Why should she pout?
But today. . .today, she warms, and turns on the charm, unbidden, and flashes her sweetest smile.
[And, still, as Advent continues, and the darkness grows, I practice emptying. Hoping to post about that soon.]
On Saturday, I walked in her too-deep cold, but stayed out, even though I had to flex and curl my aching toes all the way home to avoid frostbite.
Sunday, her gentle snowfall lured me to the window, mesmerized, to watch the barren world soften and come to life, the air filled with fat, Christmas card-like flakes all afternoon.
We awoke on Monday to glitz and dazzle and glare, the sun so bright it made our eyes ache. But with joy. She was all Scarlett O'Hara, her passionate embrace followed by a slap in the face! The wind picked up, fierce, and blew right through everything. Then night fell so calm, I was lured once again to the outdoors, with a longing to stay there in the clear, dark stillness. Then she lapsed into a sulk, with several days of sullen gloom.
Why should she pout?
But today. . .today, she warms, and turns on the charm, unbidden, and flashes her sweetest smile.
[And, still, as Advent continues, and the darkness grows, I practice emptying. Hoping to post about that soon.]
My Advent practice is only five letters long: EMPTY. The word has captured my attention lately, in an experiential way. I've noticed that the chief reason I haven't been writing as much is that I have been too full. Granted, a lot has been going on. But I realize that I've been carrying too much.
After my little retreat two weeks ago, I noticed that I stopped checking my work email from home. Not something I planned, exactly. I think I just got in touch with the fact that I've been working too much. The easiest way to stop working "all the time" it seems, is to simply engage in play and rest. (Who would have thought. Sounds a lot like Sabbath, does it not?)
It appears that direct engagement in play and rest are more effective than talking it over with myself.
I know that one of my ways of emptying is to walk. Another is to color or paint or sketch. A third is to gaze out the window. It's not always something that I choose consciously. But I think that I need to!
So I'm letting this be my practice for Advent: EMPTY.
Jack and I had an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day: a leisurely morning followed with a lovely feast for two. I got a nice walk in late in the day, and noticed bare trees, lined up, each with a bird's nest in the top. One per tree, winged neighbors. Kids were playing on the ice, and geese flocked around and in the open water on the pond. I encountered a family on a scavenger hunt, who stopped me and asked me to snap a photo. A flock of blackbirds settled in a tree high overhead, and hushed themselves. As we move quickly toward the solstice, I noticed, it feels as though I now have to walk almost due south in order to walk toward the sun.
On Friday, we drove over to see Daniel (three hours), my son who is incarcerated. It was so sad and so good to be with him. He and I were allowed a 30-minute conversation on a two-way monitor. I feel for him, and miss him so much! He gave me ideas for some things we can do for him, as well as talking about his thoughts and feelings.
Following our visit, Jack and I drove to pick up Lilia for the weekend. We hadn't seen her since her birthday in August.
Realizing that Sunday would come quickly, we made a list of everything we wanted to do together: play Indian, Scrabble, go to a movie ("The Christmas Candle"), bake cookies, walk, color and draw. We also watched "The Polar Express" with Grandpa.
She is changing. Growing, too. In fact, we marked her height on a door, and she weighed herself. Dear heart that she is, she really misses her dad. When we walked, she discovered ice on the creek and I let her "skate"--after we tested it. She also danced for me:
When I drove her home on Sunday, I spent a few minutes with her mom, and held Lilia's baby brother, James.
Then I gave myself an hour long walk on the River (Mississippi) before starting back. I took it all in: the sun reflected on the placid water, and the quiet--undoing, emptying, getting back in touch. It was heaven.
Yesterday I put our tree up before I left for work, and then added some more lights when I got home in the afternoon. If I were up to it (making red book covers) my tree would look like this:
Summer ended, Autumn arrived, stayed long, peaked late, and now is gone. The days are chilly, with ice and snow and more snow, and I'm returning now to the blog and the novel.
It's been a full time, and, as with everyone else, a lot goes on.
Jack and I have settled into our new home easily. Everything fits, and right now I love driving to work, and I love driving home. Work is going well for me. It seems that every year gets better in some way. This year, the teachers have returned in pairs, and we seem to have in place working partnerships. They got rolling in September, and have kept up the momentum.
Suddenly, we only three classes out from Christmas break. Wow!
