Our friend Pauline Gunderson, is, as you will observe below, someone who pays attention to detail. If life is sacramental, as it surely is, then Pauline receives the grace of God in the great and the small of life’s experiences.
Reflections by Pauline Gunderson
Before going for an early morning walk at 6:40am, I hung the heart-shaped prism on the sliding-glass door. The sun hadn’t peeked behind the clouds as yet. When I got back at 7:00am the sun was shining brightly, the heart-shaped prism refracting the spectrum of light with small rainbow-colored ovals on the sea-foam green living-room wall. First I counted three. As I moved to a different position I noticed five, when I moved again I saw six and finally at my last move - seven with one on the floor. Taking a broader view, these colorful ovals were making an open circle.
At 7:15am there were only three ovals and the circle was shrinking. The sun was rising, being blocked by the partially opened vertical blinds. One more appeared as I fully opened the blinds. I experimented with moving the prism to other places on the glass doors to capture the direct sun. Finally I achieved seven ovals splashed on two walls and the floor. It seemed like a metaphor for me but what was the metaphor?
Yesterday, as I was driving to my last day of school before beginning my retirement, I thought about the assignment that our Principal Carol Moore had given to the faculty. Last fall, at a staff meeting, we were each given a small cream-colored collapsible gift box about 4” X 4.” She asked us to make a design on the outside or put something on the inside that would reflect our year. I hadn’t given much thought to the assignment. Now these gift boxes were due. Different ideas had come to mind in the last few days.
I had a lot to do that day with my replacement, coming from New York. I wanted to make good use of her time so she would have a smooth transition in the fall. In addition there were a myriad of details that I needed to take care of before I left school.
Then I thought about Panera. For over seven years since moving to Virginia, my early morning routine is to enjoy a bagel with hazelnut cream cheese and hazelnut coffee with a splash of half and half or 2% milk. My bagel favorites have changed little over the years. They no longer make Apple Raisin or Carrot Raisin (not sure of name). Now I enjoy Whole Grain.
I realized that I savored the time between 6:30 and 7:00am while enjoying my food and listening to classical music in the background. In the last year they’ve changed the type of music which is disappointing. I like this definition of savor: “to enjoy something in unhurried appreciation.” This half hour is a delight to me before engaging in very busy days! In recent years I sometimes shared that time with fellow-teacher Debby. Tom was also a regular. He connected his lap top at a corner table; sometimes showing me things on the computer. Ah-h-h! In the gift box would go a bagel and a cup. Since I’m an early childhood education teacher, we had a plastic cup and bagel in the dramatic play center.
So what does the bagel and coffee have to do with the assignment? I knew last fall that I would be retiring at the end of the year. At the time I wasn’t consciously aware that I had a different perspective about this year. Looking back, I savored more those moments with students individually and with my colleagues. I took more time to just watch the students teach the preschoolers and observe the children at play and “work.”
Throughout many days I had unexpected challenges. Just as I took notice of the heart- shaped prism refracting the sunlight on the wall in a rainbow of colors from different perspectives, I took time to listen more to the hurts and concerns of my students. It shifted my perspective and I could see the facets of their lives more clearly. I wanted to comfort and help them. In those intimate moments I wanted them to know God was pouring out love to them, wanting them to lean on Him.
God also has many facets; one of those facets is the God of Comfort. Jesus said:
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
I have experienced that rest in Jesus countless times. When I was going through a very difficult time (losing my job as the main bread winner, my marriage falling apart, losing the equity in our home, moving to Virginia alone, starting a brand-new career, being dependent on others and living alone for the first time in my life) I felt wrapped in His arms as I sometimes wept and drifted off to sleep at night. I didn’t know until today that there is a hymn called, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” I went on the internet and read and copied the lyrics and story behind the hymn.
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
I relate to the following as expressed by Corrie Ten Boom: “We [Corrie and her sister] started comforting those around us [in the concentration camp]. We could comfort others because the Lord had comforted us. He spoke through us to the people. We were channels of living water, as the Lord had promised.”
Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983), a Christian and native of Holland, was imprisoned in a concentration camp along with her father and sister who both died in the camp. They had sheltered Jews from the Holocaust. She has inspired millions through her writings about that experience.
Jesus said to His disciples, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
I discovered the metaphor of the prism: Although an average vessel on the outside, if I focus on Christ in my life His glory will shine through in my actions as the sun shining through the heart-shaped prism.
“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (Psalm 90:17)