MAMA, WE MISS YOU!!

Today, 22 June, is the memorial of our precious Mama’s passing. Oh, how we miss her! Our home is filled with remembrances of her, but our hearts continue to overflow with memories and legacies of her love.

Our Mama did not want to go to the hospital during her final illness, so we honored her wishes to be at home. My siblings and I looked after her those last few weeks with our lovely hospice nurse, Eve, regularly checking in on her (and us.)

The last week we kept vigil by Mama’s side through nights and days, singing hymns, sharing, caring, praying. Holding each other’s hands, holding Mama’s hands.

Until she passed, quietly, with all five of us around her bed singing Amazing Grace.

With my brother’s permission, sharing this picture today that represents so much. Dwight’s the youngest & was born with a hole in his heart. Papa said when Mama brought him home from the hospital, she never wanted to put him down. She loved on him (& all of us) so faithfully and so much… and then let us love on her.

Precious Mama, we miss you and love, love, love you so much!

grace, peace & precious mothers

Virginia

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” Lamentations 3:22

p.s. Here’s a poem I wrote for Mother’s Day years ago while working overseas. Several folks requested a copy after Mama’s Memorial Celebration service (where I read it under sibling pressure that all of us should share something.)

The Mystery of Magnificent Motherhood

From the outside Motherhood doesn’t seem so mysterious, just simply mastering responsibilities and physical tasks. Responsibilities that include raising children to know right and wrong, not to hurt themselves, to study, and to grow from turbulent twos through the terrifying teens into functioning adults. Physical tasks involve delivering babies (washing them, carrying them, helping them walk) cooking, cleaning…

These, admittedly, amount to a great deal of work.

Magnificent Motherhood, however, is a mystery that involves more than just responsibilities and tasks. To understand this mystery, special qualities are required:

Magnificent Motherhood is SACRIFICE.

Selflessly sacrificing (all the time) & the last piece of chocolate cake.

Magnificent Motherhood is JOY.

Joy even when illness strikes, the pots overflow, & we act unruly..

Magnificent Motherhood is BEAUTY.

Beauty seen in us (even with pimples) & nurtured in our surroundings.

Magnificent Motherhood is GENEROSITY.

Generously sharing special gifts, checks, and Mr. Madison’s fudge.

Magnificent Motherhood is MUSIC.

Music composed in a heart overflowing with the joy of Jesus.

Magnificent Motherhood is ACTION.

Hugging us, holding our hands, and helping us through each crisis. 

Magnificent Motherhood is PRAYER.

Unceasing prayer – faithful communion with God (often on our behalf.)

Magnificent Motherhood is FAITHFULNESS.

Faithfulness to God (1st),  and 58 years (!) with the Fabulous Fossil.

Magnificent Motherhood is LOVE.

Love shared from an inner spring that never diminishes…

It’s actually very simple.

The Mystery of Magnificent Motherhood is

MY MOTHER,

Virginia Francis Johnson Woodward

With love  & appreciation from her daughter,

Virginia Lea Woodward

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World Refugee Day 2017

20 June is World Refugee Day. There are over 65 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world today. Imagine if you had minutes to leave your home fleeing violence and bombs – what would you take with you? In this brief UNHCR video, Cate Blanchett & other actors share what refugees took with them.

“We must not let ourselves be moved by fear in this country.” So spoke Eleanor Roosevelt on 28 November 1939 regarding the Jewish refugee crisis in WWII Europe. Her admonishment remains a strong challenge for us today.

Conflict battered refugees – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons – need new homes today. Safe places to live and heal.

Let’s open our hearts to hear their cries today and every day.

restoring refugee lives  🙂

grace, peace & open hearts

Virginia

“People have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”  Audrey Hepburn (actress & UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador)

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FATHERLESS ON FATHER’S DAY

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

Although it’s been three 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!” (With this 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. 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 then he listened to me: my worries (even snobbish bratty ones), latest debacles, hopes and dreams (ever changing.)

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 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 the ‘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 pick myself up and 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 & love legacies

Virginia  : )

Photo: Virginia “imping’ it (with her visiting Papa) on the Lawn as a 1st year student @ The University of Virginia many, many moons ago!

