At the age of fifty-seven the author took three years off from life to learn to listen to her heart and nature. We are not taught to listen. We often do not have someone who will really listen. This book offers meditations offered during her silence so others will know they do not journey alone.
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By Beth Chapman
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 Beth Chapman
All rights reserved.
"I am here. I cannot promise that I will be here tomorrow. If I am not, it will not be because I chose to leave. Sometimes the path we travel can take an unexpected turn. But for today, as you awake, know that I am here. Unlike your coffee, you do not have to wait for me to brew. My gifts, my smile, and my laughter and touch are waiting for your eyes to open.
"Awaken, my love, and let the day begin. Awaken and grab hold of me as you did those Christmas mornings long ago. Squeal and grab hold of me with the same abandon you tore open the paper wrapping. Worry not; I have not bought you socks, and if I did, I promise they will be festive. Awaken, my beloved, and play with me for hours. Let me see your eyes grow big and sparkle with delight. No single day to say 'I love you' or present a bouquet of flowers. Look around, my love; the Earth is your vase. I am here, my beloved, and I am yours."
If nothing else is remembered, if all reflections leave me, if my musing spirit grows quiet, may this be the one that remains with me. May I always call to mind the love letter each day leaves for me.
May I greet each day with the anticipation of unopened opportunity, gifts, and love. May each day be the best gift ever because I was brave enough to ask, to open. May my eyes be open and bold to read the letter, Life's valentine, and in reading, to write my own and then give it away.
Blowing Bubbles and Water-Balloon Fights
Last night's midnight sky crackled with lightning, thunder, and rain. Tiny calling cards were left this morning and almost went unnoticed. The sun moved around the evergreen trees like a parade watcher shifting to get a better view of the floats and pointed to them. Tiny, glistening droplets on the grass were now obvious inside the sun's pointer.
I chuckled to myself as I thought of them as storm bubbles. Perhaps following their festivities and fireworks, the storm clouds gathered to blow bubbles and relax after a long night. Or better yet, maybe the moon and stars, upstaged by the storms, had a water-balloon fight, and these were droplets of laughter.
The blades of grass were beautifully adorned. I had to wonder if there were more. Scurrying around to the side of the house, to my delight, I found more. Resting on blooms at the end of their seasons were more storm bubbles, more droplets of laughter.
In an hour or so, the droplets were gone. The sun's pointer was too intense, though I think she meant no harm. Or could that have been the day's lesson? Tiny storm bubbles, droplets of laughter glistening in the sun, are so easily unnoticed or crushed beneath our feet and wiped off on the doormat. But if you notice, if you listen to the pauses and notice nature's pointer, what stories you can create—stories like storm bubbles and water-balloon fights between storm clouds and the moon and stars.
Simple delights. Simple touches. Simple hellos.
They are moments to be noticed and remembered as the days and seasons march onward. They lasted on the grass and blooms but an hour. In my mind, throughout the day, I still see storm clouds with their plastic bottles and dippers blowing bubbles and droplets of laughter during a water-balloon fight. I notice my feet as they walk.
And I cast a wary eye to the sky, just in case there is a water balloon still lurking.
Nature does love to laugh.
Probably one of, if not the most, universally recognized symbols is the heart. The distinguishing feature separating it from all other shapes, forms, and images is the crest and fall. The union bent and bowed; the dent.
Turning the Phone Around
I noticed on the weather page this morning that tomorrow will have one minute and thirty-nine seconds less sunshine than today—one of those things you notice but that doesn't really register as important.
Driving to work, I turned the corner onto our property's main street and reached for the sun visor. The sun always blinds me in this spot. This morning was different. Pulling over, I pondered whether the sun realized it would have a minute less to shine tomorrow and the next day and the next. The clouds seemed to laugh at me as I realized that the sun still shines behind them. The sun will be shining all day tomorrow. Only my visibility will be shortened, not the sun. What I can see, or tell myself I can see, will be shortened; the reality is much different.
