Blog Post: Spirit’s Promise

FullSizeRender

I believe God speaks to us in the spaces.  In the moments of stillness. In the moments of connection.  I find all too often people are not comfortable enough,  trusting enough, or perhaps present enough, to listen to the guidance that comes to us in these moments.  And too often I’ve been one of those people.

Two summers ago, I had one such moment and a chance to live my life a little differently.  It was quite an extended moment, actually. And dare I say, it was a defining moment that has inspired me to find the courage to stand firm on my intuitive gifts.

My friend Kelly and I had been on the phone that day, talking about some training in equine massage that  I was contemplating doing.

And he said, “I think my heart would explode if I could work with horses.”

Our friendship is such that we don’t let each other get away with powerful phrases like that.  So I asked him what was going on.

He shared that he has always loved horses.  Working on them was not within the scope of his license as a New York massage therapist.  He had thought about taking a course in animal communication instead.  Finances stood in the way. He never explored it.

I knew this wasn’t about money though.  A statement like that is never about money.  It’s about the soul remembering what it came here to do.  But what happened next defied any measure of logic. Let me say first, it’s not like I’ve never done something like this before, but I’ve certainly never done it  with this kind of connection, clarity, and velocity.

I said to Kelly, “I’m feeling a horse running toward me.  I feel it running right into my chest.  It rips my heart open.  There is a gaping hole inside.  And then the horse fills that hole.  And then there’s a pause.  I feel you now becoming the horse.  And I feel you and the horse, as one, tearing out of the gate.  The horse transforms you.”

The information kept coming, equally as fast:  “You’re going to work with rescue horses.  You’re going to heal the horses.  But there’s something else. Your work with the horses is going to heal you.”

There was a pause in the information and I waited to see if there was more. Then I got this: “And you will heal these horses so they can work with kids who have special needs, kids who need healing. So you will be the healer who heals the horse. But the horse is the healer who heals you. And you free this horse so it can then heal children.”

Then I said, “You need to volunteer somewhere where there are horses. Forget about money and the animal communication classes. That will come. For now volunteer. You need to just be around horses. Look on Eastern Long Island. Somewhere around Riverhead.”

Then I paused. Nothing else was coming. Except this: “I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do when you get there. But Spirit will lead you.”

I paused and furrowed my brow because what I got next seemed crazy. But I said it anyway.

“And don’t be surprised if you meet a horse named Spirit.”

Here I was, in Colorado,  1,800 miles away from New York, where I had lived most of my life. I hadn’t been back home in ten years. I had no clue there was a rescue barn there. Yet I knew in the center of my being that somehow there was one. Exactly there.

What happened next was surreal. Kelly texted me in less than five minutes. He sent me the link to a rescue barn. It was not in Riverhead, but in Manorville, one town over.

The name of the rescue barn? Spirit’s Promise.

It was named after their first rescue horse: Spirit.

Spirit’s Promise doesn’t just rescue horses that have been abused and neglected. Once rehabilitated, these horses go on to work in their equine therapy program, helping humans heal. The horses work with people who have experienced various emotional wounds. Among them: cancer survivors, survivors of trauma and sexual abuse, and those who have been harmed by bullying. The horses are there to be healed. And then the horses become the healers.

What Kelly told me shortly after learning all this provided an added layer of validation for both of us. A few weeks prior, Kelly’s friend Danny had sent him a video link about an animal communicator and a leopard named Diabolo, who was sent to a wild life rescue facility. Danny told Kelly this was the work he needed to be doing, that he had this gift. No one in the rescue facility could handle Diabolo and so an animal communicator was brought in to determine what was distressing the wild cat. Through her work with Diabolo, the animal communicator learned that the leopard desired respect and wanted to be renamed.  Diabolo’s wish? To be renamed Spirit.

And so when I had told Kelly not to be surprised if there was a horse named Spirit, he paid attention. When he found the actual barn called Spirit’s Promise one town over from where I told him to look for it, he knew this was important enough to investigate.

He called Spirit’s Promise and learned there was a caretaker’s day scheduled in two weeks.  He signed himself and his daughter up. He immediately resonated with Marisa Striano Charles, owner of Spirit’s Promise. His story of how he found the rescue barn captivated her. Kelly described a magical day working with the horses, bonding with and learning from them. Kelly’s own spirit certainly needed to meet the Spirit.

