August 20, 2012

time with the hospital

 "Beware lest ye commit that which would sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers. Follow ye the path of Truth which indeed is a straight path. Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such service be a path leading you to Me."

 (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

i have spent most of the day with Dad in the hospital for 2 days now.  he was admitted with a fever, headache and a UTI.  the hospital finally determined yesterday that his symptoms are the result of an infection in his blood in addition to where his catheter is.  both infections are now being treated to eliminate the infection and prepare him for a procedure to replace his stint and remove as much of the necrotic tissue in his bladder as possible (which can't be done while he has an infection).  the dr. wants to do the procedure tomorrow.  we leave in 4 days.  we hope he will be released before then, but if not, we'll have to say goodbye from the hospital..

our family has shared many moments of Dad's pain and difficulties of living with lymphoma.  we have all cried and quietly observed the suffering.  those moments are hidden from camera lenses.  most of our time together is shared with joy and lighthearted conversations.  it is a time of remembering all that is worthy of praise and appreciating being able to be together..  

Dad is often tired but he still has the will to live.  he derives great joy from being with family and interacts with us in lighthearted ways to bring smiles to our faces. he is facing some side effects of taking Revlimid but so far they are manageable while it serves to keep the cancer at bay.  there are 7-8 lymph nodes that are cancerous, but no organs have been invaded since the bladder was treated with radiation this past winter.

we are ever so thankful to all who have kept us in your prayers..
Dashiel and Dad
i had to squeeze into that bed with him after awhile

August 13, 2012

the essence of our creation

With the hands of power I made thee
and with the fingers of strength
I created thee;
and within thee have I placed
the essence of My light.
Be thou content with it
and seek naught else,
for My work is perfect
and My command is binding.
Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof.

when we talk with our children about what these words of Baha'u'llah mean, they begin to fill with a sense of wonderment about being molded with the 'hands' of God and are focused on the might of God.

we use the analogy of a lamp or candle to describe how the 'essence' of who and what we are is of God -- it is our soul.. our soul is our light.. our light is the light of God.. the virtues or spiritual powers and qualities of God are God's light shining through us.

the lamp and candle can look like any design or color, but what matters is the light that they bring forth.  the purpose of the lamp or candle is to bring light. this, too, is our purpose.  we can reflect the light of God by developing and utilizing the virtues of God in our every day life.  we know that tests and difficulties are woven into the fabric of life; practicing our spiritual powers enables us grow through these challenges and bring us nearer to God as a soul.  it is this light or these powers which we bring with us to the realms beyond..

another beautiful and powerful aspect of this Hidden Word to reflect on is to be content with how God created us and to not doubt or question our creation.  how powerful to grow up with these concepts internalized and fully believed and embraced in the hearts of all childre.  they instill a deep-rooted spiritual foundation for one's individuality -- in the sight of God we know and feel perfect.  we trust it.  we feel peaceful and able to honor ourselves.  growing in this way leaves no room for complaint, discontent, or self-contempt.  there is no wishing to be different in this or that way..

i am striving to help my children see themselves as beautiful and perfect in the sight of God just as each flower has its own particular beauty in the garden.  true beauty is the light that shines through us.  as Baha'i parents, we are raising our children to recognize their uniqueness and nobility as a soul -- created and molded to add to the progress of civilization in a way that no one else can or will.  this is how we look upon everyone, no matter what they believe or how they live.  we help them to see the beauty of humanity as a reflection of God's beauty, majesty and glory.

as we believe that all human beings are inherently noble, we are striving to help them bring forth all of the spiritual capacity that is within them, just as the light of a lamp is hidden until effort is put forth to shine the light.
"O Son of Being!  Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee.  Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me, for I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee."
~ Baha'u'llah

Ayana, Dyami and Domani Douglas

August 12, 2012

rainy days..time to play

"These children are even as young plants, and teaching them the prayers is as letting the rain pour down upon them, that they may wax tender and fresh, and the soft breezes of the love of God may blow over them, making them to tremble with joy."

  ~ Abdu'l-Baha

rain showers remind me of God's bounty pouring boundlessly upon all of creation, just as prayers enable them to draw from His limitless ocean of guidance..

as soon as the rain pours down, our kids start running around -- looking for their bathing suits if it's warm outside -- and preparing as quickly as possible so as not to miss a moment with the might and dominion of God..

dancing and singing on the basketball court

shooting hoops and making rain angels

it's even more fun in underwear
 we especially enjoy the dark clouds and the heavy rains..

we feel invigorated and excited when the rains are cool..

our children love to play, swim, and take walks in the rain..

