Storms on the Horizon

As Hurricane Florence heads toward the coast of the Carolinas and (the state of) Virginia, it’s hard for Virginia (the person) to gear up on this bright sunshiny day, but getting ready must be done because we take hurricanes very seriously in Tidewater, Virginia (a region in which our town of Williamsburg is on the outermost inland edge.)

After moving a few weeks ago from NYC to downtown Norfolk, my niece Megan and her husband had to evacuate their home this morning.  Schools and colleges in Va. Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Newport News are shutting down today and tomorrow to give students time to get away from flood zones and batten down the hatches with their families. This evening my sister Cindy and her husband will head this way from Wilmington (NC) to weather the storm with us in Williamsburg.

As basic supplies fly off the shelves of local stores, yesterday my brother and I tried four places before finding bottled water. Things may look sunny calm now (and we may not know the exact path of the storm) but you can be sure folks in our town (& this chick) are getting ready. With hurricanes, you never know!

When I lived here in the ‘Burg as a grad student in 1999, Hurricane Floyd crashed a huge tree into our home and totaled my car. Our street was under three feet of water for over a week (with folks rowing canoes up & down it.) Mama & I kept pouring gasoline into a hand-cranked generator to keep air in Papa’s hospital bed moving (without air matriculating in his mattresses, he developed terrible bedsores.) A week or so later power returned. Our roof & my car were eventually replaced, but two submerged homes at the end of our street had to be completely rebuilt.

Subsequent hurricanes have knocked down more trees and left many homes and businesses in Tidewater completely devastated like during 2003’s Hurricane Isabel that left in its wake USD$1.9 billion in damages. (I missed that one working in Tanzania, but my brother was here helping my parents.)

A fallen tree in 2011’s Hurricane Irene missed my room by inches

As we prepare for Hurricane Florence, I can’t help but think of my precious Mama. Perhaps due to those previous challenges (+looking after my bedfast quadriplegic Papa amidst the storms) hurricane preparedness was one of those things she got a bit hyper about. Even though Mama passed in 2015, we still have a huge glass jug of water in the kitchen (way too heavy to move) leftover from past hurricane preparations.

Getting things ready last night I could feel her smiling Above as we stockpiled water, drinks, batteries, snack foods, and dusted off the hurricane lamps. As Thursday looms, we’ll bring in all the patio furniture, take down bird feeders, move our portable garden pots (& any potential-projectile) away from the range of our windows. Then we’ll fill every available pitcher, bottle, bathtub, and bucket with water.

Mama always made sure our cars had full tanks of gas (for a fast get-a-way? or maybe because gas might run out?) and that we had a small stock-pile of cash (pizza delivery when tired of sandwiches & chips?) And that we had plenty of Papa’s prescription medicines on hand, plus first aid supplies in case we needed them.

Mama also made sure to have important papers handy in case we had to make a dash for it (& put them into plastic coverings in case water deluged the house.)

My sweet Mama was like a drill sergeant until we had everything prepared to her liking, but we appreciated her stringent encouragement when we needed the water to drink (& flush & bathe), we used our flashlights & hurricane lamps, ate all the snacks & goodies, and had gas in our cars to (eventually) get out when the coast was clear (& gas stations were low in their resupplies.)

Whatever path Hurricane Florence takes – be prepared! If you have to evacuate, remember life is a gift, and lives are more important than things.

Last week I shared a quote with Michele over at her Rabbit Patch from a card a dear African friend gave me years ago. Today I found it to share with all of you.

“My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.”

Whatever storms are facing you wherever you are, may you (eventually) be able to see the moon & stars, sun (& SON) through the threatening clouds, and the treasure life is.

grace, peace & stormy weather

Virginia : )

P.S. Stay safe! Be prepared! Think of my precious Mama tasking you to get ready, even if you’re in the remotest regions of the storm projections.

“Be prepared (Christmas is only 3 months away!)

Posted in Life (in general) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Snapshots & Whatnot: Spidery Inspiration

Spiders usually creep me out (& get squashed under my shoe.) But two weeks ago I noticed a (very) large spider hanging out near our back garage door. Before splatting it into oblivion, I observed the magnificent web that stretched large and long next to the door.