We took a weekend trip in early October to western Wisconsin. We love it up there! Stayed in LaCrosse, and stopped in to Jack's hometown, Sparta, and drove the ridges. Bought fresh, squeaky cheese curds at the dairy in Westby. Such a beautiful area. We also spent part of Saturday exploring Decorah, Iowa, together, before swinging up into Minnesota and over to Wisconsin.
Grady and his momma (Sarah) and his aunt (also Sarah) came over for a few days in October, too. He's great fun, and was very well behaved. We ended up at the pumpkin farm in Cumming, where they also had a petting zoo and other features worth exploring. It turned out to be one of those perfect, sunny, crisp-air, fall days and the drive was lovely.
I hear that Grady was "Curious George" for Halloween, and his dad was The Man in the Yellow Hat. Chad takes his role as DAD pretty seriously, it seems.
So, it's time for Thanksgiving--that family season of gratitude. Jack and I plan a quiet day alone, and on Friday I want to drive over and see Daniel before I pick up Lilia in the Quad Cities. Daniel is still in county jail, and will remain there until his sentencing in the spring. It's sad, and it's hard on all of us. Especially on him. We wait. We endure.
Lilia is planning to stay until Sunday, and we will play!
I'm doing a few other things these days. Two of my favorites are the Women's Bible Study I teach, and a spirituality group called Catching Fire, Becoming Flame. In Bible study, we're studying the Gospel of Matthew, and relying on Dallas Willard's book, The Divine Conspiracy, as well as Meg Funk's Thoughts Matter. Would that I could go into it here. . .I'll just say that we started in September and nine weeks later, we are in Matthew 5.
Catching Fire is a video series by Fr. Albert Haase, an engaging retreat leader and speaker, with lots of group discussion and activity thrown in. We've come to refer to this class, fondly, as "Shooting Flames." We always begin with a decent period of silence together. Last week we played a game where we had to keep balloons in the air and then stomp on them till they popped. We followed this with a new rendition of the game "Gossip"--all in the name of Play as Spiritual Practice. Not sure that they are buying that play is a form of prayer, but they will come to that in time, surely.
I also took myself away for an overnight retreat on Thursday. The rules: bring nothing to read or study, and nothing to plug into. I have been working too much, and I know it. I work too much because I like it. But I also need rest and play in big doses. I've also been craving solitude.
So I drove off, and got an efficiency at Creighton Retreat Center for one night. I slept a lot, finger painted, drew mandalas, and walked a country road in the snow. It was heaven. When I felt completely rejuvenated, I got in the car and came home. Best $39 I could have spent!
My hope is that I can keep blogging, keep novel-ing. I do love to write, and I do miss being here!
Click on Image for Amazon Link
So this is where I've been lately:
I've done quite a lot of reading on the subject of loss and grief, but The Grief Recovery Handbook has been more helpful than anything else. I've had this copy for a while, and even used sections of it, including some of the tools, with the support groups I lead. I've even given the book away!
Last week I noticed I'd left it out while I was shelving books during our recent move. It seemed to be a way of telling myself that it must be time to actually read it, and to engage in the work.
The basic premise of the book is that we all experience many losses in life, and not just through death. Anything that doesn't meet with our expectations creates an experience of loss, and the natural response to loss is always grief--a conflicting mass of emotions. Unfortunately, as grievers we are often discouraged from following the naturally occurring sequence of feelings and actions that help us to resolve grief and heal from it.
When loss occurs, often the message is to "be strong"--to replace the loss--to grieve alone--to not feel bad--and to just give it time, because "time will heal." None of these lead to recovery.
There are steps we can take toward healing, once we decide that we want to recover. Since unresolved grief is always about undelivered emotional communications within relationships, the steps involve telling ourselves the truth about the relationship, and completing on our own the undelivered emotional communications.
Because I believe so much in the healing steps of this process, I'm recommending that you get the book and do the steps. But I will warn you that it requires time, courage, and a willingness to feel the sadness of experiencing the loss in a deeper, more concrete way.
A helpful tool in beginning is to create a Loss History Graph, mapping out the losses you remember from birth to the present. Just draw a line across a page and begin writing what you remember, and the year or your age when it occurred. The loss can be seemingly insignificant, but include it anyway. Remember that it does not have to involve a death. Any loss (change) or wound can lead to an experience of grief. You may be surprised at what you remember!
I've found that you can't do this in one sitting.
