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When we close our hearts and minds because we feel burdened with worry and fear, God — however you define Her or Him — offers an opening.

I set out on a two-week trip for work and family, struggling with a private decision potentially so life-altering that it made my body feel heavy.  I was determined not to let it interfere with my plans for a happy trip.

Whenever I’m struggling like this, I pray for strength and guidance, and calm.  I usually begin each day with meditation, focusing on gratitude.  This way, no matter how dark life seems, I am grounded in thankfulness.

(BTW:  I’m awful at meditation.  My over-excited brain doesn’t slow easily.  Being a worrier most of my life, meditation is, to be charitable, a daily work-in-progress.)

On days when fear and anxiety try to overwhelm my grateful heart, I search for moments to slow, and breathe, and return to gratitude.

(This isn’t easy:  I joke with everyone that I’m the only person I know who had to get a Master’s degree to learn to relax.  Honestly — to become a rehabilitation counselor, one needs to relearn breathing.)

The start of the trip was joyous, reuniting with a dear friend, and meeting new people full of love and happiness.  There’s something about standing next to a snow-slicked mountain (Washington’s Mt. Baker) for an intimate wedding, that makes one’s worries shrink.

Buoyed by my friend’s company — and that of her Tibetan terrier, Bilbo — I was calmer, and began to see my inner conflict in a more hopeful light.

Walking by the oceanfront on our last evening together, we were blessed with a sunset so gorgeous that every other walker we met shared their joy about seeing it.  (Bellingham is one of the most friendly, welcoming cites.)

Bellingham sunset

Then we caught sight of a rainbow — then another — then a faint third — that so thrilled us (and, I presume, little Bilbo), we called out to other walkers to share this rare phenomenom.

Rainbow over Bellingham, Washington

A rainbow, with all its spiritual meanings of hope in many cultures and religions, is always a personal symbol of optimism.  How bad can life be when there’s something that wondrous and so much larger than us overhead?

Barbara Gilday plays with a rainbow over her city of Bellingham

I left Bellingham feeling lighter.  I enjoyed a giggly, stay-up-talking-every-night trip with my Mom, and we explored forests, beaches and small towns together on Vancouver Island.

When a sudden downpour seemed to stall our travel plans, we ducked inside a museum, and learned about the hardscrabble past of the lower island.  We had lunch.  We talked a lot more.

Leaving Lake Cowichan after noon, the day — and my outlook — changed dramatically.

The rain had stopped, and the earlier gloom had been peeled away to reveal a double rainbow.  We drove under one, then seemingly through another, on our way out of town.

If the mother-daughter trip was exciting before, this only made it better.

This was the first time in my life I’ve seen rainbows twice in one week.

In Bellingham, I saw my first triple rainbow.  And in Lake Cowichan, seeing a double rainbow so close it seemed we could touch it, Mom and I were so excited we were stunned into silence.

For all this, I am grateful.

Hope and light at the Pacific Ocean, Bellingham

All photos by Kathleen Kenna.  Free for reposting: please credit or link to site.

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