Don't get me wrong. In just a month or so, it will be dark both when I go to work and when I come home. That is reality. Just ask my body, and it will tell you the seasons ahead are far fewer than those behind. The work I do comes with no guarantee it will be there tomorrow. Our visibility, our ability, and our sustainability are not infinite or immeasurable like the sun's. But these are realities we cannot control. They are the clouds that block the sun. They are the rotation of the Earth that shortens our days.
Sitting on the side of the road, watching the sun in the east, thinking of the sun in the west, I took in a deep breath and exhaled. It was a day when I would much rather be in my car, driving off into the sun or on a plane.
I reached for my work phone as it rang, alerting me of an e-mail from a not-very-happy executive. Closing the e-mail, I turned the phone around in my hand and took a picture of the sun, hidden behind the clouds but visible. "So there!" I said with a chuckle. The sun must have approved, and with a breath, twirled the clouds and offered me a splash of blue.
The presence of life, the presence of awakening, and the presence of love and hope are everywhere. They surround me. I just need to see. I just need to turn the reality around.
The sun will fill every opening. No matter how small the crack, the sun's light will enter.
May the tapestry of my life be made of lace.
I look through the pain. In my silence and vision, I feel the aching and throbbing of need and yearning to not be alone. I hear the heartbeat of life and hope. Together they gather all the disparate parts of my life that define, segment, or confine me. Their sound and sensations awaken me, breathe life, and make me whole. I believe.
Tonight, when the host or hostess looks over my shoulder and beside me, and then mutters, "Table for one?" I will smile and politely correct him or her.
"No, thank you. A table for me, please."
I Am the Child
For the grace to see fear as a child who begs a hand to hold hers, I say thank you.
For the grace to see hopelessness as a child who begs an embrace, I say thank you.
For the grace to see uncertainty as a child awaiting an unlimited future yet to arrive, I say thank you. For the grace to feel pain and to know sweet Hands of Life, I am the child; I say thank you.
No Other Ending
I remember reading a book that glued my page-turning fingers to the paper, daring not to leave a gap and cause a pause. I could not afford even the tiniest pause to turn the page. When the ending came, it was not what I wanted or expected. It held me so entranced and entwined and then abandoned me at the end. The book went flying across the room. The anger remains with me to this day, even after over three decades have passed.
What did the author see that I did not? How could our hearts and spirits be so far apart? I knew it was not out of spite, a writer's trick to deceive. No, there was far too much tenderness, hope, and blatant honesty woven on every page. How could the ending, then, be so unexpected and almost cruel that I could not see it coming? There was no sequel to explain or describe the life afterward. It was as it ended.
After three or so decades, the book whispered again to me as I labored to walk this morning. The whisper gave my body the reprieve it needed as it stopped me mid-step. And to the whisper, my own replied, I was wrong. It could not have ended any other way. The very ending, in fact, mirrored and spoke to my reaction.
You cannot deny the beauty and sweetness of a story simply because of the ending.
Beneath the snow, and upon the green,
Beneath the cold, and upon the hope,
Warmed by the sun, the unfrozen heart.
Fear not the cloud, hiding the sun,
Fear not the warmth, melting the snow.
Once you have seen, you know it's there.
Beneath the snow, upon the green,
Beneath the cold, upon the hope,
Love once seen is forever etched.
Do I dare to hope to be so free?
Do I dare to hope?
Do I dare?
I cannot fret or dream about what
tomorrow may bring.
It will be a reflection of what I am, what
I do, and what I choose today.
The image mocks reason. It calls your affirmations that "there are no weeds" as you stand before a garden full of weeds, naive. It pours salt in the wound and becomes the pebble in your shoe. As if the drought of fall and the pending surrender of life until spring were not enough, it throws snow in your face.
The pull of doubt.
Reason can be wrong—ask Galileo. There are no weeds if you see the beauty of all living flowers and life. Salt heals. The pebble in your shoe can make you pause and refresh yourself. And a snowball fight can cause the spontaneous combustion of laughter.