You may even think you can't remember anything, but once you begin, things tend to come. It's as though opening one door on grief leads to the opening of other doors.
Once you've identified losses, it's useful to look at how you dealt with them. This is an important thing to know about yourself. I learned that from early childhood my way of coping with grief has been to grieve alone, or hide it. Sadness was not one of the feelings allowed at our house, so over time I pulled off "Academy Award Recoveries." Unfortunately, unacknowledged, unresolved grief gets stored in our bodies.
So we end up carrying a great deal of energy which, in order for us to be healthy, needs to be expended. That energy typically goes into Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviors--behaviors that help us to feel different, but not better. You will recognize the list: Food, Alcohol/Drugs, Anger, Exercise, Isolation, Sex, Workaholism, Fantasy, Shopping, Internet. . .
Next, -- and this was the most helpful step for me -- create a Relationship Graph based on the Loss History Graph. As you review the Loss History Graph, you may notice that you connect many losses with one particular person (living or dead). A good question to ask is, "Which of the losses in my life is limiting and restricting me most right now?"
Rather than begin with your birth, begin with your earliest memory of the person and your relationship. This graph will include good and bad experiences and memories. (Remembering only "bad" or "good" leads to a distortion of your view of the relationship.) The important thing is to tell yourself the truth. Feel what you truly feel, think what you truly think. Remember it the way you remember it!
You may recall an earlier statement, unresolved grief is always about undelivered emotional communications.
In this exercise, I chose to look at my relationship with my son, Daniel. I realized that there is a lot of disconnect in our relationship due to years of undelivered emotional communications (good and bad).
On both sides. Even though we're both still living.
The final step is to pinpoint each "loss event" within the relationship, and decide what is needed: Apologies, Forgiveness, or Significant Emotional Statements. Whew! Had enough? Stay with me, because this is the best part. This is the part of the process that brings peace, and a sense of relief and healing, since that energy can at last be expended in a healthy way.
Put it in a letter.
This letter is for YOU ALONE.
If you are afraid someone else will find and read the letter, then write it and shred, shred, shred or burn, burn, burn!!
Here are a couple of things that surprised me:
To resolve an emotionally incomplete loss, you must complete it. Completing does not mean that you will forget your loved one, or that you don't care. What we are completing is our relationship to the pain caused by the loss.
An emotionally incomplete loss is based on what we wish had ended different, better, or more.
Touch usually stops feelings. When someone is beginning to tell their grief, it's not always the best idea to rush in and hug them. It may be better to simply listen.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. We forgive in order to reacquire our own sense of well-being.
Do not "forgive" someone in person. An unsolicited statement of forgiveness is almost always perceived as an attack!
Also, do not ask someone to forgive you. If you are asking for forgiveness, you are really trying to apologize. So make an apology.
Examples: Apologies, Forgiveness, Significant Emotional Statements
I ended up writing a letter to Daniel, and mailing it. That is pretty much the only way I can communicate with him right now, and I felt that I wanted to say some things to him--particularly the significant emotional statements.
Most of my statements looked similar to these:
I'm sorry that I. . .or I'm sorry that "this" (event) happened to you.
I did not included Forgiveness statements in the letter I actually mailed. But in the letter I didn't mail, I wrote. . .
I felt very hurt by. . .
I was disappointed when. . .
I wish that. . .
Significant Emotional Statements included things like:
Thank you for. . .
I'm so glad that. . .
I am proud of you for. . .
And I feel better. Even though at the same time I feel sadder. Sad can be good, when it is appropriate--in other words, in proportion to the loss experienced.
I keep reminding myself to just let myself feel, and that healing is a matter of moving through the pain rather than trying to circumvent it in some way. It takes courage. Be brave. Tell yourself the truth.
It's suggested, also, that you find a partner so that you can go through the exercises in the book together. It's pretty safe to say that everyone is grieving something.
A New Route
With our recent move, I'm having to choose a new route for my daily walks. Twice, I tried the neighborhood trails that thread their way behind backyards, but didn't find those to my liking. For one thing, they slow me down. I found myself studying other people's landscaping and gardening projects, a worthy enough pasttime, but it also felt invasive to see onto their decks and into their private outdoor space.
So I chose instead 75th Street, where I can get a limb-stretching three mile walk in, and feel on my return that I've actually been somewhere, both internally and externally--which, for me, is the true purpose of walking.
