Little birdies (in our wreath!)

Last week we noticed lots of chirping going on outside our front door. Nothing too unusual in that since our bird feeders are close by, but the chirps seemed a bit localized. At one point whilst opening the door, I looked up at our wreath and caught a hint of movement.

Our front door spring wreath (note upper right corner)

Standing on tiptoe I saw a tiny nest with a bit of fuzz around the edges. Taking my handy iPhone out to catch what was what, I could see a few fuzzy little birdies in the nest.

Little birdies last Saturday

Showing my brother these new additions to our wreath, we decided to forgo the front door all week to keep their progress undisturbed. Using the back door to get in is a bit tricky at night (but isn’t it grand iPhones have those little flashlights in them?)

Little birdies on Monday

Each day I’ve checked their progress hoping mommy bird has been feeding them (and wondering as temps roared into the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit how little birdies get something to drink stuck in their nest?)

It’s been kinda cool seeing these little birdies grow from indistinct blobs into little beings (with attitude, check previous pic out!)

Reminds me of something C.S. Lewis once wrote:

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

Here’s to hatching ourselves new wings to take on new adventures? Like these little birdies when their fuzz turns into feathery wings and they learn to fly.

Little birdies today (note the feathers!)

And what about finding worms and/or other good things to eat? Haven’t seen mommy bird, but maybe she’s an early bird out getting those early worms.

“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have never contemplated “the early bird gets the worm” from the side of the worm. oops.

That said, I hope these little birdies will have enough wormy sustenance to wing their way out of their nest before too long (I was about to change the wreath to another more springy one…)

grace, peace & little birdies (in our wreath!)

Virginia : )

Little birdie nest (on our wreath)

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Snapshot & Whatnot: Springy Light

Spring is busting out all over (finally.) The spring spread Virginia plotted for today (after taking piles of springy photos the last week) has, alas, fallen victim to a whacked-out laptop. Given time expended capturing delicate blooms on our dogwood tree, here’s a favorite framed pic that sits by my desk, taken awhile ago at Maymont Park in Richmond, VA.

SNAPSHOT:

& Whatnot:

“I am going to notice the lights of the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars, the lights of our candles as we march, the lights with which spring teases us, the light that is already present.”  Anne Lamott

grace, peace & springy light(s)

Virginia : )

p.s. My brother & I are looking forward to Marvel’s new Avengers Infinity War movie tonight. I know, I know, so many challenges facing our whacked out world & we’re off to the movies(!) But, if you need a Friday laugh, check out this brief YouTube video of the Marvel Bunch doing the Brady Bunch. Hilarious!

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Malaria: Up Close & Personal

April 25th is World Malaria Day. Over 450,000 people (mainly children) die each year from this preventable disease and millions (216,000,000) get really sick. Since many (90%) of these folks live in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria compounds an already challenging context of health-related and economic issues.

Go figure if half your country has malaria at some point during the year productivity will be low.

I knew a little something about malaria before moving to Tanzania in 2002. A year of taking Lariam while globetrotting for a safe-water initiative definitely weirded me into a strong dislike of the disease. Deciding that Lariam-induced weirdness was not an option, I purchased the suggested bed net and went into late night mosquito alert mode: splat, splat, DIE MOSQUITOES DIE.

In the first months while trying to learn the HIV/AIDS context I visited Kagera (in the northwest corner of Tanzania) for a few weeks to meet with our 600+ community volunteers there, community representatives, women’s groups, and AIDS patients.

Meeting with community groups to understand their concerns and priorities – “when you think of your children, what keeps you awake at night?” – time & time again malaria came into the dialogue. I spoke with one mother who lost four children to the disease.

Heart-breaking to see her tears & hear her fears for her other children.

At that time in Tanzania, where malaria in many districts is endemic, (ie, you can catch it all year around), 70,000 children died each year from the disease.

After that Kagera visit I went back to our Dar office galvanized to do something more about malaria & began coordinating with our Programs Division to highlight this issue. We wove simple malaria prevention into our long-term community development projects and had several special child-health programs that did extraordinary community health at the village level, but more was needed! So, we galvanized special projects from the Australia & New Zealand governments, UNICEF & generous donors.

With CARE Tanzania we co-founded TaNAAM (the Tanzanian NGO Alliance Against Malaria) with a cross section of NGOs, pharmaceuticals and major malaria stakeholders to coordinate national activities.

Partnering again with CARE TZ, we launched into the TNVS (an insecticide treated net voucher scheme) doing medical training, social marketing & awareness campaigns in every district of Tanzania. Using best practices from smaller projects in the project design, taking the project to scale required 8 promotion and training teams moving simultaneously in 8 districts at a time – no small challenge!

