a weary world, not rejoicing

a weary world, not rejoicing

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Early in the pandemic, there were piles of memes to wade through on any given day, but there was one which I found to be particularly funny:

Introverts, please check on your extrovert friends during this time of need. They are not OK.

For many introverts, this meme was not only hilarious but pointed out how often introverts are the ones who are expected to adapt in an extroverted world. In a sense, extroverts found a way to make aspects of quarantine all about themselves, their needs, their comfort, or discomfort. 

 But it’s just a meme, right?

This past week with all the news coverage regarding George Floyd and the woman calling the police on a black man in Central Park, I was flooded with grief. 

On Wednesday, I could not get myself together. 

I sat dazed in a chair and read a fantasy novel most of the day, now and then glancing at social media littered with hashtags and photos AND videos. I hadn’t anticipated feeling quite so assaulted by the images. I mean, it’s sad to admit but apart of me has become accustomed to this horrific violence. I could spend the rest of this post listing the names of those we know who have been killed because of skin color and leave a lengthy space for the names we don’t know, only their families and loved ones know. Each image, every name, a source of trauma attaching itself to my soul, my DNA. 

I haven’t been one who easily picks up a sign or marches for a cause. Maybe I have spent too many years of being polite. I considered myself to be one person in a group possessing a specific amount of assigned power hoping that collectively we might amass some power, some influence, maybe even credibility in this world.

I believed if I dressed a certain way, styled my hair in a palatable way, never put my hands in my pockets while in a store, and chose to let kindness be my guiding principle, then maybe I, this one person, might add a chain link to the legacy of my great grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles.  Extending to my brother, sister, cousins, husband, children, niece, and nephew to shift people’s opinions and obliterate fears about people who look like us.

So when I scroll through Instagram stories and see a quick photo with a hashtag followed by photo after photo of trivial things to me, it is perplexing. Instagram stories last 24 hours but a physical post can last indefinitely. It feels like announcing you are going swimming but only your big toe gets wet.  Maybe it feels tolerable to display murder on one frame and a sweaty workout selfie on the next frame. It feels like drive-by social justice, fleeting. It’s like jumping on a bandwagon and deciding when the ride ends. The wheels are still moving for me, for many.

Back to the meme at the beginning of this post, allow me to change it up:

White friends, please check on your black friends during this time of need. They are not okay. 

I lost pieces of hope this week. I wish the wearing down of my soul made it smoother but I am unsure.  I have never felt more fear for my male family members and especially for my son beginning to tiptoe into adulthood. 

I have lived as if racism was my problem to fix. When in reality, it is mine to be healed from and for those who don’t look like me to lend their voices, time, and power to end its deadly message. Racism is not a hashtag. Protests, education, and reading books are valid ways to stand against this evil monster of racial injustice but true healing can only start in my opinion when empathy leads the way.

Empathy is not about feeling bad about something and remaining silent, returning to life as normal because the alternative feels uncomfortable. It is a privilege to be able to return to life as usual without the fears so many people of color bear. It is important to be aware of the privilege of not having to change any part of daily life when it is not the reality for Black people and other people of color.

 Can you jog or take a walk without a second thought?

Can you enjoy bird watching without fear of being arrested? 

Are you able to drive a nice car without concern you will be questioned about your ownership?

These are rights and shouldn’t be just for some.

My daughters and I have talked over the years about how we unconsciously exaggerate our actions in stores. We want to make it absolutely clear when we touch something that we have replaced it, if we decided against buying it. This is an intrinsic message based on a  potential (not imagined) threat during a routine activity of life. This is why I keep my hands out of my pockets, in case you wondered. 

Empathy is feeling the pain and refusing to turn away. It is acknowledging your own feelings and turning your eyes from those onto another’s pain. It is a willingness to proclaim your presence beside someone else because their pain is different than your own and experience. Empathy shouts despite the discomfort, it might involve saying the wrong words but affirming a desire to walk together. It’s weeping with those who weep and to mourn with those who mourn. It’s asking “how are you?” and then leaning in, listening without discounting experience, or projecting a defensive stance.

Sometimes it’s as simple as saying I am here for you because I see you.

*****

I wrote this post on Friday and then over the weekend, I had several friends text to check in with me. I was very moved by these offerings. It caused me to debate whether to post this piece but then I remembered one of my aims is to remind people they are not alone. I believe there is at least one other black person who is wondering why there is so much noise online but silence towards them.  Maybe they are wondering if they are really seen by those who don’t share their skin tone. They also may fear by a pointed post like this, they will now be avalanched by concern, so many days and years late. 