Mother always complained that she never saw any of us take our first steps. Mike was in the care of Grandma. I was with my dad. Penny was with a babysitter.
Except for a few short breaks, I have been walking for roughly 62 years. One was a literal break, in fourth grade, when I factured my left foot turning a cartwheel. Oddly enough, I recall turning cartwheels in the back yard with my foot in a cast, though I couldn't walk without crutches.
In college, I tried walking for exercise, but soon gave it up because I didn't know about good shoes. I tried again in the early seventies, and eventually started jogging. I kept it up when we moved to Oregon because, well, everyone in Oregon jogged back then.
After Sarah was born, and we lived out on a gravel road in Iowa, I became a serious jogger. I jogged my way through Eddie's illness and dying. I jogged my way partially into grief, and then bought a house in town. Jogging and pavement didn't work for my joints, so I switched back to walking. It was the best thing I could have done for myself.
Walking for Therapy
Once the kids and I were settled in Des Moines, a neighbor and I became walking partners. Mindy and I walked together every weekday morning for the next five years. We only took breaks during thunderstorms, icy weather, and the two consecutive weeks we spent in Minnesota in the summer.
The other two days, I took long walks alone, usually through a large cemetery. During those times, I grieved Eddie's death, and felt my loneliness as a single parent of two young children.
Mindy and I had a system: We got up at five a.m. and turned on a light. We could see each other's houses, so if a light wasn't on, we got a phone call. A real bonus to having a partner was that if one of us didn't feel like going, the other somehow always did.
We talked nonstop, tossing anything and everything back and forth between us, for the entire 45 minutes to an hour we were out. Those morning talks were an emotional relay system that allowed us to think through, laugh, hash over, cry, and scream. At the same time, I knew that if we went out for lunch, I wouldn't have anything to say to Mindy. We weren't social friends. It's as though the friendship served one purpose only: Walking Partner. It's still true, because I ran into her not long ago, and we could barely manage a couple of minutes of small talk.
It had been a big commitment. When I remarried, it felt as though I was leaving Mindy for Dana!
Walking as Meditation
It's been twenty years since I've had a constant walking partner. Except for the occasional long walk with my friend Kay, or a short walk with someone else, I engage in solitary walks. I've learned that that's what I most need and want.
I lived in the Quad Cities for eight years, but it wasn't until I was divorced that I truly discovered the River. I moved within a block of the Mississippi, and began long daily walks there. It was there that I walked through the layered losses of divorce, and into a new version of my solitary self, and into new ways of knowing and being with God.
In Vein of Gold, Julia Cameron writes, "As much as anything else, walking is an exercise in heightened listening. As we walk, we awaken our neural pathways and make them more sensitive. This is what sound healer Don Campbell refers to as 'an acute sensing in an awakened, powerful internal space.' All kinds of revelations follow. In other words, walking is a form of meditation."
Julia also speaks of "walking the ley lines"--which we discover when we encounter and recognize places and routes which "feel good to us." Sometimes, she explains, a little exploration will reveal that we are walking the local ley lines--places where we experience greater calm and a heightened sense of perspective. This happens because they are actually energy routes or currents--ancient paths that others who have gone before us have walked. "Even in a city, overlaid by several hundred years of commerce such sites are discernible, as we listen to the ancestral voices that speak through the landscape."
This is something I am intentional about now, whenever I establish a new walking route for myself. It's the real reason that walking neighborhood trails through other people's backyards doesn't work for me.
When Jack and I lived in Minnesota, my route was a paved county road, lined with mature birches and pines, beautiful any time of year, surrounded by open fields with plenty of wildlife. In Kansas, I walked a curved gravel road out past wheatfields, cornfields, and a couple of farm houses. The fence rows were always full of cardinals, and I even started a cattle stampede one morning when I unexpectedly rounded the bend and surprised a heifer.
Turning Compost, Stirring the Cauldron
Here's another thing. A "good walk" needs to be long enough to get things moving, internally. Once it begins, it feels like a roiling couldron. All kinds of flavors, aromas, and tastes gather and spin off. It can also be likened to the turning of compost, an intentional "stirring up" that releases energy in the form of heat
If you do much walking outdoors, you'll make a few discoveries. Some days it takes great effort just to put one foot in front of the other; to even make yourself go. Other days, you fly. If you're paying attention at all, and you will, you'll begin to notice that nothing stays the same. The world is in a state of flux. Every morning is new. Every evening is unlike the last. Some days, you won't notice a thing. Nothing at all. Maybe you need to turn your attention elsewhere. Or maybe you need to go around the block again. And, some days, you return with your heart and hands filled with treasure: a feather, a leaf, a butterfly wing.
