Do You Believe In Magic?

We are like someone in a very dark night over whom lightning flashes again and again.” – Maimonides

I just finished watching the first three seasons of Arrested Development. The impending change where the show would no longer be available on Netflix finally got me to watch this hilarious and highly -recommended (well, the first three seasons were touted as worth watching) show.

In the show, the eldest brother, Gob, is a magician. A ham-handed, totally inept so his tricks never work, kind of magician. But somehow his character in this show works with all the other characters to make magic of the worth-watching variety.

Do you believe in magic? I mean really believe in magic so that when it comes to getting your deepest desires, something will step in and help along the way?

I don’t. I believe in a lot of things that create magic – being present, finding joy, and counting my blessings to name a few habits that keep me more or less delighted with my life.

And I believe in listening to my inner voice – my God voice or intuition, and then following it. I believe in a Higher Power that I am so grateful to for that inner voice that points me in ways that are bigger and better than I could imagine on my own.

But I think all the work to make life happen is up to me. I don’t think magic will save me, or give me huge leaps to skip over all the steps.

However, I have the feeling that I’m wrong. I have the feeling that magic is happening all around but just on a different pace so that it seems undetectable. Before you think I’ve gone over the bend from watching too many Disney movies (which might also be true), just bear with me.

The other day I was frustrated with a friend – I’d reach a limit of too many bids for connection that had gone unanswered. I’d been totally fine with that for a while because my friend has a lot going on right now but it had reached a tipping point where my heart was starting to feel sore. I was just thinking that I needed to quietly close this door between us when my friend, completely unbidden by me or aware of what I was thinking, sent me a gift.

On Monday, I was working alone at home on a day with no meetings when I suddenly felt disconnected from life around me. I walked to the grocery store, Pictures of You from the Cure was playing on the overhead speakers. As I was dancing down the aisles connecting to memories of my college days, I ran into an old friend.

Or this morning my skin was feeling itchy like it couldn’t stand one more day of winter clothes, and I opened the window to see the blossoms on the tree out front had shown up like magic overnight. (see featured photo)

And my final example is right in this moment when I realized this post, that I thought was completely unconnected to my Wise & Shine post this morning Fear and Courage, is actually completely related in the way that when we acknowledge we are scared, lonely, or fed up, help arrives.

If our lives were a tv show like Arrested Development, the magic would probably be easy to see. But since life doesn’t work that way, it’s up to us to see the magic.

The Magic Kingdom

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” – W. B. Yeats

I watch a lot of Disney movies these days and I’ve noticed there is always a pause before the magic kicks in and works. Like in Beauty and the Beast, Belle comes back to the castle and the Beast is fighting off Gaston and is gravely injured. Belle goes to him on the terrace and says, “I love you” just as the last petal falls from the flower that held the magic of the curse that turned him into a beast.

Everyone thinks its too late and Belle is crying over his crumpled form…until the magic lifts him up and transforms him into back into a prince.

As I notice the pattern, it makes me think about magic in our lives – and that the pause is of indeterminate length and certainly of a length that we can’t predict. For example, establishing a gratitude practice. My kids and I made gratitude boxes, little boxes to slip the things we are grateful for on a daily basis. But starting that practice and feeling the magical onset of a good mood of the soul isn’t instantaneous.

And the same goes with blogging. It’s not like we write our first blog, and then instantly we’ve perfected our style, know what we want to write about and are surrounded by supportive blogging buddies. It takes time to find our sweet spot and build our WordPress community.

Ditto for passion and love. And everything else where we step forward and then life meets us.

So I know what you’re thinking – none of these examples involves any the special juju as depicted in a Disney movie. There are simply hard work and time.

But I think there is magic involved. It’s magical that we find our way to the things that work for us. And beautiful that we get enough to keep us at it. That we open just long enough for someone else to be open and see us. The magic is in that it can happen in the time between when I open and you close.

It’s magical that when we risk, we open ourselves up to opportunity. When we make ourselves vulnerable enough to be seen, that someone else comes along to hold us is rare and then we tell the stories to inspire others to do the same and we get those tingles all over again.

