It’s the faith that can move mountains, because the love is so fierce.
It is faith shockingly unafraid to walk through the valley of death if the trek can make certain their son or daughter stays alive.
Mothers go without to ensure that their children never do.
And while they know better than anyone else how to go for the jugular, over their dead body will they ever let someone ELSE cut you to the quick.
No, there is NOTHING so powerful as a mother’s love.
It is Mothers Day and I think of all the moms who are both mom AND dad (like my mom had to be.) I wonder what it must have been like for my mom to realize her daughter had a dream to go to college (no one in our family ever had) and to muster up the faith to say yes.
My heart pains for those mothers who have lost babies…or any child of any age.
And I think of those of us who never had the privilege of being a mom.
Funny, I never really gave it a thought in my twenties and thirties or even my forties. But now that that ship has TRULY sailed, I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I had been someone’s mom.
What a privilege!
And what potential heartache.
There’s just no guarantee how it is all going to turn out, is there? Which is yet another example of the faith involved with this most holy calling.
When I lost my Toastmaster’s speech competition a few weeks ago, I was honored to watch my friend, Bryan Courtenay, win. He delivered his personal redemption story, which began in a dirty bathroom. The main character was slumped over the toilet bowl after securing his fix. In the next scene, he paints the picture of his mother banging on the window of a car, trying to revive that young man who had overdosed. It ends in prison, and the photo of a dead-eyed man’s mug shot.
As he unveiled the mug shot, to the gasps of the audience (who didn’t realize he was speaking about himself the whole time), my eyes were on his mother. She wept through the entire presentation.
Even as I type this, my eyes well with tears for the pain she endured…
…but I bet she’d endure every second of that pain again for the beautiful outcome she now enjoys.
The faith of our mothers, or those who have been like mothers to us, has likely sustained each of us in ways we’d be overwhelmed to see.
Perhaps in heaven a video reel will play showing the number of times their prayers, and tears, tipped the balances, empowered angels on our behalf, and forestalled tragedy.
Moms who taxied us to rehearsals or sporting events. Who dug deep and shelled out for those designer jeans or sneakers we HAD to have.
They made us eat our vegetables, say our prayers, clean our rooms and write thank you notes.
They cried with us, then cried some more on their own when our hearts were breaking.
For the nurture that comforted us and for all the maddening times as teenagers when we screamed “I hate you!” For the treasure of another Mothers Day spent in your presence…thank you for the gift of YOU.
And for the faith, which so beautifully worked by love, to bring us to this very day.
Happy Mothers Day to all! Here are my non-Mothers Day closing thoughts on FAITH, and a wonderful new WOW:
Ah! So yes, keep the faith – but don’t be stuck on HOW it is going to manifest.
It’s perfect that the week’s word, beauty, coincides with this planned post to honor my fabulous grandmother, aka Mom-Mom, on the week that would have marked her 111th birthday.
This is what I hope for; that, like my Mom-mom, my time on this earth would be so profound that over 100 years later it still warms the hearts of those I loved.
Edna Ernst Hartsell’s life was a tour de force. Long before independent women were in vogue, she was a career woman, and I still remember her lightening speed on an old, black manual typewriter, spitting out flawless pages (and making quite a racket!)
Many weekends of my youth were spent at her home on Ewan Terrace in Vineland, NJ so my parents could have date nights. We loved learning how to clean (really pretty sneaky, Mom-mom, getting us to think cleaning was fun) and playing jacks or paper dolls on the huge front porch, which was a great gathering place for all of the neighborhood kids.
The best visits were when my sister Shirlee and me were joined by the Shaw Kids, my cousins Johnny, Eddie, Bruce, Debbie and my beloved Kimmy. (I was the baby of the bunch, affectionately called Brendie for many years until FINALLY, Tiffy and Pammie showed up. By the way, do you see a trend? Everyone except Bruce had an “ee” sound at the end of their name. I wonder if he ever noticed that?)
