Maria’s Musings & Advice: Sustenance for The Holidays

br-mickey-mcgrath-on-thanksDear Maria,

I write a weekly advice column on my blog. It’s published on Thursdays, and on Fridays it goes out to my readers via email and on social media. This week, I missed my deadline because of Thanksgiving and other work commitments. Have I blown it with my readers? Do you think they will forgive me?

Signed,

Thinking They’re Thinking the Worst

 

Dear Thinking,

Stop that! Of course, your readers forgive you. There’s nothing to forgive, really! Every week, you have a forum to share your support and views on many topics. Be grateful for your readers, and the wisdom they’ve shared in response.

Here’s an idea: How about sending them a quick list of things you’ve read, seen, or heard that are sustaining you as the holiday season begins?

Dear Maria,

Couldn’t have said it better myself. 😉

Arrival: The new movie starring Amy Adams as a linguist hired by NASA to translate messages received from visitors from another world. Notice I didn’t say “aliens”.  The movie raises pertinent questions regarding communications between cultures (and planets), how time works, and the intersection of our personal and professional lives. Amy Adams soft-spoken, powerful performance gives us a hero who doesn’t need violent weapons to make her point.

We Gather Together: or How to Have a Happy Thanksgiving 2016: Laura Munson, a mentor and friend, has written a warm and hopeful post about loving the people in your life whom you don’t see eye-to-eye with politically. She drills down to the heart of what matters at our gatherings, and encourages us to focus on the love. Keeping it real, as she always does.

Jon Batiste: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s music director and leader of his band, Stay Human, is love expressed in every note. I’m grateful Colbert brings Jon’s music to a national audience on a nightly basis.

His beautiful rendition of The Beatles’ Blackbird, performed on the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ performance on the Ed Sullivan Show (in the same theater that is now home to The Late Show), is a gentle call to arms and a lovely reminiscence of the moment a dream takes hold of the heart. Check out his new Christmas album. It’s destined to be my Christmas ’16 soundtrack. Along with…

Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas: The music on this Cd feels so cozy. We’re fireside with a woman who loves Christmas—a wise and warm Amy, seasoned by the season, and by life. The music is at turns intimate, melancholy, and comforting. All the things Christmas seems to be. Read the rest of my review here.

Christmas in The Kitchen with Mitzi McDonald and Keltic Reign: A warm and wonderful family holiday show now in its twelfth year. (Hmmm, 12 Days of Christmas, perhaps? A magic number.) Steve and I got a preview on the night before Thanksgiving with Mitzi and friends performing God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen for strings and piano. Glorious, good tidings of comfort and joy. Something like this:

Upside Down Apple Pecan Pie: I’m not an accomplished cook, but I can follow a recipe and handy video guide. This dish was our Thanksgiving dessert, and people seemed to enjoy it (or maybe they were being kind). Well, I liked it, and it filled the house with wonderful smells (after I remembered the cookie sheet under the pie pan). A perfect combination of my husband’s favorite (apple) and mine (pecan). I was excited to have followed through on a recipe I’d saved for someday. And TJ’s Pecan Pie filling is delish!

Garden Glow: Christmas lights delight my inner wee one. And, my mother-mind hears my little 2-year-old daughter exclaim “Yites!” whenever I see them. This lively and charming display at the Missouri Botanical Garden will warm your heart, baby, even in the cold outside.

GCB 08 coverThou Shalt Give Thanks: In The Year of Living Biblically, author AJ Jacobs gained many insights during the year he sought to “follow the Bible as literally as possible.” AJ created some personal commandments as a result of his experiment. The first: Thou Shalt Give Thanks. AJ learned the power and importance of “giving thanks for the 100 things that go right everyday, rather than focusing on the few things that don’t.”

This lesson is echoed in Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas.  The reflections begin on Thanksgiving, and carry us through the Feast of the Epiphany in January. Daily inspiration to help you stay sane this holiday season!

What’s helping you this holiday season? What music, movies, books, reads, traditions, displays, etc. are sustaining you? Comment below! More inspiration to come in future columns. Stay tuned!

Dear Readers: In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.

