Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Circumscribed Life

Stones thrown in a pond....a puddle...a wishing well. What is the inevitable result? Ripples...circles radiating out from the source of the disturbance. And while the ripples fade, and the concentration dwindles the further it is from the source...there was still an initial point of contact that threw the dormant into motion.

Now, what if our lives were the stone...or the penny if you might, that caused this world to be shaken? What if we realised our strongest point of difference, is the first ripple that emanates? After all, it is closest to the source.

Your affect on this world will be most dramatic on the people you do life with. You will support those people more than you might a stranger, because you understand them...you are invested. You will likely be scarred more deeply by someone who has known you a lifetime...a parent, a sibling...a friend. But I tend to think, those are the people we are most inclined to forgive without a moments reservation, because we know their heart...and we don't quit on the people we love.

You matter in your world. And, you are where you are supposed to be, and doing life with those closest to you for an exact, divine purpose. While making a donation to a charity...or taking a soul searching missions trip is an excellent way to keep perspective in life...you are the pebble my friend....in YOUR world...right this very second.

So what to do with this? What to consider when you want to be a better human being? I say, first and foremost...don't wait. I remember telling a dear friend of mine, that the greatest extravagance in life, is the way people waste their chances. He was sobered by this revelation...because he had spent many years throwing it away. I know he was bound to make up for lost time... and I believe he did...rather, I KNOW he did. How do I know? Because he is now on the other side of the veil....and the ripples that have radiated in such a short time since his departure, are truly circumscribed to the source....his much cherished family, his fiercely loyal friends...his incredible coworkers...and the people he selflessly served everyday.

So, if I am to action this provocation...this is the soul of the endeavor.

"Circumscribe: to draw (a figure) around another figure so as to touch as many points as possible. "

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Don't Wake the Baby

I have a blaze burning inside me this sunny Saturday morning after reading a thought provoking quote. I am pondering two things about life...the bereavement of innocence lost...and the phoenix of a resolute heart rising from the smouldering embers of its grief.

"The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt." ~Max Lerner, The Unfinished Country, 1950

I slept last night with a crib at the foot of my bed. My sweet cherub faced niece was inside. I heard her stir during the night...I heard the rhythm of baby breath. I checked her throughout the night, and saw her pink angel cheeks... her warm and snuggled deep in slumber. I was moved by these moment of innocence. I was moved knowing I will do anything to defend this blanket of protection over her. There isn't any battle I wouldn't fight, if it meant this brief time in her life was in jeopardy. The whisper of innocence in life is so very brief...it's preservation paramount to me. Perhaps, because I don't remember a lot of innocence in my childhood. The need to defend it in the lives of the little ones in my life is non negotioable. I am the warrior...I walk ahead, or alongside to stand in protection of those who can't...I choose to be the shelter.

As for the grief of my tarnished, distant innocence, and possibly yours as well, I extend this charge to you. Don't stand by and do nothing. If a child is in harms way, then be the brave guardian of their innocence. If a friend confronts loss...be their shelter. If you see a need in society, then be the agent of change...not the apathetic.

Protect the sleeping babies as long as you can, and choose to journey alongside those who may need your courage as a refuge.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hatchet Free

I was curious as to where the term, "Bury the Hatchet" came from today. While I can quite easily guess at the meaning, reading the origin sent my mind revolving to a lateral reflection on life.

Hatchets were buried by the chiefs of tribes when they came to a peace agreement.

"Proclaim that they wish to unite all the nations of the earth and to hurl the hatchet so far into the depths of the earth that it shall never again be seen in the future." Jesuit Relations, 1644

There are two hatchets that need to be buried in this life. Obviously, the ones we wish to swing in retaliation against those who have wounded us...but what about the hatchets we slay ourselves with everyday? What about the old mental messages we retain and become slave to when it comes to the the things we wish were in our realm of possibility? We all believe past lies about ourselves. We believe the broken record of our precarious youth...telling us at some point, we weren't enough.

What would life be like, if all we had heard in our lives was praise and approval? Would we believe our boundaries were non existent? Would we see that hatchet as a way of blazing a trail towards our goals and dreams, instead of cutting ourselves off at the knees, and amputating our possibilities? Because in reality, the hatchet that has been used against us, is not OUR weapon of self distruction...it has been used by a cowardly, weak, cruel human being, who doesn't weigh their actions against the future. Words are powerful...and when administered with intent, they can either edify or crucify an innocent soul.