During evaluation visits ‘twas so exciting to see local performance groups communicating in local languages, tribal dances & skits demonstrating bed net prevention, diagnosis & treatment. In many of these places nets had never been available, but that’s why with this disease it takes lots of folks to make a difference.

Net manufacturers, distribution network builders, social marketing, health professionals, government health infrastructure, pharmaceutical companies – all working together.

Colleagues in our Arusha National Office began calling me the Malaria Queen, since our Dar division opened our doors to host this project and our Marketing Team designed the media campaigns, logos, events (& since their humble director – moi – backstopped the whole Promotion half, including rural BCC teams) of the multi-million dollar grant from the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB & Malaria.

All this time I (somewhat zealously) used my bed net at home and while traveling. Our National Director, George, insisted each director visit every region at least once a year. Since we supported 126 projects in 12 regions that meant I traveled half of every month, mostly to rural areas and to our refugee programs in Kigoma.

I managed to avoid malaria for three years until traveling to Uganda for a regional conference. Asking the guesthouse desk clerk for a net, he said ‘you don’t need one here.’ Waking up at 3:00AM with mosquitoes all over the wall and bites all over my arm, needless to say the next night I insisted.

Two weeks later in Arusha for important international meetings, my temperature skyrocketed to 104 while my joints screamed with prickly pain. Did I mention being on crutches at the time?  (click here to read more about that..) 

That’s when I met malaria, up close & personal.

During this episode I learned more about the African lesson of ‘being with.’ My Leadership Team colleagues (all African) came to visit me (this, after being up all night, dazedly fevered, with my hair sticking out every which way.)  But that is the African way!

‘Being with’ each other in painful times, showing you care by being there.

A hard lesson I had learned early on that also made childhood malaria deaths in Tanzania more than just statistics. After three miscarriages my vibrant assistant, Joylline, had a beautiful baby girl my first year in Dar es Salaam. Little baby Hope became the darling of our Dar office. At 18 months Hope died from malaria and pneumonia.

A crushing death, as is the death of each and every child who dies from this disease.

During baby Hope’s first hospital stay (of many) I sent flowers and needed supplies. I didn’t want to intrude until I noticed our team members eying me askance. Finally, Happiness blurted out, “Madam you must visit, Joylline will think you don’t care!”

Yikes. I got it and visited right away. Then became first in line at every funeral, wedding, engagement because I did care and that is What You Do in Africa.

You show up. You share the pain, you share the joy. It’s that ‘being with’ thing.

Facing death, illness and tough times can be challenging, but what I appreciate about the African way – you realize you are not alone as the pain is shared across family, friends and the community.

These years later many more children are alive because people around the world have joined their hands, hearts and pocketbooks to attack malaria with prevention, education campaigns and better treatment. There’s lots to celebrate – from 1 million annual malaria deaths to less than 500,000 per year – but there are still many little Hopes out there, who need us to show up.

Not just on World Malaria Day, but every day of the year!

grace, peace & malaria, malaria

Virginia : )

p.s. Buying a $10 net for a family really saves lives.

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Snapshot & Whatnot: An (owlish) April Visitor

Last week whilst recovering from surgery & flu blues, we had a special visitor in the back-est regions of our backyard…

A Barred Owl!!  As often happens, just as I prepared to take a closer pic (crunching through the brush) our visitor woke up & flew away, but still, how cool is that?

An owl sighting, especially for owl groupies (like me.)

Dashing off to RavenCon – a science fiction/fantasy/very cool weekend convention (yes, Virginia is feeling much better, thanks for all the well wishing!)

Here’s a quickie quote to mind munch…

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Albert Einstein

grace, peace & owls (& howls) of fun

Virginia : )

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Divine Light-Holders (needed!)

Virginia has been off the blogging grid after having surgery last week & tending to her flu-bug infested brother this week. Unfortunately, some of his germy symptoms matriculated & now sis has it, too. So for today, here’s something previously posted given news of continued conflict on the border of the Gaza Strip.

One of my most treasured memories of the Middle East was carrying the special Easter ‘Sabt al Noor’ light from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the Orthodox Christian community in Gaza. This involved receiving candlelight from the priests in Jerusalem and (very carefully) making sure it stayed lit during the 2-hour car ride, plus the journey on foot through the Israeli/Gaza border where the whole Christian community turned out for a paraded caravan in buses and cars (with special Orthodox crosiers poking out windows) to accompany the light all the winding way to the heart of old Gaza City.

For some (geopolitical) reason Abuna George, the Orthodox Palestinian priest, could not get out of Gaza, but as an American I could get in to help facilitate one of the most important rituals of the church year. Middle Eastern Orthodox Christians seriously fast (no meat or dairy) the whole of Lent, but when they receive the Sabt a Noor light on Easter Saturday, fasting ends & rejoicing begins.