Interesting, that.

Dashed inside for a Wikipedia check to find it’s a yellow garden spider (“Argiope aurantia”) and (most importantly) is not poisonous, just stings like a bee when threatened.

Two weeks later it seems that our friendly yellow garden spider has taken up permanent residence by our door (that continues to be carefully opened, to be sure.)

It’s been so intriguing watching Miss Yellow Garden Spider weave her massive web (at least I think she’s a she. To be so industrious, she must be?)  🙂

“The Spider’s touch, how exquisitely fine!

Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.”

Alexander Pope, from ‘An Essay on Man’

Methinks Miss Yellow Garden Spider has a bit of inspiration to offer us today. Even when a major thunderstorm tumbled everything around her, she kept spinning her web. Even in bright (very hot) sunshine, she keeps spinning her web. Even when bits of her web have been knocked about (we have to get in and out of the door), she keeps spinning. Even though her web is hard to see (part of her strategy?) it’s there, holding her in place.

Relevance to us today (ie, get to the point, Virginia?) What kind of webs are we spinning? The biggest possible kind that will catch others with tendrils of love? Or does apathetic stress shrink our webs with closemindedness?

In the late 1940s Reverend Peter Marshall as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate shared a quote that had been used as a rallying cry for G.I.s during WWII. The world and lives of our parents & grandparents generations at that time had been turned upside down.

“A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”

grace, peace & inspirational spiders

Virginia : )

Posted in Quotes, SNAPSHOTS & WHATNOTS | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

To be? Or, not to be?

After a wee blogcation the last few weeks Virginia is back today with musings of a reflective nature. (Warning: donning her Shakespeare festival shirt this morning may have unduly influenced this post.)

A few weeks ago I thought I needed a vacation.

“What kind of vacation?”  A vacation from ME!!

Blank.

Sometimes my mind draws up blank.

No deep, life-altering revelations or constellations of purpose-driven goals and dreams.

Just blank.

Nada.

But, nudge, nudge… give it a moment (or two or three.) Slowly a thought crystallizes in the exoteric regions of my interior universe.

To be, or not to be?

That is an existential question (Shakespeare, anyone?)

What to be (to me) is an apter question. And, how are we to be?

What and how are choices we make (daily, hourly, by the minute.)

In the cycle of divisiveness and denigration around us, I can choose to be ‘what’ for inclusiveness and affirmation by putting out ‘hows’ of love and hope to all I encounter (people and big challenges inclusive.)

Not to be preachy, but what and how are important components of the overall to be, or not to be question.

To be?

  • JOY, when despair looms around the corners of our lives.

To be?

  • PEACE, when pernicious conflicts permeate our surroundings.

To be?

  • GRACE, when despotic interests dominate and denigrate others.

To be?

  •  MERCY, where unforgiveness fuels batteries of hate & revenge.

To be?

  • LOVE, where loneliness and apathy cripple hearts.

To be?

  • ME, when others try to put me down or make me irrelevant.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them…
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? …
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

Dear God:   

To be who (and what and how) YOU want me to be (& do):

now, that is the question.

To be, all for You, in action – word, deed, and ME!

grace, peace & courageous beings (& doings)

Virginia : )

p.s. Last March while visiting Charlottesville, my brother & I had the opportunity to see a play performed by the American Shakespeare Company at the Blackfriar’s Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. We also took an hour-long tour of the amazing facility, built as a replica of the original indoor playhouse where William Shakespeare’s company performed from 1608 until it burned down in the great fire of London in 1666. If you ever have a chance to visit the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (or C’ville that’s just 45 minutes away), be sure to check out this treasure — and make a booking to see a play!

Posted in Life (in general), Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Snapshots & Whatnot: Change is Good?

Snapshot:

& Whatnot:

Last month I read comedian Louie Anderson’s moving book, “Hey Mom.” Composed of letters he wrote to his mom (who passed some years ago), Louie shares the joys and challenges of his life: from winning Emmy awards to dealing with loss and tough issues with grace and faith. His memoir touched my heart (and all of me, really) – at times making me teary-eyed from his poignant prose and life stories, then other times laughing til it hurt.