August: inspiring reverence or admiration
August, so far, has been a time of Abundance. Please bear with my Absentee-ism, here. Once again, life and my brain and my space have been full. Brimming. Sometimes that feels good, and sometimes it's too much!
Birthday Girl celebrated on Friday at Chuck E Cheese's in Davenport, Iowa. Jack and I drove over to party with Lilia, a bunch of other wee ones, and their parents. She's SIX and starts FIRST GRADE on Wednesday.
Chuck E Cheese's wasn't as scary and chaotic and noisy as these two introvert-type grandparents had anticipated. It was slightly lighter and airier, and more spacious.
Daniel has been in county jail for a couple of weeks. I need to say here, in case I haven't before, that he does not mind if I write about his process. On Friday, he plans to officially enter a plea agreement. After that, we're not sure what will happen. The judge has ninety days in which to sentence him. (This for selling marijuana.) Thank you so much to those of you who pray and hope with us. A big question is how to communicate with and help a six-year-old who is very close to her dad. "Jail" is a big word, even to me.
Free Flowers, even these few from the cutting garden I've started, are a nice touch. We're feeling really settled, already, in our new space. It feels as though everything fits. Just have a handful of things to donate.
Good Reads: Currently, as time allows (more and more) I'm reading Carol Flinders' At the Root of this Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger with a Feminist Thirst. Also, James and Friedman's The Grief Recovery Handook. Excellent, both. . .and timely and so helpful.
I just got my DNA results back from Ancestry.com. . .something you may be curious about for yourself! Surprisingly, my Ancestral Heritage shakes out at: 48% Scandanavian (never would have guessed!), 32% British Isles, 12% Southern European, and 8% unknown. Yup, that's 100%. So, if there's anything remotely American Indian in there, it's in that last mere 8%. . .so my Native American Heritage, it seems lies more in the area of spirituality. And, now. . .what does all of that mean?
Please bear with my Incoherence and Incomplete Thoughts. With the recent move and returning to work, I am aware of distractions. . .things to get back to, and in what order?
Jack is in Sparta this week ("God's Country") golfing, teaching golf clinics, and hopefully doing some fishing. On the phone, he sounds really happy.
K. It's okay if I don't include everything here; something for every letter of the alphabet, that is. Some of you will recognize that I'm just prodding myself to write. . .priming the pump.
I recently Listed a few things for myself that I'd been missing for a while. Who knows for how long? Did I pass that on to the girls? Nope. Everything turned up. A couple of items surfaced from three moves ago.
I'm thinking I need more Music in my life. I have been playing my Indian flute some, playing Carly Simon and some classical stuff. Even with music appreciation courses, I still think of most classical music as "great movie scores" when I'm listening. Embarrassing.
Night prayers, especially for Daniel. It's especially hard when I imagine his loneliness, fear, and maybe confusion, along with my own. There's too much beyond my understanding. Still, I try. It can interfere with sleep.
O, P, Q,
I have strong hopes of getting back here, to the blog, on a Regular basis. I've missed being here.
The concepts of Scarcity and Abundance have been in my thinking/awareness lately. I wonder at myself when I pick up the box of dishwashing detergent, and, on finding it half full, immediately decide I need to get more. Right away. But it's a big box. We're talking weeks away from empty. So, I'm trying to pay attention.
T, U, V. . .
On Saturday, we attended Colyn and Hillary's Wonderful Wedding. As we made our way to the reception, we passed huge tables loaded down with beautiful fresh produce: cabbages, eggplants, tomatoes, onions, beets.
At our tables, we each had a hand painted bag (see the photo) and a card stating that, as a thank you from the bride and groom, we were to fill a bag with produce to take home. The reception, by the way, was a potluck meal made in heaven. Because Colyn works at the Catholic Worker House, and Hillary works with refugees, there was a vast variety of foods. And persons!
The produce comes from the community garden space they share with refugee families.
X, Y, Z. . . as in, zee you zoon.
Moving does, indeed, rock! We love our house and our neighborhood. It's all a good fit. But finding my life and all of my stuff. . .in fact, I found some stuff I hadn't unpacked from our last TWO moves!