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Snapshots & Whatnots: BEAUTY (@ Butchart Gardens)

Last June we had a grand time visiting Canada (as detailed in my Victoria Day post) so today here’s a bigger peek at the beauty of Butchart Gardens in Victoria.

Beautiful blue flowers!

Morning stretches…

…walkways of wonder

cool trees…

…& more beautiful flowers everywhere!

Beauty around every corner…

even the leaves are BEAUTIFUL!

A harbor sighting…

and roses!!

…& WHATNOT

This short poem from Daily Strengths for Daily Needs inspired this post:

“To be the thing we seem,

To do the thing we deem

Enjoined by duty;

To walk in faith, nor dream

Of questioning God’s scheme

Of truth and beauty.”

Anonymous

Beauty can be seen in God’s heavenly paintbrushes busy around us, like at Butchart Gardens, but also within us as love softens our sharp edges when we tackle tasks & duties that press us with joy (vs. drudgery.) Beauty can be found in the faces of children, friends, in a lovely meal (preparing with love takes the flavor up a notch.)

Beauty can be seen & appreciated if we look for it, and is made more beautiful when we acknowledge it. “You are beautiful. That is beautiful.”  Uplifting.

May we be on the lookout for God’s beauty around us and within us today!

grace, peace & beauty

Virginia : )

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St. Anthony of Padua (and lost rings!)

Today we commemorate Saint Anthony of Padua (1195- 13 June 1231), a Doctor of the Church. Born in Lisbon to Portuguese nobility, he became an Augustinian scholar and priest until a procession of martyrs moved his heart to join the fledgling Franciscan order. He wanted to give his life for God in Morocco, but became too seriously sick there to do much of anything. Returning to Portugal his ship blew off course to Italy where he eventually made his way to the city of Padua, where he is still honored today.

“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.”  Saint Anthony of Padua

My introduction to Saint Anthony came in grad school during a month-long seminar course in Southeast Asia when I lost a gold rosary ring in Vietnam. Somehow it fell off the chain around my neck, along with a cross. When I noticed the undone chain, we immediately searched the floor (on our hands & knees), our retraced steps, every nook in our bus, and made calls to previous stops.

No rosary ring. No cross. Lost.

The ring and cross were just things. Not that important in the global context of conflict, poverty and injustice, but more precious to me than $ as both were special birthday gifts from dear Palestinian friends in Bethlehem when I turned 30. Irreplaceable.

A bit bummed out that evening, my grad school buddy Shahla suggested asking St. Anthony of Padua for help. Saint Anthony? I’m a huge St. Teresa of Avila groupie, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius, St. Francis (and so on) but didn’t know much about St. Anthony.

So, Shahla said a little prayer. (For my evangelical-this-is-freaking-us-out buddies, you know Jesus gets so busy answering all your prayers, He asks His Mother and friends to help out with Catholics. So, we ask them to ask Jesus for help. Kinda like asking friends to pray for something.)

The next day as we traversed the Vietnamese countryside, I miraculously found my rosary ring, and (icing on the cake) the cross, too. They had jumped off my chain somehow into a water-bottle holder (with a full water bottle.) How Shahla & I squealed! The lost, found.

(Next day after a hydrofoil trip I climbed up huge stairs to reach the top of this Jesus statue, huffing & puffing in intense heat. Extra effort, maybe trite for a ring, but I was so grateful!)

Kinda crazy! After that trip, I checked out St. Anthony to learn more.

Called the Hammer of the Scriptures, St. Anthony became one of the greatest Bible teachers of his time preaching to thousands, yet lived as a simple friar in the Franciscan order. He also worked to put an end to injustices of his day. My kind of saint!

Loved Jesus & lived Jesus.

Fast forward 9 years later, staying with friends in the Veneto region I had the opportunity to visit the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua: one of my main reasons for visiting Italy (along with the fabulous food!)

The Basilica is truly beautiful. Blessed there (literally) to be blessed (in English) by an Irish Franciscan priest, my visit could not have been more special.

Methinks, however, St. Anthony has a sense of humor. Approaching the entrance to this impressive church, my necklace somehow came undone (again?) & spilled out my rosary ring onto the pavement in front of me.

