I don’t often pray. I never have. If the world seems more beautiful than usual or if we receive good news I sometimes find myself thanking the Spirit in the Sky but I’ve never had faith enough to ask anything of our Maker. In desperate times, I’ve yearned for a desired outcome and thought prayerful thoughts but I can count the number of times, I’ve fervently prayed and requested something from God. My few prayers have always been answered which leads me to wonder why I haven’t prayed more often but that’s another story.
I have never had a satisfying relationship with God within the confines of a religion. As a matter of fact I have never typed the word God before this moment. My perception of God has always and still is closely related to that of our Native brothers and sisters. There have been rumors that my French Canadian ancestors coupled with the Indigenous people along the St. Lawrence River close to Quebec City in the 1600’s and, deep within me, I know it’s true. My physical appearance leans towards that possibility and so does my soul.
To celebrate my affinity with the aboriginal culture, over the years I’ve collected some native paraphernalia such as art, dolls, dream catchers and a few items of deerskin clothing. I don’t have a lot but I treasure what I do have.
Close to thirty years ago I had the misfortune of experiencing a stillbirth which was devastating as anyone would guess. I remember being in the delivery room where my deceased daughter was laid on my chest moments after she was born and a few hours after she had died in the womb. I noted through my tears that she looked like a little chubby cheeked papoose and had my facial structure and short little body. Her lovely high cheek boned face is etched in my memory forever.
Over the following years, life has treated me well. My family now consists of my second husband, myself, two adult sons born to me before the stillbirth and my precious, adopted daughter. All three of my children are happily paired up and have given us four precious grand babies which is delightful to say the least. Very occasionally I wistfully remember the child that died before she had a chance to live.
Up until recently, my husband and I had been struggling with financial challenges. It seemed every time we turned around, we were zinged with unexpected costs and charges in the realm of many thousands of dollars. To make matters even worse, during a recent move, I misplaced two ounces of gold we had bought on a whim, when money was abundant, to save for a rainy day. Together, they were worth over three thousand dollars and I felt like an idiot for losing them. I had even asked my Mother to pray to her Mother of Perpetual Help but I didn’t think to pray myself for their return.
Also, for quite some time now, I had been concerned about some unhealthy lifestyle patterns I’d been developing. I’d become increasingly lethargic, unmotivated and over-indulgent in stimulants such as coffee and wine and, as a result, become unhealthy in body and mind and very self-critical. This merry-go-round ride of self-improvement plans, failure to follow through, perpetual self chastising followed by the inevitable new self-improvement plan was leading me around in useless circles.
Being at the tail end of middle age, it was now or never. I was to begin to live life to Its fullest and get on the healthy band wagon, not only physically, but spiritually, or, if my destructive habits and self-criticism continued, I was never going to find that elusive thing called serenity.
In my constant efforts at self-improvement, I had been trying to implement many new, positive habits; one of which was daily spiritual reading. With my mind swimming with ego-based thought, reading a whole book had become impossible for me. I decided I would read some Chicken Soup for the Soul books to start with as they are uplifting and consist of a series of little stories that are easily read. I was actually doing quite well in following through this time around and was well into my second book when I read a story that touched me deeply.
A mother, who, like myself, had a baby die within a short time of its birth had rejected her religion and only had stepped into a Church grudgingly as her surviving child was being confirmed. Her deceased child appeared to her and this sign of his presence, understandably, changed her life and her spiritual point of view. As I finished this heartwarming story, I lay the book open on my lap, closed my eyes and without a second thought, said out loud, “Dana, if you are present please give me a sign.” It was a sincere, humble request of my long deceased daughter. I immediately leaned forward and pulled the curtain back half expecting to see a fox in the yard or a natural wonder appear. No such luck. As I leaned back in my seat, my beautiful native doll that had been perched on the fireplace flew off the mantle and landed close to where I was sitting. I was stunned. There was no doubt in my mind that my Dana had shown herself. As I picked the doll up in awe and kissed its head, I proceeded towards the mantle to set her down again. I shakily placed her gently where she had been and whispered “Dana, help me find those gold coins.” I don’t know where that came from but that’s what I said.
For the next hour the experience occupied my mind and I felt so fortunate and happy that she had came through and shown herself. I did not doubt the fact that I had been given a precious gift from the world beyond our realm.
A short while later that day, my husband, who had been at the lake house readying it to sell as we can’t afford it any longer, arrived. He handed me the items I had asked him to bring home and lastly, handed me a hollowed out, carved coconut shell we kept our loose change in when we were up at the lake. This item was not on the list I had given him. I glanced down at the coins, and, sitting right on top, shining in all their splendor, were the two gold coins I so recently had asked my daughter to provide help finding. My husband hadn’t noticed them; he had just spontaneously grabbed the coconut shell and put it in the van as he was leaving to come home.
Something inside my heart subtly shifted that afternoon. Coincidently, or not, by the end of the day our family business had signed some new contracts and by the end of the week we received two unexpected, small rebates from our business dealings. We were not out of the woods but we were going in the opposite direction, financially, for a change.
A few days later, I found myself walking along a wintry white trail in the bush alongside the half frozen river we are privileged to reside near. As I got to a quiet, little canopied spot, I stood for a while and enjoyed being in the midst of the snow laden fir trees, jutting rocks, bubbling water and a few placid ducks.
Out of nowhere, a quiet plea began to rise up in my chest and, as it swelled, I expressed it as a prayer. I began asking God for self-love. In my heart, I knew that in order to make any significant, positive changes to my life, I needed to let go of the self-loathing that I had been carrying with me throughout my life. The prayer went on for a few minutes. It was very specific. I asked God to help me learn to accept and love me. Instinctively, I knew the rest would follow.
Since the whole experience began with the reading of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, without consciously working at self-improvement, I’ve been outside more, almost daily, moving my body and enjoying the river path. I have found myself in my bath with low lights, bubbles and my book more than once this week. I am feeling a little more self-indulgent in healthier ways. Rather than reach for the third coffee or first glass of wine, I’ve been finding other activities to stimulate or calm me depending on the current need.
I’ve filled the bird feeder, put makeup on, dressed up a little, made smoothies for breakfast and today, I set up my beloved music and little word processor in the solarium which I’d been planning on doing for a long time but had never gotten around to. I’ve created a little oasis to get away from the TV, Internet and the family when I want to read or write.
A new friend and I have recently made plans to get together at 6:00 a.m. on a daily basis to meditate, read out loud and discuss the latest spiritual writings. She lives directly across the street from me which is a blessing in itself.
It seems that our Maker, the Universe, Mother Earth or God is beside me and helping me. My prayers are being answered in the form of a calm, gradual, nurturing courtship between me and myself. My attitude of inner revulsion is slowly morphing into, not only self-acceptance, but self-love.
I’ve stopped the constant drinking wine at night and am feeling immense gratitude for life itself. We are surrounded by a loving, all encompassing deity that lives not only up in heaven, but here in our hearts. God is love and God Love is right here: above us in the expansive universe, below us in the solid earth beneath our feet, beside us by way of our own wise intuition and most importantly, inside us, loving us as we learn to love ourselves.
All we have to do is wake up and become aware of all that love is capable of. I’m riding on the wave of God’s sign that our bodies may die, but our souls live on and in knowing this, I believe anything is possible.