Someday soon, I know, I will be back in the rhythm of writing. For now, I will share what my friend, Helen Delahunty, sent in a recent email (with Helen's permission).
Helen lives in Northern Ireland, where she grew up on a farm:
When my brothers plough a field to reseed it in new grass, they have a
system, maybe even a belief. I don't see or hear of many other farmers doing
this around here.
After the first ploughing while the ridges of plough are steep and difficult to walk over (land waves?) we walk the field looking for the very big stones (as rocks are called here). These are usually one or two feet x one or two feet. I can barely lift them. We stagger them into the front loader which Ian or Dylan will be driving - usually Annabel and I are the base labor core.
I am amazed each time that a field that has been ploughed/cultivated for over ten thousand years - yes you read that right; Ian found Irish elk bones in one field twenty years ago that the Armagh Museum dated to 8,000BC - still yields these enormous
After this stumbled over gathering, Ian or Roy harrows the field - now the soil is broken down, finer. Serious stone gathering time; the stones gathered are
smaller, more numerous, one foot and less rocks.
Finally the field is landlined - a large flat rake type machine is used. Judgement as to what size of rocks are to be lifted now - how small is too small? - is needed! Don't get neurotic - leave the lesser.
I love doing all this - it is walking dry fields - about 8 -10 acres in size, unskilled outdoor
labor with a fair amount of camaraderie, with just enough elements to make it mind absorbing but not mind taxing. And I say a lot of Thomas Hardy's great small poem:
"Only a man harrowing clods
As it has. I love this poem.
Almost as good an incantation as the Lord's prayer - which I have been incanting and muttering and am puzzled. Why do we pray "and lead us not into temptation"? Why would a loving God lead us into temptation? Surely this is the work of Satan? What are your thoughts?
I find this system intriguing, and particularly the idea that it may even be considered a belief--that it is methodical and even meditative, and accomplished in three distinct stages. Knowing what to pick up, what to leave. . .and, oh, the poem!
Which also is meditative, in much the same way that the Lord's prayer is.
I responded to Helen's questions in an email, but thought I would leave them here for others to ponder.
I'm not saying that moving rocks. I'm saying that I am moving rocks. Jack's being really good about it. Maybe it's like with my books. He's thinking it's the last time.
I spent yesterday morning at the new place, moving rocks out of what will become my perennial bed. (I'll also be moving some plants over.) Moving rocks all morning gave me time to think about some stuff:
I have waited for three years for this house, and I'm getting what I want: a good, basic, simple house at a reasonable price, with a decent yard, in a neighborhood I like. So often it's exactly this way. We wait and ask and wait and wait and keep asking. Then, suddenly, God works and things fall into place. It's that Quaker idea of "way opening before me." You don't have to make anything happen. You just follow the way opened to you. . .as it's opening. . .and I hope I can allow our home to be a reminder and a symbol for what this is like. You'd think that, in the future I will have more patience.
I cruised through Walmart yesterday, looking for shelving paper and the gaudiest, most tinselly party tiara you can imagine caught my eye. I immediately thought of the Sparkle Princess, who has been here three times already this summer. That tiara would appeal to her in a big way, I'm certain of it.
But, while moving rocks, I thought about that tiara, and how much Lilia would love it, and how I can't give her everything she might possibly love. The best reason for that is, in the time I have left with her (lots of years, I hope), I want as much as possible to point her to something better. To help her to choose, as Jan Johnson says, substance over glitz. (Of course, a little glitz and sparkle is certainly allowed!)
As evidenced in the girls' (Sarah and Sarah) birthday presents, which I sent home with Sarah this week. They both have June birthdays, and I knew Sarah was coming, so, you know. I waited. And, anyway, now that they have them, I can show you:
Other thoughts while moving rocks are how much our grandson, Grady is MIA (emphasis on Action--I hear he climbs and is into everything) this summer, though there are rumors of an August visit. (Iowa State Fair?) Grateful for a little face time with him, however. Gosh, I miss him! (Sarah, are you reading?)
On Sunday coming up, I have the scripture reflection for our Renewal formation gathering. Two of the readings were stuck in my head and heart as I worked. One is from Ephesians 4:1-6--"live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace."
What strikes me about this is the description of what it means to live in a manner worthy of the call. There's nothing here about "worthy" meaning morality or being good. (Something I finally gave up on a while back. Being good, that is. I simply can't do it.)