Today’s here’s one of his quotes (that went straight into my journal) for our minds and hearts to munch on:

“It’s so hard to change, even when that change is so good. I wish I could change my inability to change.”  Louie Anderson, Hey Mom

Here’s to changing our inabilities to change (or, at least working on it?)

grace, peace & change (the good kind)

Virginia : )

Posted in Bookshelf (BOOKS), SNAPSHOTS & WHATNOTS | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Friday Good People Grooves

Even though our world may be completely whacked out, it’s FRIDAY! Time to kick back to some Good People grooves from Jack Johnson. Awhile back my big sis Shere introduced me to Jack Johnson on a birthday trip to Charlottesville when we blasted his CDs there and back (over and over again) – his music is so awesome!

Since then his music compilations have received high-frequency plays in Virginia’s kick-back playlist. Jack Johnson has so many amazing songs it’s hard to pick a fav, but his “Good People” is definitely near the top of my list.

Here’s a YouTube video of the album version (there are lots of great concert YouTubes to check out of him singing this song, but this one had the best sound.)

Email readers, you know the drill – click in to the Roses website to catch a listen (the 15 second ad can be annoying, but then you can listen to the song.) 🙂

For all the good (& struggling-to-be-good) people out there, here’s some jellyfish joy to spread around (as captured a few years ago @ the Vancouver Aquarium.)

“Found my foundation, it was underneath me all along. On this path I’m on I’ll never walk alone.”  Jack Johnson

Here’s to not walking (or jellyfishing it) alone!

grace, peace & good people (jellyfishy) grooves

Virginia : )

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Snapshots & Whatnot: Turtles! Turtles! Turtles!

On this steamy July Friday, here’s a pic and turtle-ish inspiration to contemplate.

SNAPSHOT:

A meandering turtle (sticking his neck out) in the Japanese Garden pond @ Maymont Park in Richmond, VA. (As a Monet groupie, couldn’t believe how this photo turned out more like a painting!)

…& WHATNOT:

“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”  James Bryant Conant

“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” Bruce Feiler

grace, peace & inspirational turtles

Virginia : )

Posted in Quotes, SNAPSHOTS & WHATNOTS | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Elijah! Elijah! Elijah! Elijah!!

Today, 20 July, is the feast day of Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. His example of courageous faith has inspired me (& many others) for a very long time. Returning from an 8-day silent retreat filled with healing for a burned-out redhead, I wrote this reflection about Elijah. May it bless all who are worn out, discouraged, tired and tired of…

This morning in church I got to thinking about Elijah. Thank You, God, for his faith going up against the prophets of Baal and Your faithfulness when he ran, pell-mell, from Jezebel after that great victory on Mt. Carmel.

Why does Elijah’s example seem so relevant now?

He had faith of immense proportions. Gigantic. Huge. He taunted the 450 prophets of Baal. He not only put wood on the altar of sacrifice, he also immersed it with buckets of water that turned the trench around the altar into a small lake.

He believed. His faith said, ‘God is GOD of miracles that bring glory to God’s name. We will make a water-logged altar, so the people of Israel will know God’s response is not a lucky fluke, but a miracle.’

Then Elijah witnessed Your blazing fire completely consume the sacrifice and evaporate the buckets of water in the trenches. In the throes of Your miraculous response, Elijah wiped out the prophets of Baal. All 450 of them. Victory for God, Hallelujah! Time to now start marching on the palace to root out the evil rulers of the day. He prayed and You delivered a major miracle. Surely all of Elijah’s future challenges will be tackled as efficiently.

Fresh from victory and miracles, Elijah hears Jezebel is on the warpath to get him. Does he remember Your awesome power? Your faithfulness when he stood one against 450? (Relatively daunting odds.)

No. He turns into a cowardly pile of jelly and runs into the desert to hide. From a Public Relations perspective, it was bad timing to run. After such a huge victory for God, he should have filled the Judean airwaves with anti-Jezebel messages and pro-God sound bytes. (The FIRE has come. God wants You: NOW!)  Canvassing village to village, he could have roused the troops of faith, strategically riding the miracle momentum into an all-out campaign to replace the vile rulers.

