Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will come often. It is my hope that these stories and reflections will be helpful in your spiritual journey. I look forward to your thoughts, questions, or suggestions. Please leave your comments and join as a follower so I will know you were here. It is a privilege to share the journey with you.

If you wish to know more about me, spiritual direction or retreats visit my website. www.bunnycox.com. Blessings, Bunny

*See first posting in January, 2011 to learn why this blog is called "From the Big Red Chair."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Message

Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message." ~Malcolm Muggeridge

Brown pelicans skimmed the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.  Mere feathers apart, they searched for food.  The leader flapped his wings and pushed away the sky for his companions who glided effortlessly behind.  He faithfully executed his duty guiding the formation until a wing-mate, seeing him tire, moved forward to assume command.  I watched their precision maneuvers from the deck of a beach house perched upon a sand dune above the Gulf and pondered the troubled state of my marriage.  
“I warned you, Bunny,” my friend and spiritual director had cautioned. “The death of a child often strains a marriage to the breaking point. Some of them don’t make it. Are you going to let yours be one of them?

Our daughter Tara and her baby Alden had died. Our grandson Spencer was all but lost to us.  Requests to speak with him continued to be denied. The last thing I wanted was to loose Sam too. Remembering my friend’s admonitions and her refusal to commiserate with my discontent, I pondered my cause for complaint and reexamined the fabric of our relationship.

Sam and I are polar opposites.  He is reserved, thinks before expressing his thoughts, and saves words until they are needed. I, on the other hand, am outgoing, prone to superfluous speech, and quick to offer an opinion that, more often than not, the world could live without.  I am adventurous and spontaneous; a trait that balances Sam’s steadfastness and sometimes gives him permission to rest from responsibility to enjoy life. Our differences can be challenging, but when we are at our best, we have all the bases covered.

Sam’s quietness might be judged by some as detachment. That would be a mistake. Keenly aware of his surroundings, Sam watches. Mostly he watches me—always standing guard, always there to protect with an open hand and a gentle touch, always supporting me being me, and never interjecting unless absolutely necessary.  More than once Sam has saved me from predicament brought on by my impulsiveness by gently pointing out that I am standing perilously close to the edge on an icy cliff in imminent danger of falling off.  I can depend on Sam when I need him, even when I don’t know that I do.

“Please stay with me,” I had begged after Tara's death, fearing grief would devour me if he left me unprotected.  In spite of my pleas, Sam departed, choosing instead long hours at work and the distraction of labor. For the first time in our relationship, I felt abandoned--an unforgivable offense in my grief-stricken state of mind.

Sam is the yin. I am the yang.  He is strong when I am weak, and I’m there for him when he is the one who needs consolation.  What had changed? Why were we estranged? Why was he distant when I needed him the most?

Movement on the Gulf interrupted my thoughts.  With a burst of acceleration, the pelican in front of the flock thrust himself into the water. Trusting his lead, the others plunged into sea behind him.   Amid a frenzy of flashing foam and flapping feathers, the flock emerged from the waves.  A tiny silver fish dangled from each beak and quickly disappeared in one hungry gulp.  Their bounty consumed, the flock rose again to formation. The former leader gracefully slipped to the rear as another moved to the forefront. The change of duty was flawless.  I watched as over and over the pelicans repeated their well-orchestrated maneuvers, and as I watched a knowing slowly began to rise. 

Sam had not abandoned me.  Grief had disrupted the well-honed patterns of our relationship. Grief had robbed us of strength. Grief had stolen the ability for either of us to lead. I wanted desperately to coast behind Sam. I wanted him to ease my way through grief like the lead pelican parts the air for those who follow. Did Sam need the same from me? 

Compassion replaced anger and tears swelled from the depths of love. In the blindness of my own misery, I had not recognized the intensity of Sam’s pain or understood his need for the normalcy of work and the consolation of colleagues.  Tenderness replaced resentment when I imagined his heartache in observing my agony, powerless to make it go away, all the while, bearing the weight of his own despair. 
I resolved to release Sam from my expectations and to honor his unique path through sorrow. In time we would rise again to resume the rhythm of our relationship, but for now, just as we are opposites in life, we would be opposites in the way we grieve. 

I watched the pelicans fly away toward morning.  “God speed,” I wished them, "traveling mercies,” I whispered.  "And thank you.”


 “Ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you. . .” Job 12:7

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”~– George Washington Carver

"Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit."~Peter Ustinov

 “Love is a fabric that never fades, no matter how many times it is washed in the waters of adversity and grief.”~Anonymous

“No two people will ever grieve the same way, with the same intensity or for the same duration. It is important to understand this basic truth. Only then can we accept our own manner of grieving and be sensitive to another's response to loss.”~Jinny Tesik, M.A.