The other reading is from I Corinthians 3. Verse 16 is the one that's speaking to me: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in YOU?? In other words, you are a Holy of Holies, or a Tabernacle. A place where God dwells. The Eastern mystics seem to have a better grasp of this than we western Christians do.
Both concepts are things we have to "get" experientially.
By the way, my Bibles are packed, so I'm using the Laudate app on my iPod. You might want to take a look at that.
And, finally, a note to self: try and catch NPR's On Being with Krista Tippett more often. Or at least go to the website once in a while: On Being.
On Saturday (?) I heard part of her interview with Grace Lee Boggs. Wonderful.
It's been helpful to have Lilia here this week with Aunt Sarah to motivate me to keep packing. Between packing frenzies, we played. Indian, baking cookies, reading, word games. You know the drill.
There were a few "firsts" for Lilia this week, too. Sarah took her to Adventureland, where she rode her first rollercoaster, The Tornado, and her first ferris wheel. She also (evidently) visited her first cemetery. We have a friend, Missy McKinley, who died several years ago, and her grave is near our new neighborhood. I invited Sarah to stop, and when we pulled into the cemetery, Lilia wanted to know what all those stone things were. We explained, and she said it made her feel a little sad. Yes. She then wanted to walk around a portion of it alone, away from us. She seemed to be reflecting on it all. We let her be for a few minutes.
Lilia also watched "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" as her "job" some of the time Sarah and I were working. She didn't know the story, and I felt excited for her, getting to see and hear it for the first time. She didn't like the war part. And wanted to take it home.
They also did some grocery shopping, and brought me flowers! They're a bright spot in a room full of boxed up belongings
Jack left on Wednesday for a golf tournament in his home town (Sparta, Wisconsin) and the girls were here till around two yesterday. Since their departure, I'm still getting a lot done, but decided that today needed to be a bit of a retreat day. ( I noticed that when I get going, it's hard to make myself stop. So I decided to rest today, and be here. Alone)
So I've shifted gears and done some reading--Anthony de Mello's Seek God Everywhere: Reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. This is one of the four books I haven't packed somewhere. I left it out because our A.W.E. group reads a chapter each month. I left it out because I haven't seen my copy since March, and found it on a shelf with my journals. I think I was trying to lose it, because I didn't like the first three or four chapters, but THIS ONE. . .
You know how things sometimes find you when you need them?
So, here are a few things from the book:
The discernment of spirits pilots within our heart a kind of ebb and flow of movements through which we can find the will of God. It is here that the whole spiritual life is lived. If we are not in touch with all this, then we are living at a very superficial level in our mind and will.
I found a couple of other pithy, well-said statements:
"The God of nature is not different from the God of supernature. God is one and works through all."
"There is a difference between real personal fulfillment and merely satisfying oneself." and "The human situation is not quite as human as we think; it is also divine. The human is divine; God is in the human! Explore that!"
And the idea that I need to think more about is: "One principle is that whatever causes sadness comes from the devil, not from God. So when we pick up sadness we might say that this could not be from God." I'll just ponder that as I finish up packing.
Oh, and I must mention. . .right here in our little suburban neighborhood this morning, I saw three hawks chasing down a squirrel. I interrupted them on my walk, and I think the squirrel got away. This time. It gave me pause. Hawks = precision, stealth, beauty. I felt lucky to witness that.
I was so surprised this week to notice on Facebook that Jerry Bauer is now 61 years old. Of course he is. He's always been a couple of years younger than I, ever since I first knew him back when were in our early twenties. So why shouldn't he be? Still, it's a bit of a shock.
A recurring subject of conversation this week has been the unrelentingly swift passage of time, and the changes brought with it. We've reached summer's halfway point, among other things.
On Monday Patty and I met in Walnut, Iowa, (halfway between my home in Des Moines and Patty's home in Omaha) for some "face time"--and ended up talking at length about the changes that come with aging. How to let go, how to adjust, how to accept what comes?
In a similar vein, Kay and I sat in my living room on Tuesday afternoon and talked about how much we've changed in our nearly thirty years of friendship. She tried to explain to me what's happening with Josh, her son, and his job. She shared what details she could remember, then gave up. We think it's all going to work out, we decided. Even as recently as ten years ago, we would have had to talk it through until we both understood it fully before we could move on.