On Friday night, it was pizzas and board games or those soft, snowflake rolls from Catto’s Bakery for perfect lunchmeat sandwiches and running around the perfectly coiffed yard to work off all of our carb and sugar-induced energy. Because my Pop-Pop, the oh-so-handsome Robert Hartsell, was deaf, he didn’t accompany Mom-Mom to many outings (or maybe he just preferred to stay home and garden or cook amazing meals), so I was often her “date” for weddings as well as Tupperware parties, baby showers and a regular calendar of church-related events.
On a road trip with Mom-Mom? You HAD to sing. A long car ride felt like a Broadway show starring rousing hymns like “S is for Sunday School.” There was the upbeat “Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul” and of course, “The Lord’s Army.” (These words are branded on my heart: I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery;I may never fly over land and sea but I’m in the Lord’s ar-my.) Mom-Mom’s signature sound was to sing the base-line, “bum-bum-bum” style, adding a bit of sass and fun to our rolling revue.
My Aunt Joan recalls that when my mother was born, Pop-Pop was on a Navy ship in California. Mom-Mom named my mom Dolores, a name she loved. A nurse came into her room at the hospital and asked what the baby’s name was. When she heard the answer, she gasped, “Do you want to bring sorrow to that child for the rest of her life?” Mom-Mom immediately sent out new birth announcements with the name Edna Elizabeth (her own name.) When Pop-Pop received the second notice, he thought they had had twins! He found out differently when he was able to call home.
But this does beg a question I wish to pose delicately: How could Edna be a better name than Dolores?
The name Edna is anything BUT beautiful. Yet because it belongs to my Mom-Mom, and my Mom, and my sister (thank you GOD not me), there is beauty in it.
Of course, my mom goes by Bette and my sister (Edna Shirlee) goes by Shirlee. Can’t imagine why.
Getting back to memories, during World War 2, Mom-Mom would can everything in sight. Every three months, Pop-Pop would have a weekend leave and would tend to a huge garden. The kids, Joan, Bette and Bobby, would weed it and the pantry would be stocked with green beans, peas, lima beans, corn, tomatoes, carrots and beets. She would even make sauerkraut and grape and strawberry jelly.
Money was tight, but Mom-Mom always managed to take Joan, Bette and Bobby on outings like the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philly. Recalls Aunt Joan, “We would get on the train in Lindenwold to Camden, then take the ferry across the Delaware to the foot of Chestnut Street. We’d walk up Chestnut to the Horn & Hardart restaurant where we could pick out anything for breakfast that we wanted. Mom would give us a handful of nickels and we would go hog wild in the machines. A whole breakfast back then was maybe 25 cents. One year my grandmother was in the hospital on Broad Street, so we went to visit her after the parade and went back to H & H for our Thanksgiving dinner. This was WWII so Pop-Pop wasn’t home. We went back to Camden on the ferry and went to see Snow White at a theater in Camden.”
She continued that tradition of special outings with her grandchildren. Each year she’d take one of us to the big city, Philadelphia, to see the John Wanamaker’s light show.
No telling of Mom-Mom’s story could ignore two facets of her life: Her uncanny ability to coin a phrase and her staunch faith and loyalty to church on Sunday mornings.
If you’re ever at a loss for words, here are some Edna Hartsellism’s that perfectly say what you’re trying to convey:
Need a nap? She’d say “I think you need a bipinsy wook.” (For the uninformed, bipinsy is pronounced BIP-in-zee.)
How to describe a sourpuss? “She looks like she’s wearing a turd for a breast pin.”
Her reply to, “What’s for dinner?”: Layover for meddlers and crutches for lame ducks.
Hot outside? “I’m sweatin’ like a bull.”
Bored with “Go jump in the lake?” Try “Go flop your tonsils.”
Caught farting? Reply, “Better an empty house than a bad tenant.”
Did you clean your dinner plate? I’ll call King William your uncle!” was Mom-Mom’s high praise.
Poor table manners, “I can’t take you to the Bellevue Stratford.”