Everyday Inspired for the first days of summer

June 21 – Let the machines do the work

washing-machine-clipart-13With the weekend ahead, I’m thankful for the machines in my house that do a lot of work for my family. I think the intention when washers and dryers and dishwashers were invented was to create more leisure time. But, what’s happened in our culture is that we get the machines running and then dash off to do another project. A good friend of ours feels a great sense of accomplishment when he can get as many machines in his home working simultaneously.
On this Saturday and the first day of summer, why don’t we sit back and let the machines do the work? Get the washer going, and then go read a book. Take a break only to grab a snack, transfer clothes from the washer to drier, and then head back to the hammock. Believe it or not, we can be productive during down time. Don’t just move on to the next project; give yourself time to recreate, recharge, and rest. Let the machines take up the slack for a while. You deserve it.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

 

June 22 – Titanic disconnect

My daughter and I watched the movie Titanic, she for the first time. As I’ve written previously, in my opinion the movie is heartbreaking, beautiful, and carries a deeply spiritual and empowering message, especially for women. I told my daughter blockbuster the movie was a blockbuster in theaters and it was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won most of them, including Best Picture.
Titanic Jack and RoseSuch an epic movie is a vast production. Articles were written about the demands made by the director, and the challenges the actors and crew faced. Egos clashed, budgets were overrun, and dreams were compromised. There is a sort of disconnect between the poignant message of the film and the strain of bringing the film to life.
Yet, God can work through that brokenness to create beauty. Whether or not we work in Hollywood, we’ll have to deal with outsized egos and broken people in our work and family lives. God’s grace can work through those circumstances in amazing ways. As we live day-to-day, let’s continue to look for blessings. Maybe the blessings and insights come disguised as someone that we really don’t care for, or who has rubbed us the wrong way, or who doesn’t do things the way we’d do them. Let’s just keep our hearts open to the possibility that God’s grace can work through the broken ones, including us.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

Everyday Inspired May 19-23

May 19 – Monday plans

Today is Monday. I’m slow getting started. My feet hurt and there’s that pan in the kitchen that needs scouring, and there are piles of dirty clothes backing up in the laundry room. Sigh. At an earlier time in my life, I would have looked at all this and just felt tired. I’d be thinking: if I can just get rid of the achiness, then I’ll be fine. Or, if I can just get the house clean or get that work project done…whatever it is, if I can just get to the other side of it, then I’ll be happy. Then, I’ll know what it means to live a peaceful life.
dirty-dishes-sink-home-mess-590jn121610But my grown-up self knows better. She knows that the stuff never stops coming, and she always has some pains, or cleaning up to do, or rearranging in her life. She also knows there’s joy hidden in the stuff. For example, my sore feet are the product of a long family walk yesterday. The dirty pan comes from the delicious dinner we shared, and the laundry piles are my daughter’s task, as she settles back in from a semester away. These potentially discouraging circumstances are joy’s tracks in my life.
When we are able to see through the circumstances to that greater meaning, then they aren’t so heavy any more. I’m going to scrub that pan and get on with my day. How about you?

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 20 – Grace, part one

Frederick Buechner on grace:
After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody’s much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.
Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good works or bring about your own birth.
A good sleep is great and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 21 – Grace, part two

Buechner continues:

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. The grace of God means something like: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”
There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.

A dear friend of mine speaks of “ridiculous grace” in her life: through the struggles there’s beauty and wisdom and laughter and love all folded in. Buechner’s reflections on grace illustrate how ridiculously wonderful it is.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 22 – Oh, what a beautiful morning

 

beautiful mornin'In the musical “Oklahoma” Curly, the lead character, reflects on his world and sings, “I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” We all have days like that, and days when we wake up and wonder how we’ll get through. On those days when it’s all we can do to just take it as it comes, gratitude is key. If we can slow down and be very deliberate about recognizing the things that are going well in our lives, our attitude can change.
For example, yesterday I was on the highway and my mind was somewhere else, thinking about my destination. Then, it dawned on me that every time I step on the accelerator, the car moves forward in a miracle of engineering and physics. What a gift to use my car, without a thought for the mechanics involved, and transport myself to where I need to be.
Let’s pay attention to the miracle machines that help us, like the light that comes on with the flick of a switch, or the technology that carries the cheery voice of a friend in sound or text. As we take it as it comes, let’s be grateful for the means by which it’s delivered to us. As we look back over the day, we can see how a string of little miracles brought everything our way.