Instead, Elijah runs “in fear for his very life.”  Where is his awesome faith now? The faith that believed in Your victorious triumph over evil and Your overwhelming ability to respond, not with just a match-stick flame to lightly toast the sacrifice, but with awesome power to handle water-logged trenches too?

Unfortunately, Elijah’s buckets of water faith suffered a few faith-beats of failure. When he heard Jezebel’s threat to kill him, he didn’t stop to pray, he just ran. (It says something about Jezebel, that she was more frightening than 450 men!)

Yet despite this faith setback, You restored and renewed Elijah.

He was tired. Very, very tired. You let him sleep and provided food.

Then he walked for 40 days and nights with supernatural strength to Mt. Horeb. There, after a bombastic hurricane, earthquake and fire passed by, he heard Your still, small voice.

In the quiet of his heart, he heard Your voice.

What did You say? The record in the first book of Kings (chapters 18-19) is short. Maybe Elijah was too uncomfortable to include the private bits of Your conversations. Maybe they went something like this:

“Elijah, I am with you ALWAYS, in victory and in defeat. When you act with courage, I am with you – strengthening your faith. Know also, that when you’re afraid – when fear grips your very soul, paralyzing your mind – I’m still with you.

I will meet all your needs. I will cover your back, guiding your steps against evil Jezebels pursuing you. I will protect you with the armor of My love and let your spirit soar on the wings of My joy. My peace will permeate the pallor of anxiety clogging your arteries of belief. My grace will handle your faith-beats of failure. My wisdom will help clarify what really matters. I will restore and renew your faith. My angels will look after you.

Believe in Me and in My love for You. 

See, you are not alone. There are others faithful to Me, so if you look around, you will get help in this battle against the darkness.

It’s not about you, it’s about Me. God of all consuming Light, I will blaze My fire through the clouds of doubt blocking your sight. Be mine. Open wider the doors of your heart. Break the chains of fear. Let the brilliant Light of My kingdom within you shine out for all to see.

You have seen My miracles outside you, now let my Holy Spirit empower new miracles within you. New mercies are available every morning, just turn on the Heavenly tap. Let Me infuse you with sparkling champagne of the spiritual realm: My steadfast love for you. 

Be transformed by My love, for I am here with you always.

When you are weak, I am strong. Don’t be dismayed, open your heart and keep walking the path of faith with Me. Let the light of My love bubble over for all to see.

Those buckets of cold water you’ve poured in the tired out trenches around your heart, let the spark of My love ignite them back into blazing furnaces of faith: ready for transformation, ready for action, ready to be who, where, and what I want you to be.

Go now, be my Hands and Feet to the hurting. Be grace. Be peace. Be salt in this tasteless world. Be Joy. Be Light – brilliant, burning bright – in the darkness.

Be Love. Be ME.”

After Your still, small voice, Elijah went back with his faith renewed to follow Your plan.  What a lesson from a great saint about faith, the buckets of water kind.  But why is this still meaningful 5,000 years (or so) later?  Just as Elijah ran in pell-mell fear to the desert, I may have knowingly (or unknowingly) done the same thing.

Oh Lord, even after witnessing countless examples (often miraculous) of Your awesome faithfulness, I’ve suffered recent faith-beat failures. The need is too great. The obstacles are too big. I am too tired. My get-up-and-go got up and left. I’m stuck in the snows of doubt with fear-bitten feet, too cold to walk forward into the new.

As Elijah’s buckets of water faith weathered the drought of fear and exhaustion, I want to follow his example now.

Please, Lord God, strengthen my faith. Let the warmth of Your love defrost these fear-bitten feet. Ignite my heart’s desire to be transformed with the Flame of Your Kingdom: come, Holy Spirit, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with Your Fire.

Heavenly Father, fill this clay, earthen pot with the sparkling champagne of the spiritual realm – your steadfast Love for ME and all those around me. Let this heart beat as one with Your love, joy, peace, grace, wisdom, mercy and patience.

May You provide a deep well of courage to move forward, one step at a time, to face whatever challenges may come with renewed faith – Elijah’s buckets-of-water kind!

grace, peace & buckets-of-water faith

Virginia : )

(26 November 2006)

Posted in Sunday-ish Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments