at a birthday party for a dear friend, one of her childhood friends shared a prayer her godmother taught her when she was young. All of us facing challenges of various shapes and sizes (some rather large) took such comfort in her recited prayer, we asked her to write it out. She said her godmother learned it from Benedictine monks at a monastery in Elmira, NY.

“Now in the fading light of day,
Maker of all to You I pray,
That with Your ever-watchful love,
You guard and keep me from above.

Help and defend me through the night,
Danger and terror put to flight.
Never let evil have its way,
Preserve me for another day.

Father Almighty this be done,
Through Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who in one Spirit I adore,
Who reigns with You forevermore. 

With many scary things out there in our whacked out world, paralyzing fears that loom large in our hearts can choke our hopes and dreams – not just at night, but in bright daylight. Methinks this Compline prayer can be adapted for daytime, especially the second part: may God help and defend us in daylight and put danger and terror to flight.

It’s good to remember our Heavenly Father has us in the palm of His hand. Even if we’re walking into (and through) scary ordeals, God’s love is with us – always – so we don’t have to be afraid. (Maybe a little is good to keep us on our knees in prayer.)

Two of my favorite life-long Scripture verses (oft repeated during dark nights, days, months & years) are Psalm 27:1&4.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”

Sure, we can ask: ‘Why this? Why me? Why now?’ (It’s ok to have a venting session with God.) But, then we need to let the light of God’s everlasting love be our strength and our salvation, which means to let go of our fears.

To seek the beauty of the Lord around us, with us, within us.

Not such a hard thing to do on good days, but a bit trickier in tough times to seek something beautiful. Something for which to give thanks. A rose in the rubble?

A rose blooming, yet adorned with thorns?

The rose of God’s love for us always blooms, ever-watchful, ever-present, with petals of persevering grace, peace, comfort, mercy, wisdom and hope.

A candle of Divine Light to guide us through dark paths of night – and scary days.

grace, peace & persevering Love (& Light)

Virginia : )

“The Christian wears the sureness of Christ.” Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyr for Christ (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980)

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Courageous Creativity

Today we remember Joseph, husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Joseph took care of Mary & Jesus by creating things as a carpenter and whisking them away from danger when King Herod went on a killing spree.

It must have taken a bit of courage fleeing to Egypt – into the unkown, a foreign country – to creatively adapt his carpentry skills to provide for them there.

Back in Nazareth, I’m sure Joseph must have creatively repaired things, too. To make them last a little longer, especially for his poor clientele?

In honor of Saint Joseph, here’s something for our hearts to contemplate today.

Indeed. May Saint Joseph’s faithfulness & courageous creativity inspire us today.

grace, peace & courageous creativity

Virginia 😎

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A Song for Sunday: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Sunday is (almost) over, so here’s a song from one of Virginia’s favorite music groups to lift our spirits (up & up & up!)

I’ve been a huge groupie of LBM – Ladysmith Black Mambazo – for eons. Making music for more than 50 years, LBM continues to brighten the globe with songs of peace, faith and perseverance fused with their native South African Zulu sounds. You may remember them from Paul Simon’s Graceland – they’ve been around a long time.

(You can click here to read their inspiring story.)

With a stack of LBM CDs (& many favorite songs) it’s hard to narrow down just one, but here’s one of the highest frequency plays (& replays) from their two CD compilation “Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends.”

Give this YouTube video a listen and be lifted up by their rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot (sung with China Black.) Trust me, you will be blessed!

grace, peace & inspiring music

Virginia : )

p.s. A brief thought to contemplate? As Fr. Peter Naah, one of our Ghanaian priests, said the final blessing at the campus service this morning, he challenged the students: “Don’t let your friends pull you down. You pull them up!”

Great advice for all of us, students or not!

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Saint Patrick’s Day FUN!

As we celebrate the life of Saint Patrick (& all things Irish) raise a glass, let’s spread a little Irish cheer. Sláinte!

Virginia has enjoyed many memorable St. Patrick’s days over the years (Irish fellas often have a thing for red heads?) but the most fun celebration occurred in Tanzania. Yep, that’s right, in Africa!

Meeting an Irish buddy, Catherine, during Swahili studies in Arusha, we became kindred spirits muddling our way through initial challenges in our respective placements. Catherine’s posting in Arusha was sponsored by the Irish government, so a few months after our course she came down to Dar es Salaam to stay over for the embassy’s big Saint Patrick’s Day party. We put on our party dresses hoping to meet some handsome Irish fellas.

Dripping (literally in the African heat) with hopeful intentions, we made our way at the big shindig to our assigned table to find no gorgeous Irish fellas, but a bunch of white-haired Irish nuns.


But then things got interesting. On each of the beautifully laid tables (with Waterford crystal centerpieces) the Irish distillery Jamesons thoughtfully provided a complimentary bottle of Irish whiskey. One of the nuns (Sister Mary, the oldest) grabbed the big bottle off our table & whisked it into her tote bag. “I’ve come all the way from Singida. We sometimes need a wee sip of something medicinal there to help us through the night.”

