Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: I Saw God in Church.

Dressed in head-to-toe Communion white and looking so pious with bible in hand.

I’m a sporadic churchgoer these days. There were times throughout my life when I was a faithful attendee.  The Old Man, Ma and I used to go every Sunday. I was baptized and took communion.  I read Bible verses and some chapters.  But never the entire thing.  Not enough grey matter between the ears to keep track of everyone and everything. Especially all the goings-on in the Old testament.  So many begats and battles. Bloodshed and betrayals. Miracles and meyhem. Famines and bad things happening to firstborns. So complicated and confusing.

But the New Testament is a whole other story.  While it contains its share of death, denial and despair, there is also hope and love and kindness and compassion. Sacrifice and forgiveness. Yes indeed, the New Book is chock-a-block full of precious and useful life lessons regardless of your faith or personal beliefs.  Who could deny that loving one another is the ultimate purpose of all humans no matter where on earth they call home.

My favorite stories are the ones about Jesus, in particular, the Nativity and the night he was born.  I also really enjoy a good old fashioned Christmas pageant.  Especially ones enacted by earnest five year-olds. I never grow tired of such performances.

When I turned eighteen, and for the twenty odd years that followed, I went in hot pursuit of God.  My spiritual excavations took me far and wide on my interior journey.  I looked under every rock.  Behind every locked door.  Inside a plethora of books and passages.  I sought the holy, the evolved, the gurus, the teachers, mentors, ministers, the religious, the spiritual, the wise, the dedicated, the sacred, the masters, saints and the venerated.  It was an incredible journey of wonder and awe.  It both grounded me and threw me off balance.  It gave me confidence and brought me to my knees.  I was exalted.  And humbled.  But mostly grateful.

The family gathered after the Communion for Sunday dinner. The Old Man and I had already changed into more comfortable clothes for this photo. Ma in her apron over her Sunday dress.

At that journey’s end, I found myself in a little church in the countryside.  It was a familiar place.  It felt like coming home. It reminded me of the little Lutheran Church where The Old Man, Ma and I shared a pew.  It wasn’t perfect.  It didn’t satisfy all of my spiritual needs.  Nor did it fill my hunger completely, nor answer my endless questions.  But it was a place to dwell, to sit quietly and learn. To witness and rub shoulders with fellow seekers on this bumpy, often terrifying, road.

It was there that this happened.

I saw God in church. It wasn’t at all what I expected it would be.  It was such a quiet whisper of a moment.  Manifested in a simple expression of love between an elderly husband and his fragile wife.  I don’t think either of them noticed that something so incredibly extraordinary was taking place.  But I did.  The providential witness.

The congregation was about to sing another hymn. Everyone was seated and looking to the Music Team Leader for direction.  He asked us all to stand and sing our praises.  Obediently, all the adults in the church stood, except for one.

Ma and The Old Man on the steps of 204. One of the last photos together.

He stood with confident ease.  Thin and stoop shouldered.  Yet strong.  In conviction and constitution.  She made a feeble attempt to rise. Her heart was willing. A formidable match for his on any given Sunday.  But her tired, frail body was uncooperative.

Without skipping a beat, he reached for her arm and gently helped her to her feet.  There they stood.  Side by side.  Singing with hearts wide open with love and devotion.  As it had always been.  Now and forever.

The tenderness of this ordinary, natural and unassuming gesture touched me in ways that were more profound than any sermon or hymn or prayer.  I was overwhelmed by the presence of God.  Just two rows up.

There it was.  In a flash.  An instant.  Grace.  Sweet, kind, patient, loving and humanly divine.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Christmas Dance.

Hugs after the dance.

I have many fond memories of Christmas.  The wonder years at 204 waiting for Santa’s arrival. Shaking the merrily wrapped boxes adorned with bright ribbons and bows.  Guessing the contents. Hoping and praying Santa brought the number one thing on my list.  Moody teenage walks through the evening snow pondering the true meaning of the season. Looking up to heaven for clues.  Breathing in the cold air and welcoming the white flakes on my ruddy cheeks. Celebrating the magical First Christmas for each of my three children. Planning and preparing, making lists, shopping, decorating, wrapping, hiding gifts, baking, cooking, roasting, mulling, eating, singing, laughing, welcoming and praying.  Joyous greetings.  And wistful farewells.  I love it all.  And recall with bitter sweetness.

There’s this little snapshot in my mind of one particular Christmas that always makes me happy and takes me back.  Not to 204. But to a snug cozy living room tucked away in my heart.  One filled with warmth and a whole lot of love.

