Second-Hand Miracles

On Wednesday, I went into the Lifeline opportunity (op) shop in Avalon and had a totally life-changing experience. Even with my great faith in op shops, even I was amazed!

After all, don’t you usually have to do something totally and utterly amazing to have such a profound life changing experience? This is why bucket lists are so popular and seekers almost go bankrupt climbing Mt Everest only to go scuba diving in the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench at the other the extreme.

I have more justifications than a politician for why I can’t undertake such adventures and you are probably much the same. You are also bound to your own patch of soil and just can’t take off and travel the world to “find yourself”. Instead, you have to find yourself in the much less glamorous context of home among the relatively mundane and every day.

Don’t despair!  You don’t have to go anywhere to be profoundly inspired and experience real miracles. Miracles can and do happen anywhere at any time… even in the most common, ordinary and everyday places!

They’ve even happened to me.

Although they seem unlikely sources of inspiration, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve actually found in op shops. In these halfway houses where discarded, unwanted junk and otherwise faded dreams are recycled and reborn, I’ve found treasures which fit my needs exactly, like a key in a lock. It’s like someone has gone in and left it there for me personally. That it’s had “my name on it” and the price is right too. However, Geoff will tell you that the cumulative effect has been quite expensive.

I’ve found a lot of truly inspiring things lately but I particularly wanted to share my visit to the Lifeline Shop in Avalon on Wednesday. This was the day before my latest session of chemo (or round one as I’ve now found out) and the day before I received my results so I was naturally in a fairly profound mood and actively searching for inspiration and retail therapy on a budget of sorts!!

I wasn’t disappointed!!

Hard to believe John Denver ever had "the look"!

Hard to believe John Denver ever had “the look”!

My first amazing “find” was a record by John Denver called Rhymes & Reasons. The cover is so 1960s and he looks like a real Irish leprechaun is a very green outfit. I don’t usually buy old records but I’ve never found any worth buying before. This one strangely appealed to me. I don’t know why. It just said pick me up. Have a closer look. Turn me over.  By contemporary tastes, the cover was very “bad taste”, dated and even comical but there was a sincerity about it…his smile perhaps and I do love John Denver’s music. Actually, looking at the cover now, it was stamped 1969 which was the year I was born so perhaps this is even more of a message for me than for my children which is how I perceived it at the time. That’s right. I’m a real flower child.

So I picked up the record and read the back. Now, remember that I have been working on writing and sharing life lessons for the kids when you read this:

For the children and the flowers

Are my sisters and brothers,

Their laughter and their loveliness

Could clear a cloudy day,

Like the music of the mountains and

The colours of the rainbow,

They’re a promise of the future

And a blessing for today.

And the song that I’m singing

Is a prayer to non-believers,

Come and stand beside us,

we can find a better way.

 John Denver.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind away? I think I’m going to have to find this album on CD or convert it over or something. The songs are brilliant too and I really wish I could listen to it right now:  Leaving On a Jet Plane, the Love of the Common People, I Wish I knew How it Would Feel to be Free, Today is the First Day of the Rest of My life. There is also a song I haven’t heard called Catch Another Butterfly. Don’t know what that one is about but I use butterflies as Amelia’s symbol. She is the pink butterfly on my charm bracelet and I decorated her bedroom with butterflies before she was even born. She was my beautiful butterfly baby! By the way, I also picked up a little toy tea set for her with butterflies on it for her upcoming birthday. Another “coincidence”!

The record cover was my first “connection” but my finds rapidly continued.

Soon, I came across the handbag which I wrote about in a previous post. Now, I have been on the hunt for the perfect, black handbag for years. You see, I am seriously organisationally and spatially challenged and I’ve really been working hard to overcome these problems, especially once I found out about neuroplasticity. The idea that I could actually change the way I think and the very structure of my brain through repetition and that I wasn’t set in stone, set me free from so many self-imposed constraints. Armed with the evidence that practice instead of avoidance was the way forward, I could now radically improve some of what I had considered insurmountable personal faults. I even have a shunt in my brain to remind me that I’m not quite “normal” so I had good reason to believe in my limitations. They’d been fully documented on MRIs. However, this new found neuroplasticity literally took the bird out of the cage and offered me back up to the sky and now I’m flying free. That’s a huge change…liberation in fact!