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 23 – Try a different path

CCL sunsetMy daughter and I were leaving the YMCA last night. The building is at the top of a small hill. I usually take the same entrance in and out of the parking lot, but for some reason we went out a different way. As we turned westbound, an amazing sunset blazed ahead in the most vibrant magenta I have ever seen. My daughter said, “Let’s go to the park!” As it happened, our spontaneous turn had us on the road to the park, and we drove right into that beautiful color all the way to the lakeside. We hustled out of the car to see the sun set over the water, and who should appear but two dear friends who were there for the same reason! We laughed and hugged.
As the last of the colors faded from the sky, I was grateful to have paid attention to life. We shared a beautiful spontaneous moment with friends, and soaked in a glorious sunset, all because we turned away from our usual route. That path would’ve taken us to the bottom of the hill, where the colors were lost.
If we loosen up our schedules a bit, who knows where the road will lead us?

Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

Mary and May the 4th: Preview Everyday Inspired – May 2014 Now!

May 1 – May Day

Mary Mother Heart w rosaryMay first in the Catholic tradition honors Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the Celtic tradition, this is the celebration of Belrane, the halfway point between the equinox and the summer solstice. Mary’s witness and the coming of spring remind us that there’s life even in the midst of darkness and loss. It’s easy to lose hope during the dark days of winter, and to wonder what will come of this fallow time. Particularly this year, as the winter was exceptionally brutal for many of us. When spring arrives, it renews our hope.
Mary faced a number of great sorrows and times of confusion. In Luke’s Gospel we read that Mary held all these things in her heart as she watched Jesus grow up and observed the events of his life. There were times when she didn’t understand all that was going on, and times when she felt great pain. As a wise woman of faith, she trusted that the understanding would be revealed at some point.
It’s like the life of spring that’s hidden under the cold winter ground. During winter, we hold the question in our hearts, as Mary did: we hold the pain and confusion in the hopes that one day the answer will be revealed. On this glorious first day of May, let’s celebrate the changing of the seasons, and how spring comes even when we can’t see it. If you’re in a part of the country that’s not experiencing the fullness of spring yet, take heart: It’s on its way. Let’s celebrate the deep knowledge that no matter what is going on in our lives, new life will come of it, and one day we’ll understand.
Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 2 – It’s a Mary thing

While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11: 27-28

Mary and I have a thing going on. My name, Maria, springs from the date of my birth, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. My middle name “Regina,” sealed the deal. As my spiritual life has grown, I’ve gotten to know Mary more closely and deeply as an intercessor and as a friend. And certainly as a fellow mother.
When I first read this gospel passage, it stung a little bit. When the woman in the crowd said, “Blessed is your mother,” And Jesus said, “No, blessed are those that hear the Word of God and observe it,” I hurt for my friend Mary. But then I realized that Jesus was just doing what she’d taught him to do.
In motherhood we learn, over time, that as we prepare this young life to live in the fullness of whom God created him or her to be, we learn that it really isn’t about us as mothers. It’s about their lives. Oftentimes we project onto our kids what we would have them do, and see the way our kids behave we as a reflection on us: “If I were a better mom, they wouldn’t have pulled that.” Or maybe they don’t go to church and we wonder, “How did I fail?”
As mothers, we did the best we could with the information and resources we had available to us at the time. At some point, we are called to gently and lovingly release these children to God, trusting that they’ll make good choices, and when they don’t, that they’ll find their way back—not necessarily to what we would have them do, but to God’s will for their lives.
Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 3 – It’s not about Mary

Jesus’ message was, “No, it’s not about my mom. It’s about all those who hear the Word of God and observe it.” His mother was the first among Christians to do just that. Mary’s whole life pointed the way to God. It wasn’t about Mary; it was about being the instrument of God so that God might be brought more fully into the world. Her perspective is sung in the beautiful Magnificat, prayed when she visited her cousin, Elizabeth. That prayer is a statement of true humility.
We might think of humility as pushing away a compliment, or somehow diminishing ourselves. Someone says, “I love that blouse!” and we reply, “Oh, this old thing; Got it at a resale shop.” We push it aside instead of simply saying, “Thank you.”
photo (17)When Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, the baby in her womb leaps for joy. Elizabeth throws her arms around Mary and says, “Blessed am I that the mother of our Lord would come visit me.” Mary doesn’t say, “Aw shucks, forget about it.” Mary says, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior. He has looked on me in my lowliness, and all ages to come will call me blessed.”
Well, who does this little girl from Nazareth think she is? She proclaims: “All ages to come will call me blessed,” but not in the spirit of: “Am I the bomb, or what?” She says it in praise: “Look what God has done for me!? So of course all ages to come will call me blessed!”
It’s the opposite of a diva. The term “diva” is everywhere these days. The diva performers, when they get on stage, it’s not about their music or the incredible voice they’ve been gifted with. It’s really about how hard they’re working up on the stage to bring it to you. Well, it’s not about how hard the diva is working—it’s about the tremendous talent they have. It’s about them, to the extent that their caring for and developing the talent. But get out of the way. It’s not about you—it’s about what God would do in this moment.
Mary was all over that. Mary was no diva. Mary was about how God was doing great things in her and for her and through her. All praise to God, because God’s the source of it all, and it’s coming through her, and going right back to God. That’s what Mary’s about.
Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 4 – Star Wars day