So today I choose. To bury the hatchet of past wrongs. To detach from those things that have paralysed me through my life, and caused me to believe I am not capable or worthy of an extraordinary, unbelievable human experience. I choose to forgive...I do it for my own health and future, and realise I am the sum total of ALL my experiences. I choose to look at this life, like I have heard only acclaim and esteem..and have no repeat button pushed on the harmful ipod messages in my soul.

Hatchets be destroyed...life...be consumed!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Penny for your thoughts?

Would you ever think you could learn a lesson from something as seemingly worthless as a penny? The lesson was waiting for me, patiently...until I was ready to absorb its immeasurable value.

My dear friend Michael...joker...character...had a funny quirk. On one visit to see him in Toronto, he picked up every penny he saw.  Believe me, there wasn't a lack of random pennies in downtown Toronto. I thought it was funny, endearing, and a little ridiculous...but classically Mike. Finally, I asked him about it. Why pick up something so worthless? So heavy in the pocket?

The response resonates so much deeper now.

"Jenn, they aren't worthless, you know. That's MONEY, even if it's not much.  Let me tell ya...I see a lot of them..and 135 of them will buy me a coffee at Tims."

So we carried on our evening. He picked up pennies...I laughed everytime...and I didn't think much more about it.

As I now reflect on those pennies, and the man who saw their infinite value and potential...I am beginning to understand the levels of that experience. This man who picked up the pennies...has taught me an invaluable lesson from that memory.

We create value in things we see potential in. We can make something out of nothing if we work to grow....nurture...and collect towards a common goal. Shame on us for discarding those things that have a small amount of value, and have the potential to be part of a bigger whole. Because my dear friend, he didn't just apply this to pennies - he applied it to those people who society has thrown away, ignored and written off. He poured his heart and soul into making those wayward souls KNOW that they are valuable....that someone sees them...and that their potential is immeasurable, if they apply themselves:

One day at a time.

In the light of my friends new position...(love you rascal...xo) I, like so many have been looking for signs of him around me. I am trying to justify the sleepless nights...the moments of overwhelming emotion and the seemingly unspeakable grief. I woke up this morning and had the very clear direction to look out the window.  I expected to see a sign outside...the hawk some have spoken of, or something abundantly clear telling me my dear friend is okay. I opened the curtains, and before I could even look outside, there it was. That which took my breath away...made me smile...and brought me to tears..

a penny on the window sill.

I was reminded..."Jenn with 2 n's....do the right thing. love the undesirables...give because you have much...listen because you have the ability..and honour me by seeing potential in the one cent..."

MB...I will make you proud.

A Hopeful Message

I went to church on December 13th, 2009 at 11:00 am. I picked up my friend on the way...we did a quick drive thru at Tim's...he got a large triple/triple...

The irony of this whole scenario is this. The message that day was entitled, " A Hopeful Message".

I remember being moved by the message at the time...yes, because it was applicable to my life...but it was an uncanny declaration of my friends life to that point. There were points in the message that we both laughed out loud, because clearly the message that God seemed to be pointing at my friend was..."buddy, you're on the right path..." .

I remembered a few moments of the service afterwards, but honestly, just went on with my day once we left. I drove my friend home. He got out of my Jeep...and for some reason...I was compelled to say something we had only ever written to each other. I saw his back...his feet hit the ground...him turn to shut the door...and I said..."Hey...I love you, you know." He thought for a moment...smiled, and said.." I love you too, girl...I'll be seeing ya.."

Here are a few of the things we were amazed at in that church service, on December 13th, 2009. This was Michael's CLEAR message from God...and I am blessed to have witnessed it. I am so glad that I have a copy of that message that I can listen to, and share if you would like..for comfort..for insight...and as a reminder that there is an urgent call to action.