In The Princess and the Frog, the prince gets turned into a frog by a voodoo man. Then he kisses Tiana because he thinks she is a princess, but she isn’t and they both end up as frogs. [SPOILER ALERT – I’m going to tell the ending here.] After a Disney movie length adventure of making friends and finding out what is truly meaningful, they fall in love, give up their human dreams and get married. Once they do, Tiana becomes a princess because she married a prince, albeit in frog form. The prince kisses her and they both turn back to human.

They stop struggling to be what they thought they wanted and just love each other as they are – only to get it back again. The magic of life.

The secret is in the waiting through the moments where all seems lost, holding the faith for as long as it takes for the magic to work which will likely be longer than the pause in a Disney movie. The magic is in believing it will still happen even as we wait. And then, when it does happen, seeing it as one whole story and telling it to others so they too will last through the wait.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Touch of the Divine

Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

My kids and I went to my friend’s new condo for a dinner party last night. I got the kids settled with the paper that I brought for them and then realized I’d dropped the markers in the car. My friend’s place is a 4th floor walk up so I left the kids with her, went down to the car and realized when I got there that the kids had left the inner dome light in the back of the car switched on. I thought “Thank God I had to come down for the markers. Otherwise, I could have returned to the car on a dark night in a hurry to get the kids to bed and found a dead battery.” That touch of the Divine made the four flights of steps going back up lighter.

Then my 6-year-old daughter needed a brown and yellow marker because the set I brought didn’t have those. I asked our host who said that all of her art supplies were still in boxes but we could open the box nearest to us that said “Art supplies” on it and check. We cut open the box. Right there on top in a neatly bundled and organized cup was her beautiful set of markers. “Wow, thank you Universe!” she exclaimed. I got a shiver.

I cyclically float between being at times easily able to see what God is doing in my life and in the other times, thinking I’m in charge. It’s a flow that I go back and forth on during any given day, week or month. Often seeing the Divine hand hinges on what I’m talking about and with whom I’m talking.

Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:20) Which I broadly observe in my life as those around us can help us uncover the magic in our existence. I’ve been doing some work with the church that my dad used to lead. The staff there often says about fortuitous events, “It was a God thing.”

I was going to write something else for my blog post this morning but for that touch of the Divine last night. Not only is it beautiful to see the hand of God, even in little things like markers, but it is fun. On this dark morning when I’m fresh from sleep and quiet meditation, I’m inspired to pass the spark of mystery and magic along.

Day of the Dead

At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.” – Sandi Lynn

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dear dad lately. Not surprising since today is the Day of the Dead and next week is the 7th anniversary of when he got on his bike one sunny afternoon, collided with a car and died suddenly.

In his eulogy, my brother said about my dad, “He met you where you were without leaving where he was.” Which rang so true that I’m still in awe of it. As a pastor, my dad stood with so many others in times of crisis and grief – tragedies, accidents, divorces, mistakes. He had this way of being non-judgmentally empathetic without leaving his beliefs or values behind.

When I asked him about it, he said, “Let’s face it, everyone is on their own journey and we don’t get to see everyone at the top of their game.  Some are just getting started.  We only get a glimpse of them at one point in time, some maybe longer, and our job is to love them so they move forward, closer to the Lord and closer to those God has placed in their lives.”

And then my dad added a bit about what an honor his job had been, “One of the unique things about ministry is that you are able to be with people in some of the most precious, important, holy moments of their life . . . birth, death, baptism, marriage, funeral, crisis. A pastor steps in to the middle of someone’s life at those unique times and that is pretty rare.”

There’s something magical that has happened in the years since his death. Our conversation has continued. Maybe because we talked so much about his life before he died or maybe just because we loved each other so much, but there are moments when I feel him “just beyond the veil” as he put it.

And the more it happens, the more I think about what he’d advise, the more he becomes entwined and embodied in me. Our relationship has not ended at all, it’s just become even more true that he meets me where I’m at without leaving where he’s at.

The Magic Within

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” – W.B. Yeats

Yesterday I picked up a board book that I used to read my daughter in her youngest years and read it to my toddler. I hadn’t read it in years since my 6-year-old daughter has moved on to more complex plot lines. As I read the beautifully illustrated pages, I was inspired by the words that seem to me to be part poetry and part prayer for the sacred inner child. They brought back that feeling of infinite possibility and boundless love that came with each of my kids as they were handed to me in the hospital. Here is part of The Crown On Your Head:

With your crown made of glittering, high-flying things,
you’ve got wind in your pocket, your wishes have wings.

