November brings many opportunities in my area to reflect upon life and the connections one has. Starting with All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2, my Catholic faith draws my mind to believers before me who helped forge the relationships of Jesus’ teachings with others. Jesus often used unorthodox methods and the most unlikely candidates to illustrate His point. He also did not judge and gave the benefit of the doubt, along with more than one opportunity for his followers to get things right.
Thinking about this makes me realize all the opportunities I have failed and succeeded in life. I am not the quickest learner and often take a rather circuitous route to reach my destination. However, I have found that doing so makes for better appreciation of life and one’s surroundings.
Through many hard lessons, character and perspective have allowed me to make better connections and have kept me close to God, which is where He wants me to be. Though I sometimes feel God is too close and want to squirm away, I also have times when I feel disconnected and need to find my way back to the peace of His closeness.
When I feel disconnected, I turn to nature first and allow the sun or the sky to draw my attention. This allows me to focus better, away from all the hustle and bustle of life. In running, biking, and walking in the woods, my senses come alive to the sights, smells, and sounds around me. This allows my emotions to flow and my mind to hone in on the connections being made through my senses. As I connect to nature, I am drawn to God’s creations and blessings. It is in these times that I find solutions to problems, strength for the journey, and hope for the future.
I also turn to music to find connections to feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Many rhythms and lyrics catch my attention quickly and wash away all the messiness of life. Listening to music also makes me realize I am not alone in what I think or feel, which brings comfort to the mind, body, and soul. Often, I draw on songs to illustrate my point to others.
In a recent conversation with friends, we were talking about relationships and what makes them work. Each of us had a different answer to the question of how to make relationships last. One friend explained that doing things both together and apart works for some people. Another person thought tolerating or accepting each person’s habits and beliefs was a good method of building and maintaining the connection. My answer was in the lyrics to Tanya Tucker’s song Strong Enough to Bend.
Connecting Through Experiences
Though we each had a different answer to the question, we all saw merit in our answers and could relate to the examples given. The root of each response was based upon our experiences and the connections we had made in going through these experiences.
As we go through life, we experience a myriad of emotions, events, problems, and solutions. We see how our environments and those around us help to shape or have an impact upon our beliefs, priorities, and perspectives. Experiences and our willingness to share them help us to connect to others.
Connections in Time
Sometimes we connect for long periods of time, other times our bonds are short-lived. All of our relationships play a part in our lives, though we may or may not realize the importance or the timing of them right away.
While raking leaves the other night, I silently wondered how much longer I will be able to handle the task on my own. The leaves were wet and heavy, making for a somewhat daunting challenge. My mind took me back to when I first started raking leaves in the same yard. I was a young girl, helping my grandmother. It was our way of communicating and working through life’s problems. I very much enjoyed the experience, most likely because it kept my mind, body, and soul fully engaged, which in turn kept me grounded and on the right path in life.
Many years have passed, yet I still find the chore fun and relaxing despite the challenges of raking, pulling the tarps across the yard, and dealing with the weather during the process. Through the years, I have changed my methods from simply raking to including a leaf blower and sometimes the mulching push mower. I still use the tarps and have learned what conditions are best, along with which scenarios present the most difficult challenges and how to deal with them.
Changes Along the Way
The number and type of trees in the yard have also changed due to both nature and man. Storms have taken away some of the walnut, buckeye, and pear trees. I have helped to cut down some of the wild cherry, maple, and chestnut trees that became diseased or simply too unwieldy for the yard. I have also planted many smaller pine, dogwood, eastern redbud, oak, crab apple, and maple trees to replace the larger trees cut down long ago.
Thinking of this reminded me that the trees in the yard are like people who come and go through our lives. Sometimes they stay for a while, like the old walnut tree in the back yard that towers above the house. Other times they simply pass through like the young birch sapling that a buck rubbed to pieces with his horns this fall.
As my mind found its way back to my question regarding how long I will be able to rake leaves, the eight year old girl inside me said, “Don’t worry about it until the time comes.”
The forty-something part of me said, “Just be thankful you can still do it and leave it at that.”
Both answers made me smile and gave me renewed energy to finish the task despite being tired, wet, hungry, and emotionally drained from what had been a roller coaster of a day.
Blessings in Disguise
While putting away my tools after raking, I looked up at the flag hanging from my porch, which drew my mind to reflect on those who have served this country, allowing me to be free and to have the experiences, connections, and relationships I have had in life. The flag also reminded me the Veterans Day is November 11, and I need to thank God and those who have served for all they have helped to provide, not only for me, but for others around me.
We may not always realize the extent or the impact our connections have. It is because of others that we are granted God’s grace, peace, and love, and it is through our connections that we experience life to its fullest extent.
May we all find the connections and relationships we need in life, and be thankful for the blessings given to us, no matter the amount, conditions, or limitations placed upon them. May we also realize that some connections and relationships may not last as long as we want, but it is not the length of the connection that matters, but rather the depth to which we experience it.
Connections of Life
Stars and stripes catch the rays of the sun
As the white early morning dew drips from
The green grass in the lawn and the fields
Dotted with leaves that have come to yield
The gold, rust, yellow, and red
As fall unfolds nature’s pallet
Of hues made so perfect and fine
Through the connections of life,
Allowing for opportunities to see and do, hear and feel
While dreams are pursued in the hopes of making them real.
As the clouds scatter and the dawn breaks,
All that matters comes to take
Center stage in the colors of the sky
Where God creates chapters in time
Held together by the clouds and stars
That come together and drift apart
Through the minutes and the hours
That hold hidden powers
To the connections in life
Made in the reflections of the light
To shatter the dark
And gather the spirit of the heart,
Giving strength for the journey ahead
No matter the length or the extent.
As the sun comes around from east to west,
Leaves drop to the ground and collect
Their hues in a complex mosaic
Made possible through God’s grace
Manifested in time’s river to the sea
To help deliver each little seed
Planted by His love long ago,
Nurtured by nature’s song, and allowed to grow
Through the connections in life
Made in the intersections beneath the sky.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
All Saints’ Day – http://www.catholic.org/saints/allsaints/
All Souls’ Day – http://www.catholic.org/saints/allsouls/
Veterans Day – http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/veterans-day-facts