But I was curious about something. The information I received that day began while I was sitting in my clinic, setting acupuncture needles in myself. The last bit of the conversation about finding the horse named Spirit happened on my short ride home, just down the hill from my office. This was not the first time I had received information for Kelly at that exact place on my drive home. Some months before, in that same location, I had a visual impression of Kelly scattering rose quartz crystals on the ground. I called him and asked why I might be seeing this. He texted me a picture of a piece of rose quartz, the size of a softball. He had just been meditating with it.

So I had asked Kelly if the name of the street meant anything. He said it didn’t. It took me a while to put it together. Since childhood, Kelly’s spirit guide has been the bear, the Native American symbol of courage. At the bottom of this hill is a creek. And that creek so happens to be called Bear Creek. Wild bear had once been hunted on this land. It is literally bear land.

Some days later, I told Kelly he needed to look for animal communication classes in his area. He called me back to tell me he found one. The school so happened to be named “Two Bears.” We both suspected it was the one. Kelly was sure he needed training. Danny and I were pretty sure he didn’t. Then a few months ago, I knew he didn’t.

My friend Jean’s Yorkshire Terrier, Fiona, was dying of liver disease. Fiona had been perfectly healthy and then suddenly turned jaundiced. The disease came from nowhere and progressed rapidly. There wasn’t much time left. Jean wanted to know what Fiona needed to be more comfortable in her last few weeks.

The animal communicator Jean had contacted was unable to communicate with Fiona. The reading didn’t really unfold. I asked Jean if she was open to me asking Kelly if he could try. She agreed.

Kelly was hesitant, but tried anyway. He felt he didn’t get much of a connection. But he was clear on this much. Fiona told him that she felt like she “wasn’t the princess anymore.” Kelly was solid on that, but he thought this was virtually useless information.

What Kelly didn’t know is that Fiona’s full name was Princess Fiona. She was literally Jean’s princess, her first Yorkie. Only months before, Jean had gotten a fourth Yorkie, a puppy named Duke. And Fiona suddenly found herself feeling  lost in the crowd. Jean knew what needed to be done: Fiona needed to be showered with love during those last weeks to know she would always be Jean’s princess. Such a simple and short message held tremendous healing.

It’s been quite a ride since I learned about Spirit’s Promise. There was healing in the message for Kelly that day; I could hear it in his voice. But there was healing for me in that message too. And validation…

Spirit.

Spirit speaks to us. Spirit is a powerful guide. Spirit , I believe, is love. And that Spirit — that love — wants to put us on the path of our destiny — back on the path to the Divine.

But that message was not just about one word. It was not just about Spirit. Spirit was found at a place called Spirit’s Promise.

Spirit offers a promise: Follow me. Trust me. Let me lead you. I promise, I won’t abandon you. Let’s take this ride together; I will lead you to blessings you can’t even imagine.

I have revisited this experience for over a year now, sitting with what I believe was a mini-miracle. A beautiful gift from God, shared between two friends. And shared beyond us too.  The story has touched so many. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Marisa Striano Charles on the phone. We both say we feel like we’ve known each other from another time. She feels the same way about Kelly. When I feel a little off course and when I need to deepen my connection to Spirit, I wear the wrist band that Marisa sent me, the one that bears her website name: www. SpiritsPromiseRescue.org. It serves as a reminder of the promise of Spirit and the many mystical ways in which God communicates and validates His love for each of us.

©2016 Maria Grace Mandarino

Advertisements

Blog Post: By Faith

The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee,

preserve thy body and soul under everlasting life. Take and eat

this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on

him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

       –Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucharist, Rite I

 

I have heard these words nearly every Thursday morning at the Rite I service I attend at my church. But last Thursday, time felt as though it were suspended, as my pastor firmly placed the communion bread into my palm as I knelt at the altar rail in our small chapel.

My pastor begins this prayer as he serves communion to the first person kneeling. And as he moves to the next person, he continues with the next line of the prayer. As he reached me, he was up to the words, “by faith.”

And faith was exactly what I had lost, only about a half hour earlier.