August 06, 2012

lymphoma..Dad's ongoing journey

this photo was taken of Dad last week.  he is sitting in a sound booth to get his hearing tested.  he looked so funny in there so i had to come over and take a photo of him.  he is always playful when he has energy.  it makes people around him feel happy.  everywhere he goes he's still being his light-hearted self despite living with sometimes excruciating pain in certain parts of his body.

after 2 weeks of walking better, with only a cane, he fell and hit his head.  whenever he falls he cannot get up.  he is very heavy.  my husband has been able to help Marti, but when she's alone, she has often had to call a neighbor to help her.  amazingly he was fine, despite the big bump that formed on the side of his head.  he has fallen 10 or so times in the past 6 months but each time he has come through without breaking a bone or having any serious injury.

two nights ago he was taken by ambulance to the hospital.  he was complaining of a severe headache and was shaking uncontrollably.  when he wanted to go lie down, he couldn't walk again (he's been faring well with a cane recently).  i started crying when he was lying on the stretcher in a helpless state with oxygen flowing into his nostrils..

yesterday and today we went to visit him in the hospital.  his MRI was postponed until today because the procedure is done only in the mornings, and there wasn't enough time for Dad to be seen yesterday.  late in the afternoon the test came back negative so we are all relieved that there are no tumors or other complications occurring in his brain.  Dad ended up taking a nap but otherwise he was his witty self, smiling while watching the kids do their 'ghanaian accent conversation', and glad to watch the synchronized swimming on tv..

his headache didn't subside without a pain reliever until this morning.  he's been taking Revlimid (a chemo drug) for a week now.  the doctors are thinking the headache is most likely a side effect from the drug.  since he had shown no side effects for a week, we didn't automatically think that was the cause.  it took dad more than a month to make a decision to take Revlimid because of the concern about the possible side effects.   Dad finally decided to take it but only because the cancer specialist explained that this pill is a lot less potent than the actual chemotherapy he had before.  when he was undergoing chemo, he responded very well to it (except for becoming bald)..

while we were hanging out in the room yesterday, i noticed the lack of nutritional food on his tray.  i'm not a nutritionist or dietician, but i know that jello, white bread and soda are not going to do any good for Dad's body.  i felt myself starting to get a little infuriated about the way hospitals do not fully apply a nutritional component to the overall approach to well-being.  everyone goes to these gigantic institutions when they face a crisis to restore health and well-being.  where are the blueberries?!  where is the honey-sweetened herbal tea or the whole grain bed with dark green leafy vegetables, or at least a vegetable that isn't overcooked with most of its nutrients leached out?
today, when the dietician came in unexpectedly, i was handed an explanation of the renal diet Dad was on (even though he's had no complications with his kidneys to this point).  on paper everything looked fine, explaining the foods that are too high in potassium, sodium and phosphorous.  what he is able to eat, and what the hospital serves, however, is very far from a nutritious approach to well-being.  the white bread, canned chicken salad, sugar cookies, ginger ale, processed crackers, mayonnaise, margarine spread and sugar packets were enough red flags to make me wonder how anyone fares well in the hospital..

tonight Dad will have his blood transfusion and be released from the hospital tomorrow.  his journey with lymphoma continues, one day at a time..

August 02, 2012

spiritual root of identity

as i reflect on the many, many serious and vital issues confronting humanity as a whole, i can feel my heart tugging at me, prompting me to do more to exemplify the highest ideals of a noble character which in and of itself is a magnetic force to combat the negative forces of immorality, lethargy, despair, selfishness and greed, confusion and materialism, to name but a few..

as i strive to live the life of a spiritual and moral human being, i continue to realize that the moment i unpeel a layer of self to reveal who i really am as a soul, i am faced with yet another layer to work on removing.  this is the endless process of spiritual growth, if we choose to work on perfecting ourselves to overcome our material nature from which we are molded..

thinking about this endless process of growth makes me ask:
  • how do i identify myself to others?  
  • what is my full identity?  
  • how do i describe others?
  • is it merely in terms of nationality, religious affiliation, racial heritage, skin color, profession and gender?  
  • or is it interwoven with character, virtues, ways of serving others and sacrificial endeavors?

intrinsically, i know that i am more than my skin color, my age, my name, my hair, my weight, my style, my abilities,  my profession, my status or my achievements (or lack thereof)..

i know wholeheartedly that i am more than my title, or the amount of wealth i have, or what my cultural background is, or how much education i have acquired..