--Has stress ever lead to misunderstanding in my relationships? If so, how?
--Is there someone who needs my understanding and compassion?
--To whom do I turn when I need support and consolation? 
--Do I see nature as "a parable whereby God speaks to us"? If so, where have I seen God revealed?

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Time for Peace

Over the years mighty battles have been fought in the name of sibling rivalry, mostly over inconsequential matters.  Bickering about who will be relegated to the rear seat of the car or arguing about who mother really loves best are hallmarks of childhood that are usually resolved by the truce of maturity. Some conflicts stretch into adulthood, if only by habit, but regardless of the intensity of the conflict, a bond of loyalty and familial love underlies. So it is with brothers and sisters, and so it was with my daughter Tara and her younger brother Nevin. 

Time after time, even into adulthood, a drama unfolded around our kitchen table as countless board games ended before beginning when Tara or her brother refused to participate unless the other relinquished the coveted green game piece. Non-family members appeared mildly amused and then slightly uncomfortable when observing adult siblings rush to circumvent the other by shouting, “I’m green!” --a declaration that never failed to incite anger. “No, you are not! I am!” the slower of the two would respond before stomping from the room. I never understood the implied misfortune of having to use the yellow piece, or be the red or blue man, but there was no doubt that being green had a deep symbolic significance known only to the two of them.

Whether we realize it or not, we are surrounded by word-replacing symbols that convey multiple layers of meaning. Octagon shapes at intersections dictate our movement and silently warn of danger if we fail to heed their warning. A gold band worn on the left hand represents love and life-long commitment. The symbolic gesture of a husband who brings a cup of coffee to his wife in the morning and secures locks every evening before bed speaks more of devotion and protection than words can articulate. Lions are symbols for courage.  Lambs are symbols of innocence. Cemeteries are full of tombstones containing symbols with meaning to the deceased or reminders of hope for the living. An unmarked grave denotes someone who dies abandoned with no one to remember them or to celebrate their life. 

With each passing day that Tara’s grave lay unmarked, my guilt rose over neglecting her. I spent hours struggling to select the perfect symbols for a bronze marker to be placed upon her grave, but made little progress. Trying to capture the essence of Tara in symbol is like trying to hold the wind in your hand or contain the sound of laughter in a box.

I finally decided a cross should be centered above her name, but none of the crosses offered by the monument company seemed fitting. Nevin helped design the perfect Celtic cross to reflect Tara's faith and her heritage. It was poured in bronze, the mold created just for her. Perhaps it was extravagant and maybe even unnecessary to go to such lengths and expense, but at the time it was important to me and to her brother. I suspect the symbol of the Celtic cross reminds Nevin of the day in Ireland when he danced upon the bog with his sister.

I selected a small butterfly to float in the corner as a symbol of hope and the promise of resurrection.  It is also symbolizes Tara’s poem, a gift to me one Christmas, that speaks of the butterfly to remind us that change comes at great risk, with great rewards, and it is through the life and death of Jesus that we take wing.*

Still Tara’s plaque seemed incomplete. Over a year passed while her grave remained unmarked.

One morning I answered the phone to hear my son’s voice.

“Mom, does the monument company have green marble?”

“I think so. Why?”

“She always wanted to be green.”

And so, a bronze plaque containing Tara’s name, a Celtic cross and a butterfly was mounted upon green marble and laid upon her grave, each element having complex layers of meaning. But none is more poignant than the symbolism contained in her brother’s request. For all eternity, he let her be green.


“I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea”~- Dylan Thomas

“To everything thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1,8

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” ~Matt. 5:9

--Is there some way today that I can offer a gesture of love? Of peace?
--What symbols have special meaning for me? 

Practice:  Create a place where you go to reflect, pray, meditate or listen. In that space, place objects that symbolize things or ideas that have meaning for you.  It doesn't have to be elaborate or large. A table beside a favorite chair, a bookshelf, a windowsill, or even a bench in the backyard will suffice. You will know what objects to choose. For example, a photograph might represent a specific person, or it might represent friendship, community, love or family. A small candle might represent the light of Christ or be a reminder that you are always in the presence of the Holy. Other items might include a favorite rock, flowers, or other natural objects that remind us of our connection to the earth and to our creator God. By surrounding ourselves with these symbols of deeper meaning, we are reminded of the sacred in the ordinary. Each object becomes a wordless prayer.  Notice how the objects might change with the seasons, with happenings in your life, or with the desire to invite something new into your sacred space.   

*From "The Greatest Gift," Thursday, April 21, 2011, From The Big Red Chair