So please be gentle with your black friends and family members. 

Be authentic.

Apologize. 

Check-in by making it about them. Use the correct pronouns. not just how badly you feel. 

Listen and then listen some more.

*****

 

May we walk in love with each other.

May we grieve with each other.

May we share space for uncomfortable words.

May we have the courage to look at one another in the eyes and listen to each other’s histories.

May we have the strength to apologize where we have wounded and may we be people who extend grace to those who simply had no idea. 

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  

II Corinthian 1: 3-4

 

the evaporating nature of plans

the evaporating nature of plans

 

Photo by Achilles Kastanas on Pexels.com

It’s Memorial Day.

This day may conjure many different emotions. Many cemeteries are not placing flags or allowing visitors which adds to layers of grief. 

It may have been customary to spend the holiday with a large group of family or friends, reveling in a day away from work but now work is staring at you from across the room every day. Today may signify a deepening of the loss of social interaction and work-life balance.

Today we join Mother’s Day and Easter to the list of holidays celebrated in new ways with Father’s Day looming on the horizon.

The reality of Memorial Day, in addition to its great importance, is where it lands in the calendar year, it is literally the doorway to summer. It is that last holiday before the school year ends and perhaps an audible sigh signaling permission to look toward future plans. 

Well, I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t already had plans disrupted over the last few months. As summer approaches, it is a foregone conclusion that plans have changed.

I don’t have any magic words to lessen the ache of those once anticipated events. However, I would suggest speaking aloud each loss. I know it may sound insignificant because the awareness of what isn’t happening is obvious. 

Why rub salt in open wounds?

I had to express a hard spot to different sets of people several times over the past week. It pre-dates COVID-19 by a few years. 

I had to say aloud, my dad has cancer.

It’s also possible, I barely uttered the words when cancer had belonged to my husband several years ago, saving the fluttering of sighs only for God. 

I mentioned to Carl how surprised, after all this time and experience, I still needed a deep breath before uttering the words. I knew these words, they have been firmly implanted into my mind and my soul but to hear the words hanging in the air felt different.

Saying the words didn’t change any of those days’ realities. 

Saying the words didn’t erase the pain, dismiss uncertainty, or cement plans which undoubtedly for the foreseeable future resemble quicksand. 

Saying the words, allowed me to exhale a wee bit, like a tiny pin releasing air from a balloon slowly.
The balloon is still knotted with some inflation remaining, but the tautness of the vessel for air has softened enough to be held. 

Saying the words made me stop grasping for control, in any way.

Speak your sorrows.

Speak forth your losses.

Share your pain.

Then remember to be gentle with yourself.

I am becoming acquainted with is a heightened response in my body regardless if something is hard or good. I am choosing to be gentle with myself.

Your words may be…

My wedding is not happening the way I envisioned.

My birthday or anniversary celebration may feel like just another day.

My graduate won’t walk across a stage in the way dreamed of for countless years.

My loved one with mental health challenges is especially vulnerable during this time.

My child with special needs is struggling due to the stripping away of routine and support.

My friends are not only socially distant but nowhere in sight.

My next paycheck is not guaranteed or will not arrive. 

My dreams are slipping through my fingers. 


What pain point do you need to express?

What tightly held plan do you need to release to allow your body and soul to unclench?

Speak your worthy words into the atmosphere and wrap your arms around yourself in a gentle embrace. 

*****

The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

 the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace. 

Numbers 6: 24-26

remain

remain


My neighbor’s remaining place

As several states have begun to reopen over the last week, I have started to see photos across social media of people returning to shopping, appointments, etc.
I have felt an initial twinge when I witness these images. My thoughts buzz with
“I wanna do that too.” Perhaps because we have been at this sheltering time for longer than a couple of weeks, the feeling was short-lived. Don’t get me wrong, I would welcome fewer restrictions but I feel settled in waiting until it is deemed safer. There is also a corner of my mind and heart that doesn’t want to rush back into a “business as usual” mindset. I don’t want to go back to being consumed with consuming.
Which has caused me to think a lot about the word “remain”. 

remain: verb

  • to be a part not destroyed, taken, or used up
  • to be something yet to be shown, done, or treated (it remains to be seen)
  • to stay in the same place or with the same person or group
  • To continue to exist especially after similar or related people or things have ceased to exist
  • to continue unchanged

This word couldn’t be more fitting for this current passage of time. 