Reply to “Where are you going?” “I’m going to Manayunk.” (NOTE: We kids didn’t realize Manayunk was actually a real place; we just thought it was a funny word.)
Did something frustrating to Mom-Mom? She’d exclaim: “Help me God!!!!”
Did you really frustrate her to the point of evoking a less than Christian response? “Now you made me sin my soul!”
Gazing upward to consider the answer to a problem? “You won’t find it in the ceiling.”
See someone lazy? They’re “Sitting there like the bells that never rung.”
What do you call the array of treats at a bakery? “Shleck.”
And, whenever you called for her, she would reply from somewhere in the house: “WELL??”
Reading this list it is clear that Edna’s personality had a salty dose of sarcasm; however, her devotion to God and her church provided a sweet balance.
For those of us who spent the weekend, Saturday nights were spent watching Lawrence Welk. We’d pretend her bathrobe was a ball gown like the Lennon Sisters would wear. She’d let us dance on top of her feet around her living room with our hair tied up in rags so we’d have banana curls on Sunday morning for church.
Church was non-negotiable. She was the queen of Sunday School (which meant we always got starring parts in the Christmas concerts.) When passing the collection plate she’d warn, “Thou God See-est Me.” This was meant to dissuade us kids from copping some of the coins when everyone else’s eyes were closed. Getting ready for church, she would take her pot of rouge and put red circles on her cheeks like clown make up. My cousin Pammy would giggle and she’d blend it in.
I remember wading in the ocean with her one summer and saying, “Mom-Mom, who owns the ocean?”
When my sister went to see The Exorcist and I couldn’t sleep, afraid the devil was going to get me, I called her. “Mom-Mom, can I be possessed by the devil?”
“Not if Jesus lives in your heart.”
To this day, I remember how she would kneel beside her bed EVERY night to say her prayers OUT LOUD. I’d always listen, to see if I could get any good dirt on the family (and to make sure she didn’t forget me.)
I didn’t…and she didn’t.
Her prayers completed, she’d groan to the upright position and finally climb into bed, saying, “Thank you GOD for this bed.”
I do the same thing now.
Not the prayers part (sorry, Mom-Mom.) But the exhausted sigh of “Thank you GOD for the bed.” And I think of my sweet Mom-Mom every night as I lay my head on my pillow.
I’ve only scratched the surface here, but I think she is pleased at how her brood turned out. Joan and Bette and Bobby turned into wonderful parents and raised amazing children, many of whom have children of their own (and beyond.)
Not one of us escaped the impact of her life, and for that we are all grateful.
Now for our regularly scheduled parting thoughts on BEAUTY, and the new Word of the Week:
What I had faith for was that I should go to sleep and wake up when this birthday was over.
To look at the circumstances (which is never a great idea when it comes to faith), my life was in flux, my marriage over and the future uncertain.
Uncertainty, by the way, is the #1 culprit of fear…and since faith works by love, well you know where this story is heading…
…except I was love-bombed.
With each gesture of love, like a flat tire being inflated, so were my spirits.
First, a pre-birthday card from my mom, with a $10 bill to “go buy ice cream.” Thursday was like Christmas – every hour I got a call from the lobby desk saying, “We have a package for you, Ms. Viola…”
There are so many flowers in my apartment right now, I feel like Miss America, not Ms. Viola! (Thank you Renee and Steve and Roseann and Mike).
Cynthia is NOT a card person. But she knows that I am and she sent three awesome cards – two laugh out loud funny ones, and another tender one that prompted liquid to spill out of my eyes.
OK, I need to share this one with you:
Then Linda sent me a card that touched me so deeply I have to share the words with you:
THE OAK TREE
A might wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away,
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark
But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
“How can you still be standing, Oak?”
The oak tree said, “I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two,
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs and make me sway.
But I have roots stretched in the earth,
Growing stronger since my birth.
You’ll never touch them, for you see,
They are the deepest part of me.
Until today I wasn’t sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you,
I’m stronger than I ever knew.