[One of my current jokes when I get stuck in conversation is, "Would you please change the subject and rescue me from myself?" Sometimes I can't recall words, and sometimes I can't recall details. Or I can no longer put them in chronological order. ]
That afternoon, the current issue of Weavings Journal arrived in my mailbox. Weavings is a little magazine on the Christian Spiritual Life, published by Upper Room. For many years, it's been a companion to me on my spiritual journey.
The theme this month is "Maturity" and two articles caught my attention. E. Glenn Hinson wrote about how hard it is to let go. He's actually doing it:
Packing up ninety boxes of books I had spent fifty years collecting to send to Zimbabwe to help a new seminary was wrenching. Some of those books ceased long ago to be impersonal properties that I could dispense with, without feeling. They had become intimate friends. I had spent hours with them, questioning and underlining and making indexes of important ideas and essential information to which I would return often.My Books, as we speak.
I can relate. Jack and I are in the midst of packing for our move, another form of letting go. Right now, all of my books are packed in boxes in the living room. Already I feel displaced without them, and they're not even going to Zimbabwe! Soon, once again, they will have a home with me. But between now and that time a couple of weeks from now, there will be a lot of upheaval and disruption.
And though I haven't been writing here, I have been writing my story on Renewal for our Christ Renews His Parish team. It's ready, and I will share that tomorrow. It isn't so much that I haven't had time for the blog, as that I haven't had any extra space in my brain. It's been crammed with too many thoughts. I also wrote a lot of the novel on the trip to Minnesota over the 4th.
The other thing that's got me in its grip right now is my family history. I'm particularly taken, once again, with exploring my dad's mother's family, and am intrigued with Great Aunt Julia. Aunt Julia is an aunt my dad never knew. She died before he was born. Her story is a sad one. She was my grandmother's oldest sister, and helped to rear Grandma after their mother died in 1894.
Julia married in 1893 at age seventeen, and had a son, Marven, the following year. Then she had a daughter, Sultania, or Ella (depending on what records you read) and her husband, Tom Hasty, died. Julia then married David Wiley Wright, and her small daughter died. Julia and David had three more daughters, and then she died in 1907 at the age of twenty-nine.
For whatever reasons, I have this photograph and also have one of Julia's necklaces in my possession. Lately, I've felt compelled to find her gravesite and to be certain her memory is kept alive on Ancestry.com. I believe I did locate Julia's grave on a website. . .an old stone engraved with "J. WRIGHT" in the *County Farm Cemetery in Howell County, Missouri--no dates, no other information. (*as in Poor Farm)
It breaks my heart that she died so young, and in poverty. And also that she left so many children behind. David Wright remarried and in December 1907 Julia's son, Marven, traveled with my grandmother's family to Oklahoma. Also, in the 1910 Census, Marven was once again living with David Wright in Missouri. I felt relieved to find that. I wish we had all of those stories! Even as I reflect on the little that I know of their lives, I realize that many people of that era had similar stories.
In Weavings this week, I also read Marilyn McEntyre's article, "Claiming the Role of Elder" in which she writes of "recognizing long life as a calling." Obviously, and especially compared to Great Aunt Julia, I am called to a long life. So far, at least!
McEntyre invites us to reflect on the virtues of age: " refusal to be trivialized; courage to relinquish what must be laid down, to speak what the younger generation needs to hear, to look squarely at death and approach it without impatience or fear."
She also suggests what questions we need to ask as we age: "What am I called to in the final chapters of earthly life? What gifts can I bring to my community if infirmites overtake me and I require others' care? How might my faith become a source of vitality, patience, and hope as I age?"
In another discussion Linda and I had on her deck Thursday afternoon, we spoke of legacy. . .the legacies others have left, and what ours might be. McEntire also addresses this in the article when she says that we are are to "reconsider what to hope for in the last season of life" and that "What the old have to teach must be taught by patience, generosity toward the young, humility, and finally hope that reaches beyond earthly things. Only by consenting to dependence on God and others, to the clear need for forgiveness, to the opportunity to model the virtues age calls for can the old impart their final gifts to the young, who need them."
As we age, we can assume that we continue to be here for a reason. The young need our gifts. And the world needs them. It only makes sense that for as much time as we are given, in whatever capacity we find ourselves, we must continue to pour all the energy and imagination we have into others; into leaving the world a better place than we found it.
Deb Carriger Richards
I'm a writer, spiritual director, teacher, and speaker.