When I first began to think about the word remain and its definitions, my thoughts centered around what does it mean to stay in the same place with the same people?
I pondered what does it look like to remain when the world and future remain to be seen? But now, my thoughts rush towards what does it mean to be people who remain while others are released? After all those questions, the bottom line is simply how do we remain, day after day, no matter what anyone is doing to the left or the right?

The Benedictine monks take a vow of stability. This word stability means to be firm, to stand fast, to endure, to persevere, and to be rooted. It is the action of staying put, remaining steadfast, and faithful to the situation in which God has placed. It is persistently sticking with a situation, with people, and with God. Monastic stability is a commitment to a place and a group of people in the belief that this place and these people will help them to find God. 

We may have not taken a vow but this stretched out time has given the gift of stability. It takes new eyes and perspective to find it. 

This month marks 27 years of living in our home. This is actually time, not COVID-19 time!  Carl and I have often looked at our decision to “stay put” on the same street in the same house as practicing stability. We have made an intentional decision to stay and remain nestled among this particular set of people whether they leave or stay. It’s felt like a unique opportunity to firmly plant ourselves along our avenue. We only have to look at the maple tree we planted during our first year. It possesses deep roots and continues to reach up and out as a visual reminder of our  nearly three decades of dwelling.  There are so many stories and memories we share about the time in this house on this street. Oh, the dramatic happenings along this block I could tell you about but the ones which stand out are the births, deaths, feuds, and forgiveness. It’s part of the history that grows from remaining. 

This crisis is becoming a part of our individual and collective histories. Think of the conversations to be had while we remain together. The opportunity to linger longer over words instead of rushing off to the next obligation is precious. As home time has lengthened, hopefully, the guards surrounding our hearts have been lowered. Maybe what used to occupy our time has now dimmed, ceased, or proven unsatisfactory. So, we continue to remain in our homes because no matter how challenging, we believe it is for the good and that good things are on the horizon even if it isn’t visible.

I planted three peonies a few springs ago. I scroll Instagram and see photos of peonies heavy-laden with blossoms. I can almost smell the scent. Then I wander to the three places mine are planted and see healthy plants but not a bud in sight. What should I do? Should I dig and throw them in the compost? No, I will wait and allow them to remain and bloom at the appointed time despite my impatience and longing.  I believe the wait  will bring greater joy than today, it’s a hard-fought for hope.  When I am tempted to not securely believe this sentiment,  I look to the right where poppies planted years ago are covered in deep orange crepe paper-like flowers. The year before a strong breeze sent the petals of one solitary flower into orbit. 

What has bloomed in your life during this time?

What blooms are you waiting for? 

What seeds could be planted in spite of  hard soil and wait for a harvest?

Stay.

Remain. 

*****


May we be people who remain despite all unseen and unknown.

May we see this time of staying put as a gift to draw closer to one another.

May we grow deeper roots with the people who surround us.

May we reach out to others if we live alone and seek solidarity in remaining.

May we keep our eyes on where we are planted and not across the fence.

And may we know it is not too late to decide what will remain in us and what
can be released from us once
restrictions are lifted.


Benedictine stability resource

better than gym class arm circles

better than gym class arm circles

20171230_085405.jpg(A girl can dream, it’s been a while since I took this photo in my favorite place.)

Last week, I experienced back to back days of feeling listless*. Which looks like being withdrawn and my spoken words slowly beginning to cease. I am grateful the two I live with gave me plenty of space to sort myself out or perhaps they welcomed the silence. I choose to believe the former. When those days strike, “trying harder” or being more productive doesn’t help. Even the activities I reached toward during the early days of this crisis aren’t helping as much as hoped. I wonder if many of those activities were simply a place card labeled in the meantime, a way to distract me and manage the unmanageable.

When my lethargy lifted, I noticed one thing in common with what has been key to anchoring me each day, connection.

Acts of connection are buoying my soul right now. I need to stay connected to God, others, and myself. It’s the holy trifecta of life, a life that will remain when everything feels shaky and fragile.

I plan to experiment the next time I feel an emotional wall starting to build. I am going to check to see what connection is missing or needs rewiring?

I hated the arm circles endured during  P.E. classes. However, I am going to suggest an easier set of arm movements and questions to help assess these three vital connection points. 