I am writing this on Thursday night because another present is arriving. My friend Anita hopped on a plane today and she will be here with me all weekend. Vats of coffee, endless conversations, laughter and some tears comprise the agenda. And some Face-time with the rest of the Fab Four throughout our time together.
I am blessed. I am rich. I am not alone. I have faith for tomorrow.
Love wove a miracle, stitched my broken heart together and has given me the best birthday of my life.
Who’d have thunk it?
Prior to being love-bombed, I faced another form of faith that attempted to suck the wind out of my sails. Here’s more on that and the new WOW:
Never, ever, ever have I picked the word BEAUTY.
What a lovely word to begin a brand new year of my life.
When age 50 arrived, so did a swift quick to my soul that if my desire was to be free, only I had the key.
I admire (with a tinge of jealousy) those light-hearted youths in their 20’s and 30’s who figured this out without wasting decades running on a hamster wheel, hoping for someone else to show up on a white horse to save the day.
When it occurs to you that (a) No one is showing up to save the day and (b) Life doesn’t owe you anything and (c) You’d better get crackin’ if you want to start living the life of your dreams…
…it can be depressing. Especially if you dive down the black hole of “What about all that wasted time I’ll never get back?????!!!!!”
But is it wasted time if lessons were learned along the way?
Is it wasted time if, on the journey, you were able to love and be loved?
My life has been a series of Family Circle cartoon paths, rarely a straight line going from glory to glory. My trajectory features dark valleys and nonsensical detours along with entire decades I mistakenly thought I was moving forward, but instead completed a circle. Over and over again.
And today I find myself tempted with the anguished thought, “You’re starting all over again…at age 54???”
Who says it’s supposed to be a straight trek to the mountaintop? And how can we judge our journeys by their seeming dead ends? If I hold myself hostage to every perceived failure, I will never be free.
One of my favorite quotes from this past week will encourage your heart if you’ve ever fallen into the trap of beating yourself up:
Therein, for me, lied the secret to my freedom: forgiving myself for what I didn’t (and couldn’t) know at the time.
And, as Maya Angelou said so perfectly: “When you know better, you do better.”
Each day offers a new opportunity to know, and do, better.
Let’s give ourselves a break – and buckle up for the new Word of the Week (with some parting thoughts on FORGIVENESS):
The nice thing about hope is that it is elastic enough to spring UP when it has been in a deflated state.
If you are like one of those inflatable Christmas ornaments that sits in a puddle on the front lawn during daylight hours…it’s comforting to know they don’t stay there.
Here’s a little funny: I didn’t realize that those puffy Santa’s and snowmen intentionally deflate during the day. For years I decried the horrible Grinches that slashed them, ruining peoples’ decorations and rendering them flat.
Then I discovered it was just how those decorations roll.
So it is with life. You might feel like a puddle on the ground, but mark my words, you’ll only stay there if you commit to the fallen state.
A good word, a card in the mail, a compliment from a stranger…next thing you know, your vibe is high again. Or, for the savvy CEO of their own love tank, you talk nice to yourself. You give a stranger a compliment. You bake a loaf of bread and welcome your new neighbor to town.
Voila! Your love/hope/faith tank is full again. You’re doing the Snoopy happy dance again.
What is the quality of your hope? Is it an “oh me oh my” Eeyore kind? Or is it a Tigger-ish “yippee it’s on the way!” kind?
Both are in a waiting mode. One is just much happier waiting.
All of my single years (two whole #$%@in’ decades) were spent in Eeyore mode. Instead of enjoying the freedom of being un-beholden, I focused on “What was WRONG with me????” Too many woe is me holidays were spent feeling “less than” because I was unattached. I didn’t enjoy the love of those that WERE around me because the love I WANTED hadn’t yet arrived.
The older you get, though, you realize that life is too short to waste on sad yearnings.
You get busy loving the ones you’re with…and that gratitude spills over and next thing you know promises keep popping up fulfilled without a single tear shed!
For the hope-filled (who are the faith-filled), life is a profusion of blooms.