Anyone who knows me will choke because they know how disorganised I can be. What I’ve found works for me, is having a place for everything and everything in its place. Please note that this hasn’t been achieved. I’m still struggling to find a place for the most important things and trying very, very hard to be systematic and actually put them back there again. You need a system, structure, routine. These are precisely the skills I lack in myself so I have to import them from outside myself. This is why I, in particular, needed this perfect, very well-structured and organised handbag. It’s finally going to get me “sorted”.

The trouble is that when it’s come to finding this perfect bag, I’ve had many false friends. The handles haven’t been strong enough to manage my books and there hasn’t been an outside pocket for my phone. I go to reach in for my keys and a handful of tissues fall out. I have many, many bags but most of them probably need to be sent to the op shop for someone else to “discover”.

Inside the bag- fabulous organisation!

Inside the bag- fabulous organisation!

Anyway, when I went to the op shop on Wednesday, I wasn’t looking for handbags. I was looking for books…inspiration! However, I spotted this bag. It was black. It was leather but it also had a $25.00 price tag and I was already in serious trouble for overspending in op shops. But it was leather and it wasn’t that expensive and it wasn’t going to cost anything to check it out. Aha! I lifted up the clasp and hey presto. There it was… the perfect handbag with separate, individualised spots for pens, my business card, cards, keys, wallet and room for my book and notepad. It had a place for everything to stay in its place and it also had a strong 2cm leather strap which could go across my body so it wouldn’t fall off my shoulder all the time. Moreover, if you are into brands it was a Fossil meaning it was very stylish and retails for around $300.00…so it was quite a steal at $25.00.

Yesterday, I took the bag with me for my big appointment with Professor and I felt so organised and “together” and that really helped. I had everything to hand at what was potentially going to be a very emotionally challenging time and that made such a difference. I was actually “together”!

Thank you Lord! I never expected that our God who created the universe could be bothered with my quest for the perfect handbag but he was. For some strange reason, he cares about me on a very personal, intimate level that doesn’t always make sense. Things dosn’t always happen in quite the way I’d expect but he’s always in the picture somewhere.

However, I wasn’t there for handbags or the John Denver record. I was mainly interested in books.

The books were up the back of the shop and I sat down there for quite some time meticulously going through them. First, I built up my pile and then I was trying to be ruthless, which I always find so difficult with books. They all want to be my friends and each has a compelling story to tell. I went through my pile several times putting back quite a few titles in a futile attempt to feign self-discipline. Each of the books somehow seemed to speak to me in a profoundly personal way. Books have a knack of that. However, contrary to appearances, I’m being very selective and am trying to rein the books in. Two years ago, I actually pulled off a quest to cull 100 books from our house and that was a massive effort. I have seriously undone all that good work on these holidays with the enormous swag of books I’ve bought. I dare not do a count.

Anyway, while I was hovering around the counter, I spotted a huge family King James Bible dating back to 1960. While it isn’t antique, it has a lot of Victorian flourishes including, as I subsequently found out, a section in the middle for writing up your family tree. You can’t get much more Rowie than that!! Anyway, the lady in the op shop gave me the Bible. “You can have that,” she said. She didn’t know this but I’d actually left my Bible at home so this was quite an inspired gift.

Well, you could say that a Bible is the ultimate inspirational gift but that means you also have to read it and there’s the sting.

Well, I’m bringing the Bible downstairs into the house and I’m flicking through it and I found this: . It has a presentation page, a title page and then it has an entire page dedicated to this verse:

Divine Inspiration. The Bible just fell open at this page:

Divine Inspiration. The Bible just fell open at this page.

Divine Inspiration. The Bible just fell open at this page.

As children, this was a verse we really had drummed into us in Sunday School. We all loved it, of course, because we thought it meant we could have all the toys and lollies our little hearts desired. However, I still remember my disappointment as our teacher explained that it didn’t work this way. I’m still not really sure that I fully understand how this verse does work even now but with my medical results due in the morning, it gave me fresh hope. Ask and it shall be given to you and it was. My treatment has worked. Just like a common pizza, God has delivered. It was almost too simple.