Reach up:  I will lift my arms upward and ask:

Have I slowed down long enough to meet with God?
Does God feel distant?
Why?
Am I sharing with God my biggest fears or superficial chatter?
Have I spent time in nature?

Reach out: I will extend my arms out in front of me and ask:

Who have I spent time with this week outside of my housemates?
Am I lonely?
Am I missing someone?
Do I feel forgotten? Who might also feel forgotten?
How can I close the gap of distance with my loved ones?

Reach in: I will bend my elbows and place my crossed hands over my heart and ask: 

How am I ignoring my body?
Have I taken a shower?
Am I taking good care of my body by eating well, drinking water?
Can I allow myself to bask while indulging without apologizing or criticizing myself?
Have I moved my body, dug in the dirt, laughed, taken a nap?
Am I holding my breath?

 

During these challenging times, we don’t need more items on a to-do list.

We need simple ways to connect with God, others, and ourselves. Whatever ways feel life-giving, rather than an obligation or a “should” is probably your answer. I could fulfill all three connection points in a day spent at the ocean, but that is not currently a simple way. So I will think again until one day the tide runs over my weary feet.

*****

May we extend ourselves grace when we have off days.
May we not ignore what our bodies, minds, and moods are trying to tell us.
May we feel deeply connected to God, each other, and ourselves this week.

*****

*What I experienced was situational and not long in duration. If you are experiencing prolonged lethargy or depression, please seek medical advice or help. Especially if you are not inhabiting a home with others.

don’t silence your passions

don’t silence your passions

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My energy level has been like the weather lately. 

One day I feel sunny and full of energy and the next day, I feel weighed down by cloudiness and torrential rain.  

It’s probably not that dramatic but I am paying attention to the ebbs and flows of my moods. Not in a way of judging myself but with an awareness of the toll of this suspension time. It does feel as if we are in the center of a suspension bridge, each side is anchored, we are in the middle taking sure steps as well as shaky ones and sometimes a gust of wind or passing traffic gets too close and threatens to send us flying. 

I am realizing when days are stacked with sameness, weariness creeps in. It doesn’t take a monumental shift to create a lift in mood. It can be as simple as doing or seeing something different across the perpetual landscape of your life.

Fridays are pizza night and we each made our own personal pizzas. Caleb was last to take his pizza from the oven to cool and left the house to take care of our neighbors’ cats. He came through the front door a minute later surprising us with the speed of his caretaking.

He said, “Guys, you gotta come see this!”

Carl and I left our chairs and walked down the block in socks and slippers and started to hear guitar music. Neighbors were spread out along the block before ours listening, clapping, and dancing to a mariachi band.   New neighbors were celebrating their marriage, a new home, and workers all over the world. A table was full of party favors of coffee, cupcakes, and small bags of toilet paper rolls and hand sanitizer. Carl and I went back into our house to get our masks and shoes for him. We loved chatting with our new and old neighbors who live so close to us but feel miles away as well. Once we returned to our pizzas, grins dotted our faces and our spirits were buoyed.

I had a similar buoyant feeling when I recently hosted a silent book club* via Zoom.

Have you ever heard of a silent book club?

Silent book clubs turn the traditional book club format upside down.

Silent book clubs gather together for a set time to read silently a book of choice then each member discusses the book they are reading.

I had always thought this idea might avoid some of the potential book club pitfalls but I tucked it away for another time. Until I spotted this article about what silent book club groups were doing in light of the pandemic. ZOOM. I immediately sent the article to my mother and daughters and each one was intrigued and interested.

Two Saturdays ago, I hosted my first silent book club over Zoom. 

There were 6 book lovers in attendance. Each one of us brought a book to read silently for 30 minutes. Some read on their phone, e-reader, or from physical books. We didn’t all know one another so after quick introductions, we held up the books we would be reading.  The genres were varied as were the reason for each selection. 

  • Starting a new book
  • Giving a novel written in verse a second try
  • The next book in a juicy series
  • One of many books currently reading
  • A book almost finished
  • A library book that one day will need to be returned

We set a timer, muted our microphones, and read for half an hour. Our meeting time was during the lunch hour and people were free to munch and sip while reading. After time was up, we talked about our books which garnered additional discussions and questions. We talked about how our reading life had been affected by this stay-at-home time period.  We batted around the question of whether audiobooks count as reading. We gave each other book suggestions. We chatted about how many pages to give a book before setting aside.  We all agreed to meet again soon.