That’s why I say, “Get your hopes UP!” Expect something wonderful to happen.
Here’s a bit more on that topic, and a new WOW that is the peanut butter to FAITH’s jelly:
Let’s all be rubber bands this week, shall we?
If you are traveling, be safe. Sing carols at the top of your lungs instead of screaming at the traffic.
Enjoy the journey.
You may not be there YET —- but you ARE on your way.
First, it was an exasperated, “How am I going to get everything done!!!!????” which totally saps any Christmas spirit from your to-do list.
Without any HUGE chunks of unassigned time, I had to approach shopping, wrapping, baking, shipping and decorating in teeny increments. The “baby steps” seemed ineffectual at first, but (just like in the move “What About Bob?”) ended up coming together (synthesis!) in an explosion of silver and gold and peacock colors along with the smell of raisin bread wafting through the house. (Twenty loaves have been shipped out so far, with more to come! It’s an homage to my beloved grandmother and a tradition I started about ten years ago.)
Here are some highlights:
And here’s a spot in the dining area, ready for a house full of guests later today!
Yep, we decided to have a PARTY – our first Christmas Party in Sarasota, which was a great incentive to get my #$%@ in gear and get things done EARLY.
Worrying about everything coming together doesn’t make it happen.
But those little baby steps are magical steps of faith that can move a mountain.
Which is a perfect lead in to the new WOW!:
You know, ya gotta love content that includes a Jesus story and a George Michael musical interlude in the same video. It’s that crazy juxtaposition of me-ness, and I’m so glad you appreciate it.
Here’s some thoughts about FAITH:
It works by LOVE (not fear)
You don’t need much to get great results (even as small as a mustard seed!)
What you HEAR over and over affects your faith level (do you have faith for the NEGATIVE? Are those the messages you’ve been giving space to?)
I think that’s why I love that portion of the movie The Help so much. The main character is the caretaker for the neglected little girl, and she says to her over and over, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” What a powerful deposit into that little girl’s soul!
Let’s all deposit some powerful messages into our hearts this season and watch our faith GROW!
My week could have been spelled WEAK – and how ironic when the WOW was STRENGTH!
Here’s the backstory: Three weeks ago I started to have seriously bloodshot, irritated eyes that were increasingly painful to blink, impossible to place contacts in, and most upsetting to my propensity for vanity, painful to apply makeup to.
If you review LAST week’s WOW taping, you can see watery eyes (in part ’cause I was a wee bit emotional, bur primarily due to my eye affliction.)
When you don’t have to show up to an office every day, the need to look good is diminished, but an impending Viola family wedding finally gave me the urgent push to go to the eye doctor.
Dr. Sinclair said, “How have you been functioning like this?”
He had no immediate answers but got me an ASAP appointment with a specialist and charged me with this assignment: “Between now and tomorrow, try and figure out what you’ve done differently that could have affected your eyes.”
I wracked my brain. No new makeup; no new creams or potions. No new food (except for my new ‘clean eating’ and geeez, what could THAT do that would be bad?)
I was getting really upset about this unknown malady, and feeling weaker by the moment.
Then, as I was getting ready for bed and took my evening low-dose aspirin, it hit me: Three weeks ago my regular doctor switched one of my medications.
I was so busy thinking about a topical cause I never considered an internal one.
(Hmmmm. That’s an interesting thought for another time!)
Thanks to Google, within minutes the rare side affects of said medication jumped out on my iPad: “Can cause severe eye distress in rare cases. If you experience blurriness, redness, and irritation – what the heck are you waiting for? Get to a doctor!” (OK, I added that last part.)
What relief to finally KNOW. And suddenly, even though my pain and circumstance had not changed, the removal of the mystery gave me STRENGTH.
Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can beat it.
Some of you are facing physical challenges and have been for much longer than three weeks. My brief experience with a chronic, seemingly unsolvable pain was physically, mentally and spiritually distressing – so my heart truly goes out to you.
Don’t give up.