A very intriguing book which is really making me think,

A very intriguing book which I hope is opening up my ears to God. I have plenty of scope for improving my listening skills in general too and applying the two ears one mouth ratio.

Seek and you will find also took me on another journey. I found a series of books by Neale Donald Walsch called Conversations With God. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what these were about and whether they were indeed Christian or something else. However, the lady in the op shop assured me they were very good and I was lucky to actually find all three books in the series and even an extra copy of Volume 1 (I only realised I’d doubled up today and am delighted. Geoff and I can read it together and I’ll also have a loan copy.)

I opened up Volume one when I arrived home and found this incredibly inspiring dedication to his parents in the front:

For ANNE M WALSCH

Who not taught me that God exists,

But opened my mind to the wonderous truth

That God is my best friend;

And who was far more than a mother to me,

But gave birth in me

To a longing for and a love of God,

And all that is good.

Mom was

My first meeting with an angel

(Just imagine if my children could say something equally inspirational about me. I am very humbled.)

And for

ALEX M WALSCH

Who told me repeatedly throughout my life,

“There’s nothing to it,”

“You don’t have to take No for an answer,”

“You make your own luck,”

And

“There’s more where that came from.”

Dad was

My first experience

Of fearlessness[1].

I’m going to paste this into my book of life lessons I’m putting together for the kids.

I started reading this book last night when I should have been more than fast asleep and couldn’t put it down. Picked it up again this morning. Too much inspiration to cope with in this book but this bit really leaped out at me:

You have been taught to live in fear. You have been told about survival of the fittest and the victory of the strongest and the success of the cleverist. Precious little is said about the glory of the most loving. And so you strive to be the fittest, the strongest, the cleverest – in one way or another- and if you see yourself as something less than this in any situation, you fear loss, for you have been told that to be less is to lose[2].

And…

“If you think you are right about everything, who needs to talk with God[3]?

With all this inspiration finding me at once, you can understand why I’m having trouble sleeping. All my neurones are firing at once…firing more bullets than Yosemite Sam who I mentioned in my last post.

Music for the soul.

Music for the soul.

I also found music. Managed to buy three CDs at $2.00 each. There was Celine Dion: the Colour of My Love. In keeping with my connection with Beethoven and subsequent explorations, I bought Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor and the `Walstein’ Sonata. I’m sure I’ve heard my grandmother play these pieces and they’re all very familiar and comforting. As a child, I used to fall asleep to her playing curled up on my father’s lap. My father also remembers falling asleep to similar tones when he was a boy. I also picked up “The Best of Delius” which I actually mistook for Sibelius. One of the pieces on the CD, Koanga Act II: Closing Scene was actually arranged by British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Coincidently, my grandmother Eunice Gardiner had returned from her studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London in 1940 for the ABC Tour of Australia with Sir Thomas Beecham. Personally, I didn’t actually know I wasn’t listening to Sibelius but I do love the music. Again, find it dare I say “inspirational”!

But wait! There’s more!!

I also found a beautifully illustrated book about angels and found this lovely poem for the kids:

Ex Ore Infantium

Little Jesus, wast Thou shy
Once, and just so small as I?
And what did it feel like to be
Out of Heaven, and just like me?
Didst Thou sometimes think of THERE,
And ask where all the angels were?
I should think that I would cry
For my house all made of sky;
I would look about the air,
And wonder where my angels were;
And at waking ‘twould distress me–
Not an angel there to dress me!
Hadst Thou ever any toys,
Like us little girls and boys?
And didst Thou play in Heaven with all
The angels that were not too tall,
With stars for marbles? Did the things
Play Can you see me? through their wings?
And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil
Thy robes, with playing on OUR soil?
How nice to have them always new
In Heaven, because ’twas quite clean blue!