 After the book club was over, I was energized for the rest of the day. There is a kinship created when sharing a passion. This video chat wasn’t about solving a work problem or recounting a litany of the redundancy of a day, it allowed each one of us to step outside the noise of a week, even the quiet of our neighborhoods and cities can feel loud, beautiful at times, but still loud.  We were able to carve a tiny space to welcome a beloved pastime.  There was something uniting about sitting in silence together while doing a loved activity. 

If you are not a book lover, this might seem like the most insane or, as someone in my home may have said, a lame idea. But I think you could gather across screens around any type of passion.

You could knit with someone and discuss your creations.

You could set your screen to show the length of your table and work on puzzles together.

You could gather a bouquet of flowers from your yard and share what blooming, what seeds you plan to plant, what vegetables you dream of harvesting. Or give a virtual tour of your yard.

Have a set of photos printed in advance to put in a photo album and play “show and tell” during the process of documenting life. 

Gather the ingredients, prop up a phone, and make the same recipe together. 

Songwriters share your songs with each other, poets whisper your poems. 

Unfold your easels and paint together. 

Our family watches Survivor together in 3 different locations but we are united in debating whose torch will be snuffed out each week. 

How can you celebrate and share your passions? 

Find one way this week.

*****

 

May you encounter your neighbors this week in meaningful ways.

May you recognize any passion you have silenced during this shuttered away time.

May you seek connection with a fellow lover of what sets your soul ablaze.

May you be gentle and kind to yourself on days when your energy is depleted.

 

*silent book clubs may be an introvert’s dream, however, our group was a mixture of introverts and extroverts and I think it made the perfect combination!

messengers

messengers

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We had a rough week. 

It wasn’t related to the Coronavirus, but yet it was. The parameters established, although critical, can make situations more challenging and ladle stress on top of what already resided. The details aren’t important because I am confident at this crisis point, we can all fill in the blank regarding a hard circumstance compounded because of new limitations.

Today is better.

This past week when I was feeling a bit fragile and shaky, I paid particular attention to the words  read and heard. There seemed to be a repetition of words as well as harmony of theme.  I would have missed the impact of these words if I hadn’t decided to slow down, shunning stress and anxiety.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe what some might call a coincidence is simply a messenger or an invitation to pay attention. 

Over the years, I have practiced lectio divina which means divine or spiritual reading. Now before these Latin words cause you to glaze over, think of these two words as describing the posture you could take while listening to a friend. 

Imagine a friend sharing a piece of wisdom or insight. You listen and mull the words over in your mind. This is possible because you have made time, no hurrying or rushing to the next appointment.  You ask your friend to utter the words again and once again you listen, lingering over the words to see if they take on any new meaning. Without fear of redundancy or seeing rolling eyes, you ask your dear friend to say the words once more, because these are good words.  Your friend smiles, speaks the words aloud and now the conversation begins.

In lectio divina, you are the one who speaks the words aloud. You are the one who mulls and reflects and turns the words and phrases upside down until you are right side up. You are the one who initiates conversation with your Maker.

So many spoken words surround us on a given day. News reports, bad news, phone calls, words during a meeting, kids bickering over the remote control, or simply the people in your home talking loudly. 

How often do you read aloud, softly, and slowly?

When was the last time you heard words spoken over yourself, in your voice?

 What if you paused and considered what these particular words could teach or guide you on this particular day?

What if instead of reading words quickly and moving to the next task, you allowed yourself to linger over words over, over, and over again? 

How many epiphanies have been missed because of refusing to slow down and sit with words?

 Perhaps you might exit the time of lectio divina with a lighter heart, a new resolve, or with renewed hope. 

My invitation to you is to try lectio divina. 

I will guide you.  

Last week, I kept stumbling across two scriptures and a very well-known prayer. I heard the verses on podcasts and read them in books. The prayer was repeatedly posted by attendees in the chatbox of my Weight Watchers virtual meeting. Go figure.
I tend to rush over passages I know quite well. But when I read the words out loud and without hurrying, I uncover unmined gems.

Below I have included the prayer and the two scriptures I found great comfort in this past week.

Choose one.

Following these three options, I adapted the practice of lectio divina for you and have provided additional resources at the end of this post.

 

/1/

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

 

/2/

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)


/3/

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT)

*****

  • Find a quiet place. I realize this could be a challenge during this time. 
  • If you desire, a pen and journal can be helpful to have on hand to jot down any thoughts which arise. 
  • Take a few breaths as you anticipate the gift of this invitation. 