“May the Fourth be with you.” (Get it!?) My daughter is a huge fan (and I have to admit so am I). We watched, again, Revenge of the Sith, which tells the pivotal story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, a central character in the Star Wars saga.
anakin_skywalker_7Revenge of the Sith is a very sad movie. Handsome, talented Anakin is seduced into a dark and destructive way of life through his own anger and ambition. At one point, my daughter paused the movie and said, “You know, Mom, sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.”
I mused on that thought for the rest of the movie and saw, in the arc of the Star Wars saga, the same struggle in our own lives and in the history of humanity. Sometimes we feel that the darkness is too powerful, and we feel hopeless or wonder how good could possibly come from painful or sad situations. Yet, history shows us that new life can come from apparent death. It’s also the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, mirrored in our own life’s cycle of dying and rising. At any given moment we are somewhere in the process. Our faith assures us that the dark will give way to the light, good can come of evil, and spring will be born from winter’s chill.
Think about where you are in the cycle. In that awareness, remember: this too shall pass. May the force be with you.
Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

May 5 – She taught him well

Mary points us to relationship with God, and with her son. Mary, as all good mothers do, was the first example in Jesus’ life of what it meant to turn it all over to God. That little boy saw in that woman the complete surrender, the complete joy, and complete openness to God. In that witness, in his humanity, his divinity rose up and was lived to its fullest. Mary was the first example to Jesus.
Mary and baby JesusMary carried many mysteries in her heart as she raised that boy. Part of Mary’s witness for us is that her life circumstances didn’t change after she learned of Jesus’ coming. When the angel Gabriel told her of the miracle that would happen to her, she was already engaged to Joseph. She’d already planned to make a home, to raise a child. And so her life plans really didn’t change. And yet, she spoke that great “yes” that changed the world.
We are invited to live in the same spirit of yes. When we say yes to God, we may fear having to make some bold, dramatic, great change in our lives. Rather, we say yes right where we are. In that yes, our lives will be transformed. In that yes, the lives of everyone we meet will be touched, because we will be living out of our love of God. We are invited to be that through which the life of God flows into this world, so that love, compassion, healing, mercy, joy, and peace will be more fully revealed. Mary knew that deep joy, she lived out of that deep joy, and she held these great mysteries in her heart. And she taught her son well.
Consider:
What invitation is here for me, today?
Today I am grateful for:
My intention for today is:
My to-do list for today includes:

For your Valentines, love in a way that shows you’re paying attention

Valentine heartsHappy Valentine’s Day

Talk of true love reminds me of the terrific movie Phenomenon starring John Travolta and Kyra Sedgwick. She plays Lace, a beautiful, enigmatic single mom living in a small town. She’s struggling to make ends meet, and is fiercely independent. She’s also an artist who crafts huge, gangly chairs out of driftwood. There are several suitors who try to win her affection, and Travolta’s character, George, finally breaks through.

One of the men in town, who’d doggedly pursued her, is puzzled by this. He asks why the other guy got the girl. The wizened Doc Brunder, played by Robert Duvall, replies, “He bought her chairs.”

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on how we love the people who are important to us. Are we trying to tell them that we love them in a way that is meaningful for us, or are we expressing our love in a way that shows we’re paying attention? Real love challenges us to know our beloved well enough to give to them in truly meaningful ways.

I think God loves us this way. God created us to be who we are, and loves us in personal ways. If we pay attention, we will experience that love. It might be a song that comes on the radio, or a happy coincidence, or a beautiful sunset. God chuckles with delight when we notice. We’re invited to love others in the same way.

