11 Moments That Have Made My Heart Skip a Beat

Happy 11.11.11! This is the last of the 11 posts. It has been fun, but I am exhausted. Don’t expect to see anything new from me for a couple of days. Just read back through any of the 11’s you missed. And maybe leave a comment. 😉

Thanks to Bryan who suggested this topic. It was, I believe, the most fun to write. I find myself, at the end, very grateful.

Giving Birth to My Babies  I think it is safe to say I have never encountered anything so transcendent…so astonishing…so absolutely unbelievable as the miracle of life emerging from my own body. Sure I was working. But I felt no pride. Only the most profound sense of having…for a moment…touched the otherworldly. Of standing in a rift between time and eternity. Out of which came this remarkable little bundle of life. I saw it. I felt it. But I do not understand it. And why God allows us to be part of it…I do not know. It is an extravagance of grace.

Sunset, Florence, Summer 2007. (see above) We stood on the Ponte Vecchio and watched a Master artist at work; painting the sky in an ever evolving fury of color. It wrapped itself around us and we were inside it. How do you plan a moment like this? What would you do to attain it if you could? It is gift. Lavish. Reckless. Glorious.

Stepping into the upper chapel at Sainte Chapelle  We wound our way up a dimly lighted stone staircase. It was impossible to glimpse any hint of what awaited til we were spilled out into the room. And then, Oh My!! Three soaring walls of stained glass. Floor to ceiling. The room vibrated with color. It splashed onto the floor. It hummed in the air. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I could only stand there, helpless, tears running down my face. I was undone.

Long had I resented popes and priests who built such extravagances as these from the tithes of peasants who could hardly feed their families. Until that moment. At that moment, I knew I would gladly starve to be cloaked in the glory of God like this. Just once. To feel His Holiness rest on my face as a shaft of colored light.

The Invocation in the Eucharist to make the Bread and Wine, Body and Blood  We are supposed to be singing at this moment. But I frequently find myself unable. It startled me the first time. So weighty and profound, so marvelous and mysterious. I thought, perhaps, that over time it would lose some of this power. I was wrong. Three years later, my eyes fill with tears and my throat closes. My it always be so.

Watching my daughter give birth Don’t even begin to think it is the same thing as number 1. Not even close. Yes, there is the miracle of life begetting life. Of ten fingers and ten toes, and breath and blood. But there is something else. Seeing your daughter become something else. A life giver. She who brings forth. Brave. Strong. Determined. All love. All sacrifice. A miracle of a different sort.

Standing in front of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night  I am a great lover of art. It is not unusual for me to have strong feelings about works I see. But only a precious few have inspired a visceral reaction. This was one of them. The curious thing is that I knew very little about van Gogh when I encountered it over 20 years ago. It’s as though some of the immense passion van Gogh poured into his work was able to communicate itself to me directly, without translator. Gut to gut. Soul to soul. Understanding his story as I do now, I can give words to some of that. But all I had in that moment was the intense pang in my heart that told me there was far more here than swirls and stars and paint. And that bound me to the work, and to the artist, forever.

Watching Jake draw  It has fascinated me since he was a little boy. Art seems to pour out of him. Like water. He picks up a pencil and begins. No hesitations as he thinks long about what to draw. No draw erase, draw erase, til it’s right. The picture is already in his head (or in his heart?) and his hand knows precisely how to translate it to paper. It is a wonderment to me. I am in awe.

Being in Monet’s Garden at Giverney  Perhaps it all comes of having read too many fairy tales. The ones where someone gets swept up out of his day to day world and carried off into some fairy realm. When I was in Monet’s Garden, I felt that I had stepped into one of his paintings. As we meandered over the grounds, I kept finding myself facing a perspective that I knew only too well. But now the fronds of weeping willow swayed with the breeze. Bees hovered over blossoms. And there were ripples between the water lilies. And still, there was this sense that I must be dreaming. That this was too extraordinary to be believed.

Josh singing Amazing Grace at his school talent show  He was a quiet seventh grader. None of his friends or teachers suspected he was so talented. He stepped onto the stage, I gave him an introduction, and lyrical incense flowed from his mouth. Pristine, clear, sweet. Nobody moved. Everyone was completely silent. As though no one dared sully the sacredness of this moment. And I knew how much it would mean to him. And my mother’s heart swelled with gladness.

Up From the Grave…  When I was a little girl, Easter was a new dress, Sunrise service, and a song we only ever sang on that day. It began, appropriately, as a dirge. “Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.” The whole time we sang this my heart beat faster and faster because I knew what was coming. “Up from the Grave He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes…” Even when I was too little to understand all that the song meant, something inside me knew that the whole world was turned upside down between verse and chorus. I sang the song many times as I grew older. Even as a cynical teenager. But it never lost its magic. Even now, just typing the words, I have butterflies in my stomach.

The Proposal  It’s not like it was a complete surprise. We had already talked about marriage. We had even looked at rings. Just in case. 😉 But when it happened, for real, I was giddy and scared and excited. And a little piece of me seemed to float over the whole thing and look down on it, like it was happening to someone else. And it took wearing the ring and telling people for a few days before that little piece of me crawled back into my skin. And I was able to believe. And it became true.

 I would love to hear about the moments that have left you breathless. Do tell….