Didst Thou kneel at night to pray,
And didst Thou join Thy hands, this way?
And did they tire sometimes, being young,
And make the prayer seem very long?
And dost Thou like it best, that we
Should join our hands to pray to Thee?
I used to think, before I knew,
The prayer not said unless we do.
And did Thy Mother at the night
Kiss Thee, and fold the clothes in right?
And didst Thou feel quite good in bed,
Kissed, and sweet, and thy prayers said?

Thou canst not have forgotten all
That it feels like to be small:
And Thou know’st I cannot pray
To Thee in my father’s way–
When Thou wast so little, say,
Couldst Thou talk Thy Father’s way?–
So, a little Child, come down
And hear a child’s tongue like Thy own;
Take me by the hand and walk,
And listen to my baby-talk.
To Thy Father show my prayer
(He will look, Thou art so fair),
And say: ‘O Father, I, Thy Son,
Bring the prayer of a little one.’

And He will smile, that children’s tongue
Has not changed since Thou wast young!

Francis Thompson

Further to all my musical travels with my violin and Beethoven of late, I found this celebration of music by poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  which spoke to me but also has a message I could pass onto the kids because music really does soothe and heal the soul:

Ode for Music on St. Cecilia’s Day.

VII.
Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate’s severest rage disarm:
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please:
Our joys below it can improve,
And antedate the bliss above.
This the divine Cecilia found,
And to her Maker’s praise confin’d the sound.
When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,
Th’immortal pow’rs incline their ear;
Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,
While solemn airs improve the sacred fire;
And Angels lean from heav’n to hear.
Of Orpheus now no more let Poets tell,
To bright Cecilia greater pow’r is giv’n;
His numbers rais’d a shade from hell,
Hers lift the soul to heav’n.

Perhaps, you won’t be surprised to know that I’m going to head back for one last peak before I head home. While all those minimalistic declutterers are all madly dumping all their Christmas  gifts. This is better than the post-Christmas sales!

After finding all this inspiration, I can’t but wonder about these people who take their Christmas presents seemingly straight from the under the Christmas tree and dump them straight at the op shop. I found a beautiful framed picture of rainbow butterflies which was still sealed in its plastic wrapper. It hasn’t even been opened let alone hung up.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about butterflies but for me butterflies have some kind of resonating meaning and symbolism. They’re special and inspiring and I could just watch them flitter fluttering around my garden for hours. So it beats me how anyone could you ever throw a handmade butterfly picture out…especially when it has rainbow butterflies? Rainbows mean hope. Hope and butterflies combined…that’s a very powerful message to chuck out. I can’t help but think of whoever bought that gift and what messages they were trying to impart. This present wasn’t just a pair of common socks. It was the sort of present which takes a lot of thought, is carefully considered and yet it fell on concrete ground unable to soak up the rain. What an absolute shame!

However, as they say, one person’s loss is another person’s gain!

Speaking of gains, we’re moving back home early next week and I just can’t resist one more peek. It’s only been a couple of days but you never know who’s had a big clean-up and decided they don’t want their treasures anymore or have moved on to new horizons. After all, inspiration is made of stepping stones. That’s the point. The real aim is to grow and to seek new horizons and as you grow, you naturally have to leave some things behind and as they say “spread the love”.

Wish me luck or you could even say a prayer…seek and you will find. I always do! Perhaps, the real miracle would be Rowena arriving home from an op shop empty handed.

Xx Rowena

PS I am almost too ashamed to admit this but while I’m immersed in paradise with this wondrous view suspended just beyond my nose, I’ve been so lost in my writing and tap tap tapping away on the laptop that I’ve been oblivious. The view is out of view. Will remedy that when I get back. Immerse myself in it. Multitasking has never been my thing!

Child in Bush by Robert Dickerson 1959.

Child in Bush by Robert Dickerson 1959.

PPS: Found a sensational art book in there today: Masterpieces of Australian Art by James Gleeson published in 1969 with beautiful colour plates. It opens up with a single Aboriginal painting: A Gnormo or spirit called Yungwalia and closes with Stanislaus Ostaja-Kotkowski. What a find!


[1] Neale Donald Walsche, Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Hodder & Stoughton, 1997, acknowledgements page.

[2] Ibid pg 19.

[3] Ibid p 7.

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