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Sunflower Seeds


Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Things I’ve Come Across Recently

Every now and then I like to list some “things” I’ve come across recently. These are things I’ve heard, seen, read, thought, or just wondered about. They’re in no particular order.

1. The other day I saw a flock of geese take off from a lake in a park. They made quite a bit of racket as they rose from the water wildly flapping their wings. As they got higher, they were highly disorganized—a haphazard bunch of individual geese honking at each other and, at times, almost crashing into each other. I spontaneously said to them: “You remind me of my country!” Later I thought, I could have also said, “You remind me of my Church!” But as the geese flew farther away and higher up, I could see the letter V emerging out of that squawking chaos. One goose soon assumed the role of leader, forming the tip of the letter V. Others began to fall in line—more or less. Their formation wasn’t a perfect V. There were stragglers. But soon the majority of the flock clearly resembled a V and moved forward together. And that gave me hope.

Flying together, moving forward… (Photo by Brett Sayles – Pexels)

2. According to a Gallup survey analysis released in March 2021, 47% of Americans report belonging to a church, synagogue, or mosque. This is the first time in 80 years that Gallup data has shown membership dropping below the majority.

3. The U.S. bald eagle population has grown fourfold in the past decade, according to a March report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Go, Eagles!)

4. Speaking of animals, did you know: A snail can sleep for three years… A grizzly bear’s bite is strong enough to crush a bowling ball… It takes a sloth two weeks to digest its food… The heart of a shrimp is in its head… The oldest evidence of domesticated cats dates back 9,500 years… A group of ferrets is called a business…?

This kitten’s ancestors were domesticated 9,500 years ago. (Photo by Vadim B – Pexels)

5. A study out of Harvard University discovered a way for you to feel more optimistic. Take two minutes a day to write a short positive message to someone close to you or someone who supports you. People who did this for 21 days scored significantly higher in optimism and life satisfaction.

6. Here are some quotes by Max Lucado, a favorite writer of mine: “Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and to realize you were the prisoner… Feed your fears and your faith will starve. Feed your faith and your fears will… No one can do everything, but everyone can do something… You are the only you God made.”

7. Andrea Demirjian has written a book entitled, Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures. (You might be wondering why a nun would be interested in such a book! I plead the Fifth!) The author explains that our kissing, both giving and receiving, communicates our care and affection for people—whether it is a romantic affection or a filial affection for a family member or friend. Kissing can burn calories—although not many unless it is lengthy passionate kissing. Kissing can boost self-esteem. Kissing can also increase your heart rate and thus lower your blood pressure.

A kiss–whether given or received–can make both giver and receiver feel better about themselves. (Photo by Yan Krukov – Pexels)

8. A recent study out of Harvard has shown that “Spirituality and a sense of awe seem to be hard-wired into our brains.” Another researcher in Philadelphia has concluded that religion or spirituality “is a very basic property of who we are as human beings.” The part of the brain these researches focused on is a region called the periaqueductal gray. A neurosurgeon at the Boston University School of Medicine has come to this conclusion: “…the brain devotes significant metabolic and neural resources/real estate to what we call religion or spirituality.”

9. Some of you know that my nickname is Dolly. So, my family calls me Dolly or Aunt Dolly. Recently Anne, the wife of one of my nephews, began typing a letter to me. When she typed “Hello Aunt Dolly,” her autocorrect changed it to, “Hell Aint Silly.”

10. My friend Bob always sends me his notes from books he’s read. What a gift those notes are for me! Here are two quotes by the American Quaker Douglas V. Steere. I think they are a good way to end today’s reflection: “Life is lent to be spent… Holiness is nothing short of a life of attention and the abandonment to the besieging love of God.”

Holiness is abandoning ourselves to the besieging love of God… (Photo by Jill Wellington – Pexels)

Did anything here stand out for you or speak to you today—a word, a phrase, a thought? If so, what and why? Would you like to share this with us below?


Here is a video that advertises my upcoming virtual retreat sponsored by the Sophia Center in Atchison, KS on Oct. 29-30. It is posted on their website, but I want to share it with you too. It features Donna Coleman, my contact person at Sophia Center, and me! I say just a few words about the upcoming retreat (about 3 1/2 mins.) So if you’ve never seen me in person, here’s your big chance! (I hope you’re not disappointed!) Of course, you can skip this ad if you want. There’s no obligation to watch it.

Here is a simple, beautiful little song written by John Michael Talbot and sung here by Jesse Manibusan: “Open My Eyes, Lord.” In this prayer we ask to see Jesus’ face… to hear his voice… and to love as Jesus loves. Prayer doesn’t get much better than this…

I encourage you to respond below to this reflection. A few simple words are always appreciated!