"There is a light you alone can share....you are someone this world DESPERATELY needs. Our opportunities to be light are endless...It's time for fearless faith..." Do you think this was a coincidence? Do you think this message was meant for only Michael? It's for all of us, friends. We are ALL desperately needed in this world.
" You may not go everywhere..but if you go to the countries of the world, but not to YOUR world...you will miss the big picture." This is a heavy responsibility. It requires intention, forsight and compassion..and eyes to see a world that needs exactly who we are, right now..not in 5 yrs when we have time..RIGHT NOW.
Not a single one of us knew Michael by mistake. I challenge you to look at your world...and find a place where you can contribute. It may not be full time service at a Food Bank...that was his path...but I know we each have the opportunity everyday to make a difference...to someone.

If you are looking for perspective on a seemingly impossible task, I will share one last quote that made me smile at the time...and even more so now, when thinking about the grandeur of this mission..." You may not be able to help everybody...but you can help SOMEBODY".

May that somebody come to you, may you serve with humility...and may you make our friend proud.

Just the Beginning

I have a confession. This scenario isn't entirely new to me. I can identify with this kind of loss, and outpouring of incredible love...because I have seen it before.

There was this guy...he was my age. He was 33 when he died. He had a very diverse group of friends, similar to our Michael. This group was tight...they went through thick and thin together. Some of them were tradespeople....others were working in government...a few were independently wealthy. But what they did have in common, was the love of their friend....and a fierce loyalty to his causes, and his inextinguishable memory. I think part of the reason they loved him so much, was because he was the glue in this group...and he accepted each of them for who they were no matter what.

When he died quite abruptly...there was a profound, unexplainable loss. Some acted out in anger...some retreated to their thoughts...and others were called from the core of their being to rise up, and carry on with the torch. They banded together to share the story of their friend...they tried to wrap their minds around being without him. What could be done with this tragedy to make it hold some small amount of sense?

They carried on his work. He too worked with and inspired those shunned by society. He was a great man...and his friends were compelled to not let the fire die... and to carry on his mission. They felt at the centre of it all..that this man needed to be forever honoured with acts of compassion towards a society that is deperately needing an open hand of kindness, and a passionate drive to bring dignity back to those who have lost their way.

This man was Jesus.

I have never understood the full weight of the disciples until this very moment. They were friends...loyal, committed...and accepting of each other. They banded together when the loss was too great to bear on just one set of shoulders. They vowed to continue...to not let their friend be forgotten...and to fiercely defend the things he tried so hard to accomplish.

I know Mike would be laughing at this reference right now....LOL...I don't think in his wildest dreams he would have ever expected to be compared to Jesus Christ! ( Don't get a big head there Baskett...it's an analogy.,.;) love you...xo) But I am compelled to draw the parallel to inspire you with this.

Look at what was accomplished...look at the impact this one man had on society..and has all of these many years later. Look at what something as simple as a fierce love for your friend, can represent to your world. We tell his story because we love him...we carry on his work, so what he did up to the point of leaving us, isn't in vain. We open our eyes to the hurting, the lost, and those who may lose hope if we don't step in.

I am compelled to tell you my friends...this is just the beginning.

What Remains

I am finding meaning, and parallel thinking in the most unusual things since February 13th. I find that nothing has one dimension...that all of those hum drum daily activities or routine behaviours are jumping out at me with a new perspective.

I was undecided on what to wear this morning. At the last minute, I decided to delve into the closet, and find something I haven't worn in a while. I pulled out a blouse I had forgotten about. I remembered for a second how much I loved it when I bought it. I put it on. To my surprise...it still smelled like my perfume. Even after all this time...that which I had forgotten about, left an impression of me.

I was then compelled to think....what will remain of me? What will be that instant reminder of who Jenn was? Even if I am not thought about for a little while...when someone who loves me and knows me speaks of me...what will they want to share about the essence of who I was?

I have been reading some old emails from my dear friend...his confessions were candid, raw and real..I am blessed to have a record of those things. I have learned something new from one in particular. He said..."I was always the kind of person who wished that God had given me a roadmap for life...because I don't want to mess it up". But instead of letting this statement be an excuse for not doing anything...he took it as a charge to do much...to be much...to leave behind a path of hope, redemption and fearless living. He, in essence, blazed a trail...making change seem possible to those of us who have been living life on autopilot, looking for things to begin, or looking for someone to place blame on for the way our lives didn't turn out.