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas.  A song came on the radio, a festive tune in three-quarter time.  A waltz.  Inspired by the music, E spontaneously scooped up M, who was two or three at the time and began to dance with her.  I watched as they twirled around the living room, E crooning to his little daughter, who was decked out in her holiday finest, a deep purple velvet dress with a white peter pan collar.   An angel.  Heaven sent.  Divine in every way.  M giggled with sheer delight as they swayed around the coffee table and sashayed past the tree laden with festive baubles and twinkly lights.  Her diaphanous white-blonde hair fell around her delicate face, her skin so blue-white you could almost see through it.  E was badly in need of a shave but on this wintery afternoon I found his two-day-old stubble somehow less objectionable.  Oddly endearing.  Downright gorgeous.

The Divine Miss M in purple velvet.

Around and around they danced.  It was glorious.  Took my breath away.  My heart and soul and every cell within filled with gratitude.  I never felt more alive.  Nor at peace.   Humbled by the awesome grace these simplest of occasions bring.  Clear out of the blue.  Unexpected.  Gifts from God.

Could this be what it’s all about?

As I sat on the sofa and witnessed this intimate father-daughter connection I remember wishing I could stop time and stretch the moment out forever.  Every once and awhile life presents a situation that is so picture perfect that it puts everything into perspective.

There it was.  The fullness of life dancing around the living room to a White Christmas.  Just for me.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: We are the Champions.

Ma and Mel surrounded by a sea of cat pillows.

On Halloween night I was driving home from work when I passed a little girl who was out trick-or-treating with her mom.  She was about six years old and dressed as a Princess.  She had a wand in one hand and a pumpkin candy bucket in the other.   It was just the two of them.

The sight of this little girl brought me back to another little girl, another Halloween night.  My daughter Mel was about the same age when she too dressed as a Princess for Halloween.  That night, we visited Ma at my sister’s place where she was staying at the time.  Ma was on the doorstep of death by then.  She was tired but uncomplaining.  As sweet as the candy being given.

I took this picture of Mel and Ma on my sister’s white couch surrounded by a sea of cat pillows.  It would be Ma’s last Halloween.  A few months later it would be her last Christmas.  Last New Year’s.  Last everything.  She would not see another Valentine’s Day.  The Old Man’s Sweet Heart would be gone by then.

The vision of that little Princess released a flood of tears. I longed for Ma.  And my own little Princess Mel.  I longed for all the little girl Halloweens where we walked the rainy streets while she collected her bucket of treats.  All gone.

As I drove down the road, the divine and powerful voice of the beautiful Freddy Mercury filled my truck with We Are The Champions.  Yes we are Freddy, I thought.   Mel, Ma and me.

Forever champions.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: I Love To Do Lists.

I knew one day I’d start a list. In the meantime I stood in front of windows and smiled.

I love To Do lists.  They keep me organized.  Help me to remember.  Remind me of what’s important.  They keep things orderly. Sweet and simple.  Neat and tidy. I love the symmetry these lists bring to my life.  Balance.  Ease.

I’ve always been a compulsive list maker.  As I age my appreciation for this practice has grown exponentially.

There is this list that I have been compiling in my book of “boo’s to do’s for today” that just keeps growing.  It appears to be never-ending. And for this I am grateful. These are the eternal things. The timeless. The constants in my life.  And the infinite. The daily reminders of how good life is.  How lucky I am to have been born in the time and place that is now, to the parents who raised me with love, to the children I have done the same, to the family and friends who I have been blessed to have walked the earth with, for their presence and presents.  For grace and forgiveness. For hope. For faith in us all to create a better, kinder, gentler place.

It’s all a wide-eyed wonder to me.  It’s humbling. I am thankful every day that I am here now with you. And you. And you.

So this is the ever-growing list of Boo’s To Do’s for Today.

The cover of my book of to do’s. It’s nice.

Today I will:
Thank God for my human being-ness
Be curious but not nosey
Be helpful but not pushy
Be funny but not hurtful for the sake of a joke
Be a dreamer but keep my feet on the ground
Be happy but not at someone else’s expense
Be honest but not brutal
Be smart but not a pompous know-it-all
Be supportive but not a door mat
Be a seeker but look for Light not darkness
Be God-minded but not God

Today I will:
Thank God for the little things in my life
Kiss my husband good morning
Tell my kids that I love them always, forever and a day
Eat mostly healthy stuff today
Eat chocolate, devour the entire bar
Smile at strangers, even the scary ones
Be helpful and kind and generous
Laugh at myself
Practice patience with everyone but especially the very old and the very young
Say my prayers and let go of the day

Today I will:
Thank God for a new perspective
See people in a different light
Recognize the truth
Appreciate an opposing opinion
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt
Understand that there are other sides to the story
Look for a new perspective in an old place
Offer grace so I can also receive it
Read between the lines and hear the words not spoken
Say my prayers and settle into the quiet

I like the red ribbon and yellow sticky note.