It made me laugh, and laugh, and thank God all the more for the life and faith of Saint Anthony of Padua.

grace, peace & (lost & found) rosary rings

Virginia  : )

p.s. Image of St. Anthony of Padua (my favorite) is painting by Raphael (1483-1520)

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CONVERTED TO COMPASSION

This morning a phrase caught my attention: “…and he was converted to compassion.”  The text referred to Saint Francis of Assisi, who left all his wealth to love on the lepers of his day, but what about us today?

There’s so much hate, greed, injustice, and inequality in our world. Everyone is jostling for followers to adhere to opinionated views, to convert to anything and everything.

Many from different faiths (mine inclusive) often try to convert others with rigidity, inflexibility and judgement. Love is squeezed out by rules.

Not sayin’ faith is not important (or that we should throw out the Ten Commandments and the Great Commission), but what about being converted to compassion?

Offering our hearts to be touched by the suffering of others? Feeling with them? Being one in heart, mind and spirit?

“Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion.” Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)

During the election cycle I wrote about Civility (now needed, more than ever.) The root of civility is respect: respecting the dignity of others. Compassion takes civility to another level altogether. The root of compassion is LOVE: love for others (& ourselves.)

Compassion starts with us – inside – letting love in.

Picture: @ Jesuit Retreat Center, Wernersville, PA

Compassion lets love heal our hurting hearts, the scarred bits of our lives, then offers them up to become healing for others. (Keep in mind healing is a journey. It takes time.)

Add generous doses of kindness, gentleness, mercy and hugs of understanding.

Open hearts, open minds, open spirits: open to others and otherness.

Open to share love and pain, together. Maybe compassion can’t take pain away, but it says, “I’m here with you. I’m here for you. There’s real estate in my heart for your pain.”

Can we be converted to compassion today, and every day? Can we convert others?

grace, peace & compassion converts

Virginia

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” Henri Nouwen

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WONDER WOMAN: Love, Truth & Compassion

In a super-hero movie, really? Truth, love & compassion? But Wonder Woman is not like the recent string of DC Comic films, it’s altogether something better. This adventure is about story, a good story (& yes, our hero kicks some serious butt along the way.) As she journeys into the world of mankind, we journey with her.

Wonder Woman has come a long way. She has a cool new uniform (can’t believe scuttlebutt about it. Compared to Lynda Carter’s outfit? Way tame!) We finally get her back story (one of the best parts of the film) and she has her own movie. Lots to celebrate.

Last night my brother & I saw an advance screening for which we plotted & planned. Watching Wonder Woman on TV was part & parcel of my childhood growing up in the 1970s. Along with the Bionic Woman, these strong women characters sent young girls like me a message: you are powerful.

A whole row of young girls sat with their mothers in front of us last nite, all wearing Wonder Woman t-shirts (mothers inclusive.) Chatting with them, they also plotted & planned eons in advance. We high-fived: GIRL POWER!

Wonder Woman delivers the message that girls can become powerful, super powerful, in a touching way. As the story opens Diana is a little girl growing up on a sheltered island of Amazon warriors. Her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) grapples with coddling her vs. her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), who trains her mercilessly.

When Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes into this ancient island world, he brings the horrors of World War I into the mix…and the story takes Diana from the security of all that she has known into a world at war.

Along the way there’s humor, compassion, friendship, love, and the quest for truth as Diana comes into her power and her place as a super-hero. It’s not clear-cut, as life (& often war) isn’t. That’s what makes this an engaging story, it takes time to build and draws us in. Kudos to director Patty Jenkins for making a great movie!

I liked Gal Gadot in the Fast & Furious movies. As Diana she shines with sassy curiosity, compassion and a big heart finding her way in a world gone mad. Gal is an Israeli actress. Although her Czech grandfather survived a concentration camp during the Holocaust, his whole family was killed. She said, “My grandpa taught me there is NO wrong religion. No wrong color. And no wrong race. I was taught to love all people for what their heart is. Light should always beat darkness as love should always beat hatred.” Before he passed he told her, “No matter how dark your life, you need to find your inner light.”

Just like she does as Diana in this blockbuster Wonder Woman movie.

grace, peace & wonder(ful) movies

Virginia : )

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