On Valentine’s Day we may be thinking “What’s in it for me?” Perhaps instead we can consider what’s important to our beloved. Let’s love at least one other person that way, honoring and celebrating their unique selves. And let’s love ourselves this way, too. For me, that will include watching a good movie!

Consider:

What invitation is here for me, today?

Today I am grateful for:

My intention for today is:

My to-do list for today includes:

Based on a true, true story

This week we’ve been reflecting on the movie The Impossible. It is based on a true true story. I use the word twice because often we hear the claim “based on a true story” and lots of liberties are taken with the story in the final depiction. But this movie is very true to the actual events.

The Belan Family’s incredible story of survival during the 2004 tsunami in Thailand is powerfully recreated in the 2012 movie The Impossible. There are at least two meanings behind that title, both of which reflect realities in our lives.

First, who would have imagined getting hit by a tsunami? As the family planned and packed for vacation, surely this possibility never crossed their minds. On the plane, Henry the father asks Maria his wife several times if the alarm has been set back home. This was his last worry, released before he relaxed into vacation. Experience tells us that we can prepare for some emergencies, like getting your house broken into, but a tsunami? We might ponder it a moment and dismiss it as “impossible!”

Secondly, all 5 family members survived and are reunited. This happened during a catastrophe where one-quarter of a million people perished, and over $450 million dollars in property damage occurred. The skeptic within says “that’s impossible!”

Through the camera’s lens, we share in the dramatic coincidences which bring the family back together, often crossing paths with mere seconds of an opening to hear or see each other. “Amazing,” you might say, even “impossible.”

I’d venture to say that our lives are filled with these “impossible” moments—challenges of loss and sorrow, gifts of reconciliation and connection. Perhaps watching this beautifully-crafted movie provides a first step in reflecting on our own lives and the impossible moments we’ve experienced. What has happened in your life that seemed so huge it would never be survived? How did you make it through? Who were the people who helped you make it? And who made the effort worthwhile?

After you watch the movie, please let me know if you find other meanings hidden in the title!

Listen to internet radio with Maria Rodgers ORourke on BlogTalkRadio

Not “Why?” but “What for?”

Our question today is not “Why?”, but “What for?”

That’s how Simon, the youngest member of the family featured in the movie The Impossible frames the question. The Impossible tells the true story of his family’s survival of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.

His mother, Maria, shared his wisdom during an interview with Katie Couric. As they discussed the harrowing events of the tsunami, Maria admitted that there were moments when she wanted to die. And yet, as she moved through the catastrophe, she was surprised at the spirit that rose up in her. She even assured Katie that, looking at the story from the outside, you might be tempted to say, “Oh, I would just give up.” But, she said, you’d be surprised at the strength that comes during that experience.

She survived when literally hundreds of thousands of people did not. Katie asked her if she experienced any guilt about that survival. Maria said certainly the guilt was there, because you ask the question “Why?” Why me? Why did I survive when other people did not?

Simon, the youngest of her crew, suggested to his mom that they look at it a little differently.  Rather than saying “Why?”, to ask the question, “What for?” We’ve survived: what for? What a beautiful, heartfelt and open way to reframe that question.

We would be wise to apply this wisdom to all the losses in our lives as well.  As we go through a loss, especially when a plan or how we thought things were going to go and then life throws us a curve, there’s this space that is created. There’s this emptiness that says, “Well, I thought I was going to be doing this, but instead, what do I do?” As we acknowledge that loss and the space that has been created, we certainly need to grieve the loss and allow ourselves the time to heal, and to “fold” that loss into our lives as Marlo Thomas once said.

But Simon and the incredibly inspirational story of The Impossible invite us to not stay stuck in the “why”: Why did I lose this? Why did this happen to me? Why didn’t things go differently? And instead we’re invited to reframe that loss around the question of “what for?” When we ask that question, some really marvelous opportunities and possibilities open up for us. And that’s new life, and that’s what can come for us after a loss.

So, what do you say? Let’s notice together the blessings in life. When we pay attention like this, marvelous things happen. Let’s live Everyday Inspired!

Listen to internet radio with Maria Rodgers ORourke on BlogTalkRadio

The hidden gifts in service to others

In serving others, we think we’re doing the giving. But what we gain far outweighs the cost.

Recently I worked with a group of retired adults who gave 2 days a week in service to people who lived in poverty or with limited means. These volunteers were engaged in the third stage of life—after career and family—and looking to make a difference. Through their months of commitment, for many their experience shifted from giver to recipient. As they opened their hearts and minds to the people they served, they were humbled to know that even in the starkest or seemingly hopeless circumstances, their simple presence made a difference.