so, the answers to these questions involve a dialogue that is exalted beyond and above the material and physical attributes of who we are.

i am not dismissing or discounting the beauty and richness of culture and all that pertains to the material aspects of who we are.  certainly our heritage and ancestry and cultural expressions all contribute to who we are at a certain level.

i am referring to what lies beyond that -- knowing someone as a soul -- a unique soul with its own particular capacity, experience of suffering, difficulties and challenges.  i desire to identify and see someone in terms of their God-given strengths and weaknesses, their talents and abilities, their heartfelt convictions and innermost thoughts, their spiritual accomplishments and failures, and how they see themselves as a unique individual..

if i see myself as a person who is involved in a lifelong journey of spiritual growth, i want to describe myself as a soul in a way that encompasses yet transcends my identity as a Baha'i.  this is the one word which identifies who i am as a soul in terms of how i strive to live this life, yet it is not particular to the uniqueness of who i am.  there are Baha'is all around the world who are as diverse as a botanical garden, but we each have an identity that is unique in the garden of humanity.

as i return my thoughts to how i strive to live each day, i begin to discern a sense of identity in terms of actions and intentions, one that involves the spirit of servitude, applying the skills, knowledge and abilities i have acquired toward the betterment of the world in whatever way i can.

i am a soul who cares deeply about others' well-being, who puts into practice each day Baha'u'llah's admonitions to 'do good to every person whose path he crosseth and be of some benefit to him' and 'be unjust to no man; show all meekness to all men'.

i am a soul who is loyal to my husband and dedicated to spiritually educating our children; who finds it easy to see the light of God in others without prejudice or estrangement; who is quiet in big groups and loves being surrounded by the African spirit; who derives a lot of joy from dancing, playing soccer and baking; whose heart is easily moved by the hardships of poverty and injustice that exist throughout the world..

i am spiritually rooted in my identity as a soul..

i am uplifted by how Abdu'l-Baha described His station:
"My name is Abdu'l-Baha, my identity is Abdu'l-Baha, my qualification is Abdu'l-Baha, my reality is Abdu'l-Baha, my praise is Abdu'l-Baha, Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious refulgent diadem; and servitude to all the human race is my perpetual religion."

  (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v2, p. 429)
"'Abdu'l-Bahá is himself a servant at the Threshold of the Blessed Beauty and a manifestation of pure and utter servitude at the Threshold of the Almighty. He hath no other station or title, no other rank or power."
 (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 295)

perhaps all of this comes to my mind in part because of the deep divisions that exist amongst people in the name of religion, race, class, etc.  it is also due to the fact that i am not good at the superficial chit-chat and connections that most people make with each other.  when i see materialism encroaching on and encompassing the minds, bodies and pursuits of peoples' lives, i pause and wonder who someone really is beneath and beyond everything that creates one's identity..
"...the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems."

(Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 23)

August 01, 2012

'virtues of a sustainable life'

i am reading "A Pace of Grace:  The Virtues of a Sustainable Life" by Linda Kavelin Popov.  it is the kind of book that you can't put down but you don't want to read it too quickly because you want to slowly absorb all the gems of wisdom that lie within it.

based on the virtues of God, it addresses our overworked, stressful lives that have reached beyond the bounds of moderation.  the author addresses the symptoms of feeling fatigued, overwhelmed and guilty.  it focuses on how to restore one's health and energy by very natural and virtuous methods..
"When we breathe, oxygen purifies our system, releasing toxins and supplying vital nutrients to circulate throughout the body through our blood supply.  A spiritual meaning resides in breathing as well.  By taking time each day for inspiration, for daydreaming, for contemplation, we invite a flow of pure awareness to sustain our souls." (p.64)

i am not in the midst of a health crisis or very stressful situation at the moment, but i do find that i become drained or depleted if i don't take care of myself -- getting enough sleep, eating properly, resting my mind, rejuvenating my inner spirit, and exercising my body.  it is challenging to be both selfless and care for one's own well-being.  selflessness implies sacrifice and dedication to the well-being of others, yet we can be of no help to others if we do not simply take care of ourselves -- similar to how we are encouraged on an airplane to put our own oxygen mask on first before trying to put it on a child's.

it's easy for me to give of myself, my time and energy, in taking care of others and rendering service to others.  as a way of life, this is what gives me the most energy and joy.  this book specifically addresses the importance of caring for one's self in order to continually be able to arise in service to others.  the purpose of having good health is to be able to serve others..

it would be interesting to hear stories of how people have achieved 'a pace of grace' in their lives by balancing and sustaining themselves physically and spiritually..