I am guilty...of apathy. I am guilty...of being selfish.

I am INSPIRED to change...I am MOTIVATED to be present in my life...everyday. Why? Because my nephew is 3 this week..and I am astounded at the fact that I blinked..and he is no longer the infant I rocked to sleep. Why? Because someone I cared for deeply left this earth in the wee small hours of the morning on February 13th...and left a legacy that speaks of nothing but pride, love and admiration. Why? Beacause everyday I wake up in a world where there is need....my job isn't done...and I LOVE a challenge.

When I think back to that blouse hanging in my closet...I have a clear picture of the parallels. It was there all along....even when I wasn't using it. It has an unmistakeable "Jenn with two n's" imprint on it..that lingering heir of my identity that those who know me would identify and hold solace in. It has left an impression....

What will remain for you, my friends?

A Line in the Sand

"I am drawing a line in the sand". Have you heard that saying? About different points in your life, where you make a conscious, fervent choice to change. To call out the demons, to put a face on the hurt...and to tell it with a piercing scream..."NO MORE".

My line in the sand these days is towards apathy. It is a straight shooting arrow aimed at injustices that I have every ability to remedy, if I choose to give a damn. It is the gauntlet of swinging indifference. Or worse, the care and concern for things that don't matter in this life. How is it that I feel so much more alive, for having experienced such a profound loss?

Because I know I follow in incredible footsteps. My dear friend chose to not only draw the line..but to set a fire between the past of shame, and the future of promise. He chose knowing separation from the familiar, in order to be happy...fullfilled...inspired...ALIVE. I know in his heart..there was never going to be the opportunity to go back. As Cortez said..."Burn the ships! We're here to stay!"

I am curious to find new things that will be non negotiable for me. I vow from this point forward, that there will never be a time in my life where I won't be committed to some kind of service. (You have my word MB..love you) There will NEVER be a day that goes by that I don't tell someone I love them. If I tell you I love you...I mean it. I promise to share my story...good, bad and ugly...for the benefit of others. If it means I can somehow change someones path from peril to victory and freedom... then my story will become my own personal anthem.

I feel these days like there isn't a line in the sand, as much as a crack in the earth of my old existence...I may be able to see across the great divide to what the old world looked like, but there is certainly no possibility of return...it is irrepairable...it is finite.

And for all of the pain..and for all of the tears, do I relish in the old life? Wonder what it would be like if things were the same? Not for a minute...the ship has burned...the embers glow...and the future on a new plain is SO breathtakingly full of possibilities.

The Spilling of Passion

Did you know that the Greeks didn't write obituaries? They didn't make a list of family and friends left behind, what job filled their 9-5, or hint at what caused the persons life to end. They asked one question...to sum up a life...

Did they have PASSION?

When I hear the word passion...I am stirred. I am awakened...I am ignited. I am caused to think of the impossible becoming possible. The hurricane to become a motionless night sky. I am lead to thoughts of incredible emotion....inexplicable joy, undefinable grief...flammable love. I think immediately upon how much I love my friend...I actually love him more everyday now that I can't call him up for a laugh, or send a cheeky text message...and expect a cheekier one back! (How do you like this MB...I am getting the last word! love you..xo)

My passion now is to share his story. I won't stop...I can't stop.

I stood at the foot of my friends grave today. I was immediately taken aback by the 20 or so pennies on his marker. I was inconsolable in the moment. I was solitary with the grief...I was alone with the memories of unbelievable conversations...soul bursting revelations..and the hopes and dreams we wished for ourselves..and for each other. I saw the pennies..and realised, that the work will go on. The passion does not extinguish because the flame has flickered. The passion does not drown, because Mike is on a bigger planning committee now....(you got there Michael..to a place where you can see the beginning from the end..you can see what the completed picture is going to look like...I am in awe at this! You now have all the answers laid out in front of you, and it all makes perfect sense...that which was unclear, is incandescent...totally astounding)

“Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping... waiting... and though unwanted... unbidden... it will stir... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us... guides us... passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we'd know some kind of peace... but we would be hollow... Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we'd be truly dead.” ~ Joss Whedon

When this life ends..let it be said of me, that I lived passionately.

Will it be said of you, my dear friends?