19 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. “Dolly”…
    Good morning, all…

    First, so wonderful to hear your kind and joyful voice! Second, what a blessing for you to see those geese struggling to V-up! And what a blessing for us that we got to read about it and hear the wisdom you derived from it. Your holiness is “nothing short of a life of attention and abandonment to the besieging love of God.” Thank you!

    1. Good morning all, THANK YOU for bringing a big smile to me with your first example of Canadian Geese. I am from Michigan however have been in Florida for 21 yrs now. I call the geese (honkers) they are absolutely one of my favorite animals. Since I have moved to South Florida I live close to a nature preserve therefore wildlife is prominent in my country neighborhood. I’m learning all about sandhill cranes and numerous families come to my house daily for their feed. God bless all the critters.

  2. Am loving Douglas Steere’s quotations. And yes to your thoughts on the squawking geese that didn’t, at first, want to be orderly. And hell ain’t silly, but autocorrect certainly is!

    Good morning and happy Monday to all. Peace and light.

  3. Good Morning Sister
    I love the quote about unlocking the door.
    As far as the geese, as I was walking to Mass on Saturday evening, I saw two flocks of geese. One was in the usual V shape the other was heading in a different direction and was in know formation, more like a gang. One turned in the right direction and immediately they formed a line. I thought about it all evening. Lessons in nature!
    Love your Monday reflections. Thank you.

  4. “Holiness is nothing short of a life of attention . . . .” For me, this summed up both the blog and the song. If we don’t get caught up in our own life and trials, we lean more into living within the Heartof God.

  5. I’ve been reading your wonderful Sunflower Seeds for many years and I attended one of your workshops a few years ago at St. Christopher in Rocky River. At Saturday evening’s liturgy, “Open my eyes Lord” was the Communion song which affected me emotionally as I am dealing with serious eye issues. And now, to hear it again 2 days later, seems an amazing coincidence-or as a priest friend refers to it: a God-incidence!!

  6. Good morning Sister Melanie, as I sit here at my computer reading your blog, my cat Bella sits on my lap, purring. i think she appreciated the mention of cats today. I enjoyed everything you mentioned, and both videos. Mondays are always special because of your “Sunflowers.”

  7. I totally agree that “Holiness is nothing short of a life of attention.” Living in rural Indiana for the first 55 years of my life, I remember the geese, the smell of a storm in the air, and the three days of wind shift that forecast the change of seasons from summer to fall. Having been in Central Florida for the past 28 years, I no longer see the geese but when we stay at the beach, I notice that a flock of pelicans (flying in a single line) always pass our balcony about 5 minutes before sunrise. This summer while swimming in the early morning, I’ve pd attention to my Hibiscus and noticed that most varieties have only one day to live their life to the fullest. I’m still cognizant of the wind changes and the smell of an oncoming storm. Nature is definitely my call to spirituality.

  8. A brotherly kiss to you! Thanks for your mention of the book on kissing. Good sister, you must know what St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure wrote about the kiss–symbolic of the Incarnation, Christ as the kiss of God, beautifully rendered in English in a note in Ilia Delio’s book, Franciscan Prayer, page 31, note 21. I’m glad we have a kiss of peace at Mass.

  9. We have a small lake nearby, and we enjoy the geese coming and going. You gave a retreat years ago at St. Joseph’s in Richardson, Texas and i might add, you haven’t changed a bit!!
    Enjoyed seeing you again. Thanks for your unique and wonderful blogs each week.

  10. Hello Sr. Melanie,
    Like so many others, I have been disheartened because of the state of our country and our church. But contemplating the course of the flight of the geese is hopeful.
    I loved “ Open My Eyes” !
    It was delightful to see you in the video and to hear your voice… you are a treasure!
    I usually are unable to see your Monday blog until the night and watch it before going to sleep. What a wonderful way to end the day!
    Thank you and God Bless You.
    Gail Checkett

  11. Regarding being hard wired for spirituality…. I just returned a few days ago from visiting some of our awe inspiring National Parks and I could see this, I think. Even people who wouldn’t call themselves religious or spiritual are nonetheless in awe of God’s creation. There were many comments over the few days we were there, from strangers who somehow then become friends after sharing the beauty of God’s natural world. I’m so thankful we have these spaces to share.

  12. A big THANK YOU to all who submitted a comment so far this week. It’s always good to see what touched you in the reflection. I also enjoy hearing about your personal experiences no matter where you live! Feel free to continue commenting below! Sr. Melannie

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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