You can run like you mean it…so, let the wind blow…
There’s just no telling how high you can go!

Whatever it is you choose to do, no one can do it exactly like you.
Ride on the big slide! And if you fall down, remember your glorious, marvelous crown.

It won’t flicker or fade. It won’t dim. It won’t leave.

Do you, my child? I hope that you do.
The world is a wonderland waiting for you.

And you get to share it with all your friends, too!
They each have a crown that is faithful and true.

No one’s is brighter, no one’s is duller.
It’s only a crown of a different color.

So sometimes, just every now and then, whisper “I believe” again.

Your crown is your best friend forever, by far.
It tells the true story of just who you are.

That’s why every night, when I put you to bed,
I’m careful to kiss the crown on your head.

The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman

And I wondered, when did I stop believing in this about me? I don’t mean that in a self-pitying way but in a way that has forgotten that there is a sacred inner child within me.

It strikes me that somewhere in the transition between my parents wishes for the beautiful life I would have and coming to care for myself, I have mastered the practicalities but forgotten the magic. And while I am more or less fine with that because I get along well enough, I wouldn’t wish that same pragmaticism-only for my kids.

And beyond my kids, is it possible for me to recognize the magic in you if I don’t recognize the magic in me? There has to be a maxim here that if I’m moved enough when I read it to my kids because I have witnessed their magic then I must believe it just a little bit – otherwise why read it at all?

There must be a way that doesn’t leave them narcissistic, spoiled or entitled to remind my kids of the magic inside them. Believing in our inner magic doesn’t mean we won’t do our chores and go to work, but possibly we’ll whistle more and find deeper joy when we do. Or hopefully we’ll listen to our own inspiration more if we do.

I’m considering reading this board book to them at tough moments all the way until they are 52 years old and beyond if I happen to be on the planet. If it reminds me of the flame of possibility that burns within me for as long as I live and love, all the better.

Parenting Review

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

As my daughter celebrates turning 6 this week, I thought some introspection of what six years as a parent has done to me would be fitting. This very demanding job has filled my heart with wonder at the design and spirit of children who are learning machines that laugh so much while they tackle some impressive skills. Here are some of the marks parenting has left on me:

Being a mother has made me a better daughter because I see more clearly how we ride on the shoulders of the people we come from and we write our stories based on the characters they were.

Helping little people manage their emotions has made me better at emotional Aikido because I’ve learned not to block feelings but instead move their energy past me.

Seeing the unmarred canvass of babies has made me want to be a better human because I want to heal all my wounds and oddities so I don’t pass them along.

Witnessing the miracle of birth and children has strengthened my faith because I’ve seen that so much is outside of my control and I don’t have the time or energy to worry about it.

Creating a home with children has helped me understand what the comfort of a home is beyond cozy blankets and soft pillows. It’s the place where we unpack all our junk and sort it out with those that love us so that we don’t have to carry it with us anymore.

Raising children has made me a better citizen because I can see who is inheriting this country and earth.

Finally, becoming a parent has made me a way worse friend (because I can only listen to half of sentence without being interrupted), a terrible house cleaner and poor editor (because I only have time to write) but I’m hoping those are correctable over time.

The one last thing is something that encapsulates all the ups and downs and particulars. On one level, I wanted to have a family and because I was single and old (for motherhood), went to a fertility clinic, underwent IVF treatment and had a baby. But bigger than that, I had a dream and I began it. Now I see the power of taking a leap – the Universe does in fact make it happen.

Put Down the Controls

Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.” – Jacqueline Winspear

The other night I went in to check my toddler in his crib before I went to bed. I slipped in and the movement awakened him. I heard him sit up and roll over so I stood there motionless until I thought he’d settled back down. I knew it wasn’t long enough for him to really fall back asleep but I stepped out anyway, too exhausted after walking 17,849 steps while caring for two children all day to stand there any longer. And he started crying. He was upset because of something I did and I was too exhausted to do anything about it but to silently curse myself.