Lucas, the eldest son in the family portrayed in the movie The Impossible, learns this truth in the midst of disaster. His mother, lying in a hospital bed after the tsunami, unable to move due to a serious leg injury, encourages Lucas to go out into the hospital and help. The scene is grimy chaos as the facility is overwhelmed with tsunami survivors. Maria, his mother, tells him, “Lucas, go and help people. You’re good at it.” He steps out of his fear and helps reunite at least two children with their fathers, which also happens to be the deep wish he holds for himself.

Today we may not be struggling to survive in post-tsunami circumstances, but there will be chances to serve, opportunities to step out of our comfort and be present to another. May we move with the impulse to help, and bring light and hope to another’s life. That light will shine a bit on us as well. As Ralph Waldo Emerson reflected: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Listen to internet radio with Maria Rodgers ORourke on BlogTalkRadio

 

Musing on The Impossible: the vulnerable parent

Spending a week musing on one movie carries with it an implicit recommendation to see the movie. Of course I encourage you to see The Impossible, but I also caution that there are “intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images” to quote the Motion Picture Association of America.

The film follows closely the events when Maria and her son Lucas are reunited after a tsunami hits their Southeast Asian resort on December 26, 2004. They’re wounded and separated from the rest of their family. Their journey takes them through the wreckage to a tiny village then on to a grimy hospital overwhelmed with survivors.

As I watched Maria’s struggle, and 13-year-old Lucas’s attempts to help her, there were painful moments of weakness for Maria. No parent should have to go through this, I kept thinking; to be so vulnerable, when the child needs you to be strong. It broke my heart imagining the sorrow she must have felt to be so dependent on her son and others at a time when she’d want to protect him from further harm.

I suspect most parents want to be strong and all-knowing and in control of their faculties at all times for their children. I know I thought that was what parenting meant. Now that I’ve been at it for about 20 years, I know that some of my best moments, and strongest bonds with my girls, came at times when I needed their help, or needed their counsel, or my absence called them to rise to the occasion and be braver, smarter, and stronger than they thought they’d be (to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh).

As Maria struggles to heal, Lucas learns much about courage, and the satisfaction that comes through service to others. He also experiences the deep pain of separation and the exultation of reunion. Lucas learned what he was made of, something he may never have grasped if mommy was perfectly loving, strong, and protective all along.

As parents, or in any nurturing or mentoring role, may we be brave enough to be weak—to let our vulnerable selves be not a weakness but an opportunity for those growing along with us, watching our example.

Listen to internet radio with Maria Rodgers ORourke on BlogTalkRadio

Movie Musing: The Impossible

The Impossible

Our Everyday Inspired moments this week will be inspired by the movie The Impossible. Released in 2012, it tells the true story of one family ripped apart by the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in late December 2004.

The movie is a testament to the importance of appreciating life and our loved ones, to not taking one moment for granted. And, there are several beautiful teachings in the movie to reflect on this week with Everyday Inspired.

Today’s topic: raw, profound gratitude.

Maria, her husband, and 3 sons were vacationing on an island in Southeast Asia when the tsunami hit. The water’s force tore apart their family and the resort where they were staying. Maria is reunited with Lucas, her oldest son, and they slowly and painfully make their way to a small village, whose people eventually get them to a hospital. Maria has been seriously wounded in her right leg and has lost a lot of blood. In one scene, she comes to consciousness surrounded by the women of the village, who clean her face and put a fresh shirt on her. The tank top she’d been wearing was badly torn. As the women help her into the short sleeved button up top, Maria collapses into one woman’s arms, sobbing. She’s crying for several reasons—the enormity of the ordeal, her pain, fear, exhaustion, and grief. Yet as she sobs, she whispers over and over, “Thank you.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you. When so much is lost, she is profoundly grateful for this simple act of kindness. Clearly, from the style of vacation they’d been enjoying, this was a family of means. And in an instant, all that was taken away. Yet, in that moment of crushing loss, her heart weeps in gratitude.

I wonder, as we move through our day: Are we busy tallying the losses and near misses, or are we able to find one shred of reason to be thankful? Which one we use as our starting point—loss or gratitude—will make all the difference.

Listen to internet radio with Maria Rodgers ORourke on BlogTalkRadio