If you’ve been trying to slug it out by yourself, seek help. And if that help doesn’t help, seek some more. Seek wisdom and insight. Pray for the answer and I am believing with you that it will come.
I would prefer that joy, delight, blessings and abundance are my teachers. But when pain – whether physical or emotional – comes, for goodness sake, I want to get SOMETHING good out of it. And I expect to – because I don’t believe God, the Universe, the Source is playing cruel games with my life.
And believing that is also a source of strength.
So how do we follow this up? Settle in for the new WOW:
There is a connection between STRENGTH and SURRENDER, isn’t there?
I know I get worn out and WEAK when I try too hard to make stuff happen or freak out about what is beyond my control.
The beauty of trust is that it allows you to let go…and let God.
And therein lies great strength. “In quietness and confidence will be your strength” says Isaiah 30:15.
With all that I had to learn this past week, you might think that our WOW was still EDUCATION. Still, it dovetailed nicely into EXPANSIVENESS; after all, every time you learn, you grow.
Getting back to my story about the series of fires I had to put out last week, aAside from the skill sets I had to acquire (YESTERDAY!), I had to keep stopping to breathe…
I needed to become bigger on the inside to handle all that was going on the outside.
Growth is a process that doesn’t have a fast forward button (unless the circumstances of life propel you to new heights out of necessity.) I felt like a little kid stopping her feet and whining, “Are we THERE yet?”
No amount of whining or worrying will get you (or me) where we need to be.
How I was responding was defining me. Am I a person of faith – or a person of fear?
I was a person gripped with fear MANY times this past week, but self-talked myself off the ledge and back to peace about 327 times.
I wish I could say as I write this that everything has been crossed off my to-do list and successfully completed. However, I AM believing that somehow between now and the finish line I will continue to expand, enabling me to rise to the challenge.
Despite the stress, each new thing I learn makes me feel like an Olympian, breaking the tape at the finish line. I have to keep my eye on that prize, hear the imaginary crowd roaring and see my head bowed to receive the medal.
I mean, what’s the alternative? Believing the ship will sink and that I’ll go down with it?
Gee, how comforting.
Instead, I’ve been singing the theme song from Laverne and Shirley to keep me stoked. (We’re gonna make our dre-eems come true. And we’ll do it our way, yes our way, making our dreams come true…)
Better our dreams than our nightmares.
Which plays well into this week’s WOW…
EXPECTANCY, as I am living it out after having recorded the message, is a two edged sword.
You can dwell on all the negative possibilities and expect Murphy’s law to be in effect.
Or you can have the audacity to get your hopes up and believe for the best.
I discovered the most awesome new word this week: PRONOIA. Definition: Believing the universe is always working on your behalf in every situation. Opposite, of course, of paranoia.
It’s my new favorite word as we brace for BLESSING this week.
I’m expecting to hear wonderful things from all of you!
For some of you, things you have been banging your head against the wall about finally broke through.
For others, what seemed impossibly overwhelming just a week ago is now in the “done” pile of your “to do” list.
And my friend’s chance meeting on the beach led to a coffee date and the start of a new friendship.
SYNTHESIS was a WOW that required my trust and faith that “it was all going to work out – and work out for GOOD.”
Sometimes you just don’t know the end from the beginning, but when you look back over your shoulder, how many times have things “come together” just when you needed them to?
Synthesis for some of you (you know who you are) was a thrilling WOW. For me, the thrills had their share of chills, and as you can tell from this week’s video, I was READY to get off of the rollercoaster. Not that I’m not grateful for the lessons learned, mind you. Just ready to move on.
How about you? OK, here we go!
Ooooooh! I am really excited about this. Taking it to heart, I’m starting right now to write out and put sticky notes in front of my face (pictures, too) of what I envision for my life.
Why not grab a cup of coffee and spend some time dreaming and visioning about your own future? What a cool way to spend some time – and to start creating the life of your dreams! Oh, and don’t listen to that little voice that wants to talk you out of it.
It’s a liar.
It’s never too late to start your happily ever after.