 

Read the passage slowly and aloud.

What words or phrases stand out?
What do you sense God is saying to you through these words or phrases?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud a second time.

From those words and phrases, is there an invitation God is extending to you?
How do these words or phrases apply to your life right now?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud for a final time.

Journal your thoughts, questions, concerns, resistance, desire to change directions, or simply speak these words and have a conversation with God.
What do you need from God?
What can you thank Him for?
What are you grateful for?

 

Well done, friend. 

You can practice with any passage of your choosing. I hope you will.

Keep listening.

*****

May we experience familiar words in new and fresh ways this week.
May the loss of familiar ways draw us closer to God who longs to settle our spirits.
May we breathe and allow our spoken voice to bring new revelation or gentle comfort.
May we slow down and give ourselves permission to be soothed by our Maker.

 

More about lectio divina.

I have used this journal over the years.

This book.

 

enough

enough

 

water coming from dhunge dhara
Photo by Ashan Rai on Pexels.com

On Easter Sunday, while cutting fruit for brunch, I remembered the fruit was intended to accompany our dinner. Our supply of produce was dwindling as we shop less often now. I quickly grabbed six ramekins and divided up the fruit for the three of us, enough for brunch and dinner. While I placed the dinner fruit cups in the refrigerator, it dawned on me that if this scenario had played out a couple of months earlier, Carl or I probably would have made a quick run to the corner store because we needed to have enough for both meals. When in reality, we had plenty.

*****

On a Monday, March 23rd to be exact, I posted a photo on Instagram of a red tea kettle. I wrote of walking into the kitchen, pushing the power button to start my electric kettle only to see all the temperature control lights flashing in rapid motion, signaling its demise. My first inclination was to check Amazon to see how quickly a replacement could arrive, even with Prime, a delivery wouldn’t happen until the end of April. Carl checked our storage room and found two kettles from the past, one was truly worthy only of the trash but the other one was in perfect condition. It was a kettle I had enjoyed using until I imagine something flashier caught my eye. I also wrote about how I had the sneaking suspicion the time we were entering might reveal our shadow sides. I had gotten a view of mine. Two Sundays, separated by 5 weeks has been illuminating. 

Has it been for you as well?

*****

I’m not proud of my knee jerk response to what I sensed as a lack in my life, attempting to fill it with an Amazon delivery. I’m saddened by my blindness to the abundance within my hands’ reach and how easily I open my front door to obtain more. The tea kettle was broken but I had several options besides using a discarded one. There was boiling water in a pot upon my stove, heating a mug of water in my microwave or even running the tap until it was toasty hot.  I have so very much when so many have so little. I have a storage room for my overflow. I see tiny movement towards contentment when I set these two Sundays apart and I pray the trend grows in spite of my privileged ways.

*****

Many people have described this time in our world as a sabbath, a time to rest or a reset. I agree with each one. I also would add the word “fast”. We are fasting or taking a break from our usual way of moving about our days and world. Most fasts are by choice, but this one has been thrust upon everyone abruptly. There wasn’t a lot of preparation like last meals at favorite restaurants or one final movie theater outing. You know the important things when life or death is on the line. Had we known, how would we have conducted ourselves? I think we have an idea and it can be summed up by the words toilet and paper. 

We are creatures who do not thrive on the unknown, the loss of control or the fear of scarcity. I am raising my hand as well. 

If you have ever fasted from sugar, the first days can be brutal and mind consuming.  But with time, the true sense of taste is restored or reset and a bite of a strawberry, a natural food, tastes like honey from heaven. Taking a break from artificial sweetness allows our taste buds to be satisfied by simplicity. 

*****

During Lent, I practiced decreasing my critical internal dialogue. I became aware of a tendency to complain in my mind as if rehearsing the evidence for a court case.
Whenever I found myself tempted to flip the switch of criticism, I would try to turn that reflex off by speaking a blessing aloud. I hope one day this won’t be just a practice but a fast to completion.

There are many things I am missing during this time of isolation. I am trying to rehearse the opposite whenever I am inclined to remember the former days.

*****

I miss walking to the library during the week and seeing my favorite librarians and often a friend. 

I am grateful for walks around my neighborhood and a house full of books, including library books I get to keep for much longer than anticipated.

I miss going to the movies.

I am grateful for having extra time to introduce our teen to our favorite movies he hasn’t seen. 