As I listened to him crying through the wall, I had this moment when I realized that I’ve created no space for the Divine in my parenting. That is to say, I think everything is my responsibility and my fault. When I delivered each of these two miracles, there was no denying that they were these perfect gifts from God but then I’ve taken the job and responsibility of a parent so seriously that I have forgotten I’m not in control.

I’ve come so far in the other areas of my life to have faith and to see how everything comes together for good. My dad dies and then in the same year my daughter is born. A project is delayed because of a reorganization at the client company and then I have time when the request comes in from my favorite non-profit to help with their technology. I’ve started see this beautiful symphony of how it all works out. I’ve relaxed into trusting the Divine hand in the flow of life and so even when I don’t understand, I’ve learned patience to find out the why that will reveal itself sooner or later. I’ve let go of a lot of control and in return seen the give and take of this beautiful mystery of life.

But parenting and the fun, funny and tough moments and the mistakes I make while being in charge, I take so personally. In my enthusiasm to do a great job, I have completely forgotten that enthusiasm means “with God”. I made the choice so intentionally to become a single parent, I forgot that is only in this dimension but if I look higher, I have a partner in this most important and meaningful job.

My dad had this phrase, “You have to care less without being careless.” He was talking about golf. But his years as a pastor infused a wisdom that overlaid most everything he said. In this game of life, I need to relax my grip and care a little less about parenting so that God can help me swing everything.

My son cried after I woke him up for only a minute or two. It was long enough to have this epiphany. Like magic that challenges our assumptions about what we know and see, the Universe used that moment of exhaustion and disappointment to startle me out of my insistence that I am in control.

Let the Magic Begin

She quietly expected great things to happen to her, and no doubt that’s one of the reasons why they did.” – Zelda Fitzgerald

My 5-year-old lost her second tooth last night. I had no idea of the celebrity of the tooth fairy until this one came out. Because of course the first one is going to be a big deal but the second one? Every bit as big of a deal.

She sat down right away to write the tooth fairy a note, front pictured above. Here’s the translation:

To the Tooth Fairy: How do you make sure that kids brush their teeth? How many dollars are you going to give me? You are the best!  Can you give me 2 toys and money too? 20 dollars please. One toy is for my brother.

I found myself trying to talk her down from the expectations of the note. Our neighbor got $20 for a tooth, I assume because she didn’t lose her first one until she was 7 ½ years-old or at least that’s the explanation I give to that extraordinary sum. The Delta Dental website says the average for our area is $5.46 which I still think is high. And the toys – my daughter heard a rumor from another kid that some kid somewhere asked for toys from the tooth fairy…and got them!

In the midst of trying to talk her into realistic expectations, I decided to stop. Who says we are supposed to be realistic? And while her asking for gifts from the tooth fairy kinda put me off, I think it’s a little bit of a bias in me that girls aren’t supposed to ask for what they want.

For me this speaks to the heart of magic, praying and belief. Is it supposed to be limited by what we think is achievable? Or do we go all out and all in and ask away like Agnes Sanford said in the post I wrote about writing that has inspired me? Is there a heart of a 5-year-old in me that believes, really believes that magic can happen if I completely commit to setting my dreams BIG?

Yes, there is. So the Tooth Fairy is keeping that note. And decided to give $5 for the tooth and $5 so she can buy a toy for her brother. Let the magic begin….

The Magic of Sleep

We are like someone in a very dark night over whom lightning flashes again and again.” – Maimonides

I overslept! Instead of waking two hours before my kids get up as I do almost every other day of the year, I woke up 30 minutes after. I had been awake in the middle of the night worrying about how to keep my kids entertained and cool in the heat wave that is enveloping the Pacific NW and then I went to back to sleep for hours.

There’s a Buddha quote – “sleep is the best meditation.” In this phase of life with young children, I understand that more than ever. I go to bed feeling all the grime of the day and awaken feeling all the possibility. I go to bed with worries and doubts and awaken with faith that I can tackle them. I go to bed struggling to understand what I’ve learned and awaken with one more page of my story written.

When I finally woke up this morning, no one was crying or upset and instead we were all rested. Maybe the best proof that there is God helping us through this life is experienced when my eyes are closed and my brain is quiet. I lose the certainty of it every day, only to discover it again each night.