Singida is a remotely rural region of Tanzania. As pictured, I visited our projects several times there, but enjoyed getting back to the bustle of big-city Dar. Sister Mary had served over 20 years there with the Irish order of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.

After eating yummy Irish food and imbibing a few wee draughts of Guinness, we danced and danced(!) Catherine & I left at 3:00AM all tired out, but those white-haired Irish nuns were still cutting a rug on the dance floor.

So, totally, completely fun!

Their jobs were seriously intense. I ran into Sister Margaret numerous times afterward at HIV/AIDS coordination meetings – she managed palliative care for AIDS patients in Dar and the other sisters had challenging medical positions – but these Irish nuns with deep hearts of faith & love also enjoyed life. They knew how to have fun.

I’ve never had so much fun on St. Patrick’s Day – and, to think, with a bunch of nuns!

A blessed & happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all!

 ☘ grace, peace & Irish cheer ☘

Virginia : )

 “The past is in God’s hands, so is the future and the present.” 

Mother Mary Martin MMM

p.s. A little more fun with nuns (from a framed napkin a friend gave me.)

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Friday Failures: Cake! Cake! Cake!

Here we are, another Friday in Lent. Easter is OTW (two weeks to go?) There’s not much time left to cram what we planned (hoped? contrived?) to accomplish during this penitential season.

Those three thick tomes I hoped to read? (Not opened, yet.) Those optimistically engendered spiritual goals for each day (uh, made once a week vs. daily?)

Maybe it’s not going quite as I planned (or you, too.)

Maybe there’s been a tumble (or bumbling stumble) from the narrow Lenten path of observance, perhaps unintentionally?

That’s me. Maybe I intentionally did something off my Lenten grooves, but forgot it was Friday (so unintentionally tumbled on two levels.)

Monticello (on a blustery Friday!)

Two weeks ago as my brother & I traipsed around wind-blown Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home on a hilltop near Charlottesville, VA) we sought refuge in the lovely café there for lunch. Since this was my brother’s birthday celebratory trip (a short 5-day version vs. last year’s mammoth 3-week road trip) I convinced him to try a piece of the blueberry mascarpone cake that I had sampled with my uncle there last year. (Aroma’s, a local coffee shop, also makes this yummy not-too-sweet cake with huge blueberries & Italian mascarpone cheese.)

See the first stumble? CHEESE. I knew the cake had cheese in it, something not on the vegan diet. While traveling I don’t hyperventilate about cheese, especially visiting southern towns where it can be hard to find something vegetarian on menus.

No big deal – BUT – I gave up desserts for Lent.

When my brother filled up on his big sandwich, he said, “Ginny, you gotta help me eat this cake, it’s a shame to waste it.” Shame. Shame. Shame. I did help (eagerly) & didn’t feel much shame ‘til afterwards when I realized IT WAS FRIDAY!

Not only did I fall down on one of my observances, but as a vegetarian Lenten Fridays of abstinence mean I try to not have treats (of any sort) to make it mean something? Cake does not qualify as bare sustenance Friday fare.

Double stumble, tumble, splat. We were traipsing around Charlottesville & environs to celebrate, so I had to pick myself up & keep going (after an ensuing “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” internal prayer session.)

New day: healthy hummus for me (& cream cheese for brother)

I hadn’t blown it all Lent, turning down delectable desserts left & right (my brother likes sweets.)  But, ‘ya know what? Each day God’s mercies fall fresh on me (& you.) The next day was filled with new opportunities to stay the course (by not eating the dessert course) & the next day & the next…

Even when Dwight ordered my favorite cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory, I was able to let him enjoy every bite!

That’s grace.

“Virginia, enough with the cake, already, we get it – fall down 7 times, get up 8!”

Sometimes when we fall into failure, it’s about more than cake. Most times we don’t intentionally fail, but it happens. It’s part of life. It may sneak up on us like eating cake on a Lenten Friday (realizing after the fact we’ve made a mistake.) Or, it might be something altogether more spectacular when we set out to do something and things drastically don’t turn out as we planned.

Falling down, though, the point is to get back up. Think of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa carrying His heavy cross. Whipped, bruised, battered – He fell down, but kept on going.

Jerusalem via del arosa station label

“Yes, failure is painful, but without pain there is no living in love. So then, go through the arches of Christ’s pain and enter into the joy of His heart. In the process, there will be many times you will fail. You will fall down flat on your face – even as He did on the way to the Cross. Unite yourself with Him and his passion and keep on going.”  Catherine Doherty

grace, peace & (cake-free) perseverance

Virginia : )

“Christ is the way that leads us, the truth that strengthens us, and the life that restores us to life in Him.”  Saint Ambrose

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