Walk peacefully in the world. Let the footprints you leave be soft upon the earth. But when you meet up with the pull of doubt, doubt not the simple truth that you are not alone.
Take hold of the outstretched hand, whispering, "Come on, I believe," for there will be one walking with you.
Doubt not the strength of hope's defiance.
I confess I do ponder. I look at nature and try to listen. I look at life, my hands, and the footprints I leave upon the earth and listen. I must also confess, I giggle a lot. Sometimes, sometimes it really isn't a lot to ponder after all. Joy. That simple. That's all. Simply to breathe and inhale joy. The exhale? It is a giggle.
Seeing Through the Trains
A morning running late. A morning when everything I touched, I dropped. A morning when I ironed more wrinkles into my clothes than I ironed out. A morning when not one but three bunnies decided to run across the street in front of my car on my way to work. A morning when I am still on the road, when my work printer should be printing. A morning when you get caught by the train and you're already late for work. A long, long train. You may know the feeling. Your head crashes back against the headrest, the frustration explodes in your breath as you exhale, and then, quite simply, you laugh.
Sometimes life moves so fast, it just becomes a blur. I find myself thinking, Higher calling? Service to others? Meditation? Live in the moment? When? Then the ultimate is whispered: "How did it all pass me by? I was too busy living to live. I chose living over life, a verb over a noun."
Perhaps the barriers and trains that fall across my path, stopping me dead in my tracks, are there for a reason. They force me to stop. They force me to see the blur and graffiti in my life. They force me to breathe. They force me to simply laugh. When I do, if I do, there comes a moment of clarity when I can see through the blur. I can see the road before me. And having seen, the choice is now mine.
It was not the water of the mountain lake, crystal blue, reflecting the mountains, that makes you feel alive. It was not the swelling and cresting waves of the Gulf that turn you into a squealing child. It was not my dad's swimming pool upon which you float and bask in the sun. It was not even a clear puddle of rain begging the child in me to "accidentally" walk through with a big splash. Before me was muddy stream water from the recent floods, leaves freshly fallen, and organic remains from seasons past.
And yet it whispered, "Come swim."
I emitted quite the hearty laugh and replied, "Why would I want to come swim in you?"
To which the reply left the philosopher with no reply: "Because you can."
Beyond the Garden
I cherish my plants—the bamboo, bonsai trees, and plants outside that greet me each morning. As I tended the bamboo, I heard the whisper, "Beyond the garden." I left the house shortly afterward and sat on a rock sitting ten thousand feet above the Earth, pondering the whisper.
Gardens are to be cherished. But at some point, for me, they become a metaphor for life. I carve out a little piece of my full spirit, make a garden, and call it me. The gardens we create let us feel needed. We tend them, and they can even make us feel important and in control. But I am not called to live in a carved-out garden, a sliver of myself. I am called to go beyond the garden and fully awaken my expansive soul. Perhaps that is why nature calls so longingly and strong.
"Look and see! Cherish your gardens, your niches in life, but they are only reminders of how much awaits, how big your spirit is and your heart. Cherish and tend your gardens; honor and give compassion and gentleness. But they are not you as you were meant to be. Do not be satisfied with one plant, one piece of yourself, when all of this, all of you is waiting for you to answer the call. Beyond the garden, my child—my little one, beyond the garden, the bounty of your full self waits. Step out; step out and embrace the calling in your heart. Beyond the garden. Beyond the garden, my child, you await."
Standing on top of the rock, I realized if anything in the world breathed the quintessence of the will to live, it is nature. Stretching my arms out, face to the wind, I shouted, "Alive. Live. A life. Life. Life lived!"
Walking the path back to the car, still breathing the wind, the ever-present doubt whispered, "Dark days will still overwhelm you, you know." Stopping, I placed my hand on a tree and whispered back, "Perhaps. But I have stepped beyond the garden and hung on to the wind."
A sweet, soft tear. No other meaning. Attach nothing more. Sometimes nature, like my heart, simply cannot find the words.