I miss jumping in the car to go somewhere, anywhere, just because.

I am grateful for less money spent on gas, fewer miles on our cars and a break from traffic jams.

I miss not being concerned about my physical proximity to others.

I am grateful for a friend who shared her handmade masks and a daughter who shared her overflow to keep us safe.


What are you missing today?

 How can you embrace the loss and fill it with gratitude?

May our satisfaction come not from the things we buy or possess.
May our hands open more to give than receive.
May this time of ceasing from life’s abundance of artificial sweeteners heighten our tastes for what is lasting and real.
May our contentment come from a deep place of hope and peace.

 

rhythms

rhythms

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During the summer of 2012, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. I have a certain fondness for books read in the summer. A book has to be enticing to lure one away from playing in the sunshine.

I was consumed with this book because it was everything I believed but didn’t have the beautiful language to convey. This blog was started in 2006 and named A Work of Heart with the tagline, paying attention to God in our midst. I wanted to write about all the ways God shows up in everyday life. Reading this book made me feel understood and embraced. It’s my deepest hope to lay down words here which more often point to God than to me. It’s the place where I get to share about the geography of my faith.

“Or I can set a little altar in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven–one more patch of ordinary earth with ladder marks on it–where the divine traffic is heavy when I notice it and even when I do not. I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on to where I am due next.”
~An Altar in the World

We have plenty of time to take notice of our surroundings and our lives now. There are no longer the perpetual distractions and busyness of appointments, events, practices, sports, etc. In many ways, we don’t have the luxury to look away and bury our thoughts in a full schedule anymore. We have the gift of being able to reflect longer and deeper than usual if we dare. 

We don’t have to redecorate our homes to make a place of refuge, a respite from the storms which rage throughout our world. It’s as simple as lighting a candle at the beginning and the end of each day. Maybe it’s pulling out the good dishes while you eat grilled cheese sandwiches and telling jokes during dinner. You could sit on your porch with a book, making sure to greet all who walk past. Or spread a blanket on your front steps and drink a favorite beverage. Yesterday, we anchored a crate to our giant maple tree along our parking strip and filled it with bottles of bubbles for passing children, hoping to impart a tiny bit of airborne joy from our home to theirs. 

In what ways can your home become a place of refuge and rest in a weary world?

Those who have loved Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing have often borrowed a question she was asked when invited to speak.

“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked him.

“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he answered. It was if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.”

Recently, I have been closing some posts by recounting what has helped over the past week. It is the same as describing what is saving my life. 

Daily rhythms are saving my life right now. When I look over the past month, there have been productive days and days when I felt kind of crummy inside and out. There have been days the pace of a snail and other days I couldn’t believe it was time to fix dinner. 

The consistent part of my days has been maintaining, adhering to and if I am honest, running towards my rhythms. They have been an anchor during this turbulent time. I have written these ways before but repetition is the beauty of rhythms and routines. The value multiplies over time.

At night, I write in my journal documenting the day. This helps me remember and drains my brain so I can sleep. It’s kind of like how I wished I  had written down EVERY funny or cute thing my children said instead of thinking I would NEVER forget them. This is for the same reason, I will forget. I want to remember.

After I finish writing, I bring my Bible, studies, other journals (#writer problems), planner and whatever book I want to read in the morning. It could be non-fiction, fiction or a devotional book. I make a stack in front of my chair at our dining room table. Sometimes I fill a glass of water and place it on the table as well. I love cold water but sometimes room temperature water feels better in the morning. I pray, write or recite any verse I want to memorize and usually write a card to send. 

This rhythm circles my day. My end of the day rhythm helps me sleep and prepares me for the next day. The day begins in a way that brings me peace and direction for the hours ahead.  Each has become a sturdy signpost drawing my attention away from fretting. A colorful journal to remind me of the beauty in a day when the world seems to have shifted to black and white hues. A small stack of hope to help affix to my heart and mind. 

A signpost could be reading glasses to remember to read or running shoes as a nudge towards the outdoors. It might be a water bottle to stay hydrated or a sticky note with the word BREATH in bold letters. Rhythms don’t have to be complicated or take hours. Try one thing, repeat it and see if it adds value to each day. We all have rhythms whether we are conscious of them or not, now is a wonderful time to create rhythms to strengthen you now and hopefully will last way beyond this patch of time. 

 

What’s saving your life right now?

