Acceptance 101, Making a God Box

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I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess. Martin Luther

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One year when I was enrolled in Self-Pity 101 and deeply involved in my studies, a close friend who belonged to a 12-Step program invited me to a women’s weekend at the Ralston White Retreat in Marin County. I doubted that her program could do a better job than mine of addressing my top concern – myself—but I agreed to attend because the destination intrigued me.

The historic house, now a retreat, was nestled in the redwoods. I arrived on a wet, windy Saturday mooning in December. Long branches of moss-laden redwoods swayed as a storm ripped through Northern California.

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That afternoon, rain pounded against the picture windows while I sat on a sofa in a workshop on God Boxes. I listened to thirty-something Jessie, who held a cigar box covered with a collage of paint, photos, and rice paper. She said, “My God Box holds the problems I turn over to my high power.”

I crossed my legs and amused myself by rolling my ankle and counting the times it circled around. This craft project might be a misplaced belief in magic. A decorated container seemed as helpful as magic underwear. That is, not at all.

Perhaps my problems were far from one-of-a-kind. Yet I pouted privately that even so, they were worse than anyone else’s because my children left to live with their father after our divorce, leaving my nest emptier earlier than other mothers’ empty nests. I held tight to my self-pity.

As if she read my mind, Jessie laughed and pushed back her dark, curly, long hair. “Everything I’ve let go of has claw marks on it.” That caught my attention. She shared her story about leaving a physically abusive partner and struggling with alcohol, coming across happy and calm. I wanted the peace she had.

Jessie shared a quote from Martin Luther, “I have held many things in my hands and have lost them all, but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.

She continued, “A God Box holds that which one places in God’s hands: unsolved problems, unanswered questions, sorrows, and unrequited love—the things you wish to let go of and give to God.”

“On a slip of paper, write a sentence, please, or a single word about the relationship or any other concern that seems to have no solution,” she said. “In so doing, a ritual is created that will help you let go and turn it over to God. You can more easily let go after making a symbolic gesture of turning over the concern to God.”

I moved to the long table with magazines, glued a copy of Martin Luther’s quote on the inside lid of a box, and made my own God Box.

The words I wrote on two slips of paper were the names of my daughter and son. When I tucked the papers inside the God Box, I recalled Jessie’s words, “Life has its mysteries and I am not in charge.”

As we finished our boxes, Jessie said, “You may say it’s only a box, but it’s no small thing to make a ritual of letting go. Whatever you place in your god Box, you turn over to the Divine.”

That weekend I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about my son and daughter. They were on their own paths. I still missed then, but I started accepting the fact that their lives no longer revolved around me.

Having two incredible children who are healthy and pursuing their own forms of happiness was truly a blessing whether or not the children, now adults, visited me as often as I would have preferred.

My situation was a slice of the human condition, a drama, yes, but a plain vanilla one because almost all parents wish to see more of their children. I started seeing myself as not so unique, but as a parent among parents, a mother among mothers.

Life wasn’t all about me. After all, the children were ok; they loved me, and I loved them. They were healthy and busy following their dreams. I felt truly blessed.

Driving home, I surveyed the sun-kissed landscape and decided it was time to enroll in acceptance 101.

The Sonoma Coast State Park, Pure Bliss for Max

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Max and I found dog heaven on a recent trip along the California coast. The Sonoma Coast State Park offered a choice of more than half a dozen different beaches, all of them dog-friendly,

The seventeen-mile stretch of sandy beaches, secluded coves, and craggy rocks that form the park is located less than a two hour drive north of San Francisco. oOn our late January trip I searched for a beach with just the right kind of access. The parking lot needed to be close to the shore. Yes, lazy me wanted an easy stroll to the beach, but that wasn’t the only reason. As soon as Max exited the car and sniffed the sea, he would be prone to leaping off tall rocks to get to the water, a feat he tried some years back.

On that initial visit Max was an energetic two-year-old  who had never before seen the ocean. His enthusiasm knew no bounds. We had parked high above the sea and descended a narrow trail to reach the beach a thousand feet below. Scrub brush enclosed the trail most of the way so Max couldn’t see the water.

  • img_1408But then, when the trail widened atop a huge boulder, the ocean came into plain sight. There was also a remaining drop in elevation of twenty feet between us and the beach. The sight of Pacific Ocean triggered Max’s instinctive love of water. He flew into the air straight off the rock.

I stared at Max, frozen in shock. My mind registered the seconds between his leap and his landing as a slow motion movie. My heart pounded with fear that many of poor Max’s bones were about to shatter. To my amazement, he landed, shook himself, and raced to the surf. He happily immersed himself in the sea.

Over and over, Max ran into the waves and back to me, wagging his wet tail with joy. The ocean was his holy grail and he had found it.

img_1404But this year, Max was older and calmer. The trek to the shore was uneventful. I walked along the sun-splashed sandy beach while Max sniffed at the kelp and crab shells.

Intrigued by the magnificence of the surf crashing ashore and curling back to the sea, I failed to notice the black sand beneath my feet was wet for a reason. With little warning, one of the mesmerizing magnificent waves rumbled toward us nonstop. Foaming saltwater swirled wildly over and around my previously dry feet and legs. All the warnings to be aware of the dangers of fast moving waves are true. Fortunately, this was a fairly small wave.

While I scampered away from the ocean, Max pranced away without even getting wet. At the end of our morning at the beach, Max was sandy but perfectly dry. This year I was the wet one.

Many websites offer helpful information. This one is comprehensive:  The Sonoma Coast State Park.

The Tideline is edited by Marianna Shearer.