And if one is lucky or loved, like this tear, it will not fall unnoticed, unheard, or alone.
Paying a bill and simultaneously sending a bit of money to a friend, I exhale a sigh of wishing I could do more. Suddenly the sun exploded over the mountains and trees, literally blinding my eyes with light. As I turned to reach for my "sun" hat, the sun danced with my hanging prism and created a rainbow upon feathers I'd found. I burst into laughter and awe-filled abunDANCE.
To those I know, calling them by name, to those like you who kindly read these words, I began to offer such blessings and gifts. The joy of the sunburst and laughing prism'd feathers. The peace of rainbow streamers and the sound of birds hovering to feed. The elegance of a single cloud dancing; a diva, no doubt. The unburdened trees dancing. The anticipation of a little dog sitting by the door, knowing it's time to walk.
My heart exploded; I could not name the names or the gifts fast enough. To you, and you, and you, and to all. I felt the wealth of opening my burlap sack, and gold coins spilled all over the table, clinking and spinning on the floor. You, my friends and all, open wide your arms; you may need help. A buffet of gifts is lavished upon you!
Perhaps that is the essence of mindfulness: you learn to see so you can give away. No one a pauper ... receive ... receive.
I suppose we all have an inherent desire to be writers. We all long to rewrite, in some way, our script of growing up. Today, on the anniversary of my father's passing, my mother having left this life earlier, I realize I have, at last, laid down the pen. Life's sun and weathering have gifted the sight of reflection.
No need even to write "The End."
Life continues, as do I, though no longer in the role of daughter. There are some sunrises I wish the mountains would move and let me see. Some days the clouds are just too playful for my camera to see. And there are days when I am left breathless in awe of the wonder of life.
The pen, laid down, opens both heart and eyes. I miss you, Mama. I miss you, Daddy. I bow in gratitude for the path that was penned.
Sunrise, we look to the east. Sunset, we look to the west. Sometimes I too find myself looking for the splash and flash throughout the day; instead, to see the whole circle touched. Despite the artistic brilliance of the east and west, my gaze to the south and north does not disappoint.
And to know I must hold the same circular view of myself, others, and the day's events. They will not disappoint. I just have to turn my gaze and see the circle, complete.
Simply Rise and Try
"To practice acceptance of all circumstances, feelings, people, and events with compassion and without judgment, not forgetting it applies to the self."
My heart sighed to ponder such words. And then the gentle whisper, "Are they but a bumper sticker placed on your car? Or have you experienced the words as the car and fuel that carry you upon the path? Are the words but your hiking boots worn in the house?"
Excerpted from Whispered Grace by Beth Chapman. Copyright © 2014 Beth Chapman. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Life's Valentine, 1,
Blowing Bubbles and Water-Balloon Fights, 2,
Turning the Phone Around, 5,
Valiant Heart, 8,
I Am the Child, 9,
No Other Ending, 10,
Truth Parsed, 12,
Seeing Through the Trains, 16,
No Reply, 17,
Beyond the Garden, 18,
Pauperless AbunDANCE, 21,
Penned Path, 22,
Circle Complete, 23,
Simply Rise and Try, 24,
Crosshairs and Crossroads, 25,
Costumes of My Mind, 26,
Imprisoned Not, 28,
Yielded and Strong, 30,
Gift Surrendered, 31,
Opening Celebration, 32,
Mirror Eyes, 33,
Layered Choice, 34,
Hands of Curiosity, 36,
Centered Pendulum, 37,
To Giggle with Bubbles, 38,
Do Not Love Me Anyway, 40,
Only One Thread, 41,
Take Off, 42,
Eraser of the Heart, 43,
Dervish'd Certainty, 44,
Stillness Standing, 46,
A Life, 47,
About the Author, 53,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a gentle whisper in your ear - the author is amazing as she guides you through the sights and sounds of life! Only through the eyes of someone so intune with nature can you truly feel the calling. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to enjoy the simplicity of life that is so overwhelming!