Four days prior, my dearest and oldest friend on this planet, Jim, a friend whom I consider an anam cara (soul friend in Gaelic) had suffered a massive heart attack. He is only 51 and in good health. He had been revived by medics. We were told he was without oxygen for ten minutes. He was in a medically induced coma. I was on the other side of the country and relying upon friends at a distance to get my updates. It looked grim for four days. No response. My friends, my family, and my entire church were all praying for Jim’s recovery. I could not imagine walking this earth without my soul friend at my side. I was distraught and steeped in grief for four solid days.

On Thursday morning there had been no change in Jim’s status. Before leaving for church, I sat on the floor of my bedroom and I spoke to him. Jim and I have certainly had “conversations” without benefit of a telephone connection before. I knew with Jim in a coma, his heart would feel my words now.

Gentle tears ran down my cheeks as I said, “Jim, I love you. And I will miss you. But if you need to go — if you need to be free — it’s okay to leave.” I sat there for some time, just being with the sound of those words and all they meant. Jim and I had talked plenty about death and dying and nearly 20 years ago we dealt with the tragic passing of a friend who was barely 30. We had had many “big conversations.”  I was sad, but I knew being kept alive on machines was not consistent with Jim’s idea of life.

I looked at the clock then and realized I’d be ten minutes late for church. And I thought perhaps God would understand if I skipped this week. And then I heard Jim’s voice inside my head. “Maria Grace,” (he only used my middle name when he was exasperated with me). “Get your ass to church.”

I froze in my tracks. It was so completely something Jim would have said. I paused in disbelief. Then, I heard, “And put on your goddamned green!”

It was Saint Patrick’s Day. I looked down at my sweater. It was mauve.

I glanced back at the clock. Changing clothes would mean I’d be an additional five minutes late.

I went back into my closet and pulled out a change of clothes.

I got to church just in time for the last part of the first reading.  During the sermon, our pastor was talking about how there can be no Easter without a Good Friday. I’m at the end of my first year of training to be a spiritual director. Throughout much of Lent we have been talking about the Pascal Mystery and the many transitions of life into death we experience on this earth. I peacefully sat with the pastor’s words, accepting that Jim’s time of transition was likely nearing and this was God’s way of preparing me. I was sad, but I was at peace with what seemed (at least clinically speaking) to be the obvious.

I had my phone set to vibrate in my pocket, something I would typically never do while in church. But this day I was so sure that within the hour I’d be receiving sad news, I could not bring myself to silence my phone. As the pastor was speaking about the Pascal Mystery, the phone vibrated. I silenced it immediately and I took a peek at the message.

It simply read: “He wiggled his toes on command.” It was beyond anything any one of us could have expected. He was in there. Tears of joy ran down my face. There was voluntary movement, he could hear, he could process information. I knew Jim. I knew the rest would come.

All clinical evidence and all physical world knowledge spoke against this moment.

And yet more the next day. Jim moved his knees. We had bilateral movement and recruitment of large muscle groups, which suggested that with therapy Jim would walk again.

Two days later, we  received confirmation that Jim’s personality was still in there. He had undergone a tracheotomy, but was communicating with his eyes. When he was asked what he had perceived as a stupid question, he rolled his eyes as if to say, “Duh.”

Small things become monumental gifts in times such as these. And these were gifts that were precious to us all.  They embodied hope.

Jim is still very much on a healing journey and likely will be for a while. I post this blog on Holy Saturday, a holy day of waiting. And appropriately, here we are, patiently waiting for more news about Jim’s continued healing.

Easter has always been an odd time of transition for me. It seems to come a bit too quickly after the darkness of Good Friday and the stripping of the altar. One day of waiting for the stone to be rolled away doesn’t seem to be quite enough time for me. The new-found brightness and the shift into celebration feels a bit shocking. I don’t feel prepared for such radical change. And I can only imagine the shock of Mary as she arrived at the tomb, finding the stone moved, as she made the transition from grief into joy. Such a large shift for a human heart to make.

Wishing you God’s blessings and the peace and joy of the Resurrection this Easter and always.

May we all walk by faith.

Peace,

Maria Grace Mandarino

©Maria Grace Mandarino  2016