Today I will:
Thank God for the playful
Play it as it lays and learn acceptance
Play for keeps with those who matter
Play for real with everyone
Play around and square and mix it up
Play full with all I’ve got
Play games that are fun not hurtful
Play back again and again, especially if it’s good
Replay and repeat tomorrow
Say my prayers and sleep lighthearted

Today I will:
Thank God for all the wonders of Nature
Chase double rainbows across the sky
Sing with wild abandon in the rain
Blow free like a leaf in the wind
Spread my wings and fly
Soak up the sun and catch some rays
Dig in the dirt and get mud on my face
Soar with the eagles
Set the world on fire
Reach for the stars and make three wishes
Howl crazy at the moon
Say my prayers and drift into the waters of heaven

Today I will:
Thank God for this new day of simple things
Forgive everyone, even those I don’t want to
Do yoga and be grateful that my body still moves
Eat an apple, possibly an orange, but not a banana
Paint my toenails red and smile at my feet
Take my dogs for a walk
Drink water right out of the tap
Be polite and mannerly, please and thanks
Listen better to everyone but especially to the very old and the very young
Say my prayers and plump my pillow

Thank God for all the wonders of nature.

Today I will:
Thank God for the givers
Give a helping hand
Give advice only when asked
Give away the good things I no longer want, need or wear
Give to a charity besides the usual ones
Give love even to the unlovable
Give someone a surprise gift for no reason, just because
Give others the benefit of the doubt
Give of myself even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it
Give someone else the credit and the glory
Say my prayers and give thanks

Today I will:
Thank God for the journey through this day
Applaud the achievements of others
Eat more red foods
Be respectful and considerate of others
Play my guitar even when it sounds painful
Be honest, starting with myself
Bake chocolate chocolate chip cookies, then pig out
Sit quietly and breathe easy
Take the long way home and enjoy the trip
Say my prayers and drift into dreamland

Today I will:
Thank God for healing
Mend all bridges in my life that are broken
Sew buttons on tattered open wounds
Stitch time that has been squandered
Mend a broken heart
Seam together a fragile friendship
Repair all hurt caused by my good intentions
Fix things that can be fixed and bless what cannot
Patch the worn and the weary with love and kindness
Say my prayers and hug my love

Today I will:
Thank God for countless things in my life
Count my blessings
Count the red smarties in the box
Count the steps from the couch to the fridge
Count my friends who count
Count the birds at the feeder
Count the calories in the chocolate cake then eat it any way
Count the purple tulips in my garden
Count the number of sleeps until my summer holidays
Say my prayers and count sheep

Thank God for the Makers.

Today I will:
Thank God for all my senses: the first five, the sixth, common and Spidey
See the beauty in all things, even the unusual
Listen with an open heart to hear the unspoken
Breathe in all that is around me, especially the smells of nature and of the kitchen
Touch someone in need of a gentle hand
Taste the sweetness in life not the bitter
Trust my inner voice when in doubt
Remember the sound and reasonable advise of my mother
Pay attention to the goose bumps
Say my prayers and welcome a sense of peace

Today I will:
Thank God for the lazy days
Take it slow and easy
Relax and chill with a cup of green tea
Read a gossip mag from cover to cover while watching my fav soap opera
Eat a bag of Oreo cookies
Consider practicing yoga
Contemplate meditating
Think about going for a walk
Exercise my option to do absolutely nothing
Take a long soak in the tub
Say my prayers and rest gently

Today I will:
Thank God for the makers
Make believe and have fun like a five year old
Make memories without Kodak
Make amends to everyone I’ve hurt
Make love with the light on
Make up not down
Make music without an instrument
Make peace with myself first
Make better all my owies
Make good on all my promises
Make muffins, blueberry lemon
Make magic without a wand
Make friends with myself
Say my prayers and make ZZZ’s

Today I will:
Thank God for housework
Change the sheets and flip the mattress
Do laundry and maybe iron
Wash the dishes by hand
Scrub the floors, the old fashioned way, down on my knees
Vacuum even the hidden places
Polish the furniture with lemon oil
Clean the windows
Stop to admire the “clean and shiny”
Say my prayers and fall quickly into a deep sleep

Thank God for the lazy days.

Today I will:
Thank God for chance to begin again
Turn over a new leaf, discover the mysteries hidden there
Start a new chapter that begins with hope
Wipe the slate clean of all past doubts
Start fresh with a different perspective
Begin anew with novel ideas
Embrace the blank page and let go of fear
Clear the deck and make space for possibilities
Close the book and make peace with the past
Say my prayers.