When I first met Abuna George in Gaza he almost had a fit because I was about to step into a part of the 4th century Byzantine church (just following my male colleagues) where no women were allowed. But then, 5 years later, he called & asked ME (not my new male boss) to bring the Sabt al Noor light to Gaza.

Five years of countless visits in and out of the Gaza Strip as a relief & development worker based in Bethlehem and many precious times shared with Abuna George & his family, friends, children in refugee camps, and communities all over Gaza.

That was awhile ago, but unfortunately, some things never change.

Extremism. Bombings. Conflict. Injustice. Suffering.

Children & civilians paying the terrible price: death and loss amidst piles of rubble.

I don’t care about your politics, or theology, or religion, this is about PEOPLE: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons & daughters – children.  ALL beloved of God.

“We are all people with souls, sparks of the divine.” Henri Nouwen

Both sides of this current conflict need soldiers of peace and love. Maybe the Middle East seems far away to friends in America and around the far corners of the globe – but we all can be soldiers of peace and light as we get down on our knees and pray, pray, pray.

Not hellfire and brimstone prayers we might like to see fall on our enemies, but heartfelt cries for peace and reconciliation, for love and light to shine in the darkness, for the construction of new bridges of understanding – a miracle amidst the current rubble of oppressive conflict.

“Never was font so clear, undimmed and bright; from it alone, I know proceeds all Light although ’tis night.”    (Saint John of the Cross)

Please pray that the Light of the Love of God will enter Gaza somehow today, that sparks of the divine within the peoples on both sides of the border will burst into flames of compassion for all (on both sides of the border.) That the desire for peace will grow somehow in the rubble of the battered hearts and imbroglios on all sides.

May we also let the Light of God into our hearts today – for ALL people. No matter how deeply buried sparks of the divine reside, we all need God’s Light to lift whatever darkness may cloud our vision to see clearly the sparks of humanity around us: Israelis for Palestinians, Palestinians for Israelis, Russians for Ukrainians & Ukrainians for Russians, for HIV/AIDS victims, for all those of the fringe of society (& even the beanheads running things.)

Letting the Light of God in, may it gush out of our hearts with compassionate concern & love for all – like holders of the Sabt al Noor light across conflicted borders.

grace, peace & divine Light-holders

    Virginia

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (& daughters) of God.”  (Matthew 5:9)

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Snapshot & Whatnot: Broken World Beauty

Here’s a quickie pic taken last year while visiting the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Snapshot:

U.S. Botanical Garden Conservatory

& Whatnot:

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.”

Terry Tempest Williams (author & environmentalist)

Here’s to finding beauty in broken places – God’s heavenly paintbrushes busy around us and within us – and letting that beauty bubble forth as a fountain of hope for others.

Like a rose in the rubble!

grace, peace & broken-world beauty

Virginia : )

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Easter Joy, Joy, Joy & Glorias!

From here @ Roses in the Rubble, Virginia wishes all a blessed Easter. May the resurrected Love & Joy of Jesus strengthen our hearts with extra doses of grace & peace today – and every day.

Putting on Easter-ish music this morning (a bit bleary-eyed after the 3 hour+ Easter Vigil last nite) Virginia started with Gospel grooves, then moved on to her Choral playlist. Too many glorious favorites to share (at one time) but will share an ear-taste of one of the most uplifting choral pieces of all time, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, op.123.

Visiting Bonn years ago, I made a day trip into Cologne to see the magnificent Cathedral. As a remembrance, and as a Beethoven groupie (I took a full semester class at uni on his symphonies) I asked a clerk at a nearby CD shop for his favorite Beethoven choral composition. He directed me to Sir Georg Solti’s rendition of the Missa Solemnis.

Back in Bethlehem (where I lived at the time) this CD transported my boombox & flat into a place of worship. And, to think, Beethoven was completely deaf when he wrote this piece.

Here’s a YouTube snapshot of the Gloria: Quoniam tu solus Sanctus

“For Thou alone are holy.

Thou alone art Lord.

Thou alone art most high, O Jesus Christ.

Together with the Holy Spirit

in the glory of God the Father.

Amen.

Glory to God in the highest. “

grace, peace & Resurrection Easter Joy!

Virginia : )

p.s. This concludes the Lenten challenge (Lent+ Holy Week + Easter Triduum) post-a-day gig here @ Roses in the Rubble. Thank you for joining Virginia on this journey –  and for the special encouragement to keep going that seemed to come in bursts on days she didn’t want to post anything! Virginia will now return to her intermittent blogging schedule (one, or if she’s feeling really prolific, two posts a week.) 🙂

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