May the gift of each day, whether filled with easy or difficult parts, be anchored by rhythms to equip you with peace and stability. May your dwelling place feel like a sanctuary of rest and hope.

hugs and grief

hugs and grief

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Sometime during the early swirling days when we were learning how to conduct ourselves whenever we braved the world beyond our walls, Caleb and I happened to walk across a parking lot and heard his name called.

Suddenly I saw a blur of swinging hair and as I swiveled my head to get a better view, Caleb and a childhood friend advanced towards each other with arms outstretched.  At that moment, I smiled because of my recognition of two long time friends but I also heard from behind me, a voice say “Don’t touch each other!” As if I had been dazed, I snapped back into reality, this newfound reality, and watched as the duo stopped quickly enough to achieve an air hug. From a distance, two moms stood wearing the same facial expressions of joy tangled up with sadness because, despite affection, touching can be dangerous.  I won’t soon forget the image of two friends grasping at the space around them to attempt an embrace.

*****

Two Sundays ago, we did a family check-in. We talked about how we each were doing and how we could be praying for one another. Some of us had a lot to say and some did not.

Since we all process and cope in different ways, it is perfectly fine to not have words to adequately describe our emotions. 

I think it is important to keep asking (and asking in different ways, without nagging) allowing for pauses, to give opportunities for fuller answers.  Last week, one of the house dwellers stated, “I’m tired.” Had I rushed to relate or offer a “solution” instead of waiting, I would have missed the fuller response a few breaths later of “I’m tired of this.” Two very different statements spaced apart, a tiny megaphone revealed their current status. 

Another aspect of our checking in with each other has been naming our grief. For example, last weekend, Caleb and a friend were to be away for outdoor school counselor training. It’s disappointing this won’t happen. We are endeavoring to not ignore the crossed off items on the calendar, we are speaking them out loud and honoring the loss. It’s a personal loss but it also extends to countless six graders who are missing this experience. Speaking aloud the canceled event helped loosen his tongue to express a fear of his school year not resuming. Saying the words doesn’t lessen the pain but it does allow the hidden fear to escape from hiding among our deepest thoughts which tend to bore a hole for anxiety to fill. 

We are embarking on a time frame when the activities we have been holding out hope for will be laid aside, postponed or canceled. There has been bad news and the possibility of more news to be received in the future.  Each of our points of grief are important and never meant to be a contest to determine whose is the biggest or the hardest. It can feel this way at times when we hear of so many different ways others are feeling the effects of this solitary time mingled with losses.

The worst grief is always yours.

This is a quote from David Kessler, a grief expert and a recent guest on Unlocking Us podcast hosted by Brené  Brown. If you are not listening to her podcast, I would highly recommend it. I listen to many podcasts in my normal life but there have been very few I feel drawn to now. She has such a soothing voice and perhaps the science related to our emotions feels essential right now.

This quote has allowed me to have compassion for myself alongside empathy for others. 

It is not a comparison game, we feel what we feel. Allow yourself to feel your sadness and if you are able, express it to others. If nothing else, take a deep breath, exhale and wrap your arms around yourself. We all need to keep breathing and feel a hug, even if it is our own. 

*****

What has been helping me:

Being vigilant about what I watch, listen to or read.

Deciding to stop apologizing about sleeping longer in the morning.

Listening to this podcast and this one.

Using this app.

My end of day journal- I read my first entry a few days ago, the day began with my wondering about my jury duty service and ended with our governor limiting gatherings to ten people. In case you are wondering, I will serve in December. In case you are also wondering, I am not perfect in this practice. My mind is easily scattered and I haven’t written in it in several days. But I am glad when I have written in it.

A new mantra-The days are both slow and fast.
I am extending myself grace when I don’t feel productive. 

Good mood songs. I put this song and this one on my Spotify playlist twice to increase the probability of hearing them.

I am praying for more lovely days and dream of summer breezes for all of us.

May God fill the spaces within our lives which suddenly feel vacant and less occupied in the days to come. May He pour out His presence and banish loneliness and emptiness. May He extend His mercy and comfort to bridge the gap from our inability to embrace each other the way we want and are accustomed.

Lord have mercy.

 

seeds of hope

seeds of hope

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Note: This is not the post I wrote earlier last week for today. Who knows, I might post that particular post sometime during the week. These are some of the words that began to percolate when my head hit my pillow last Friday night/early Saturday morning depending on how you look at the time after midnight. It seems audacious to write a pep talk when we are perhaps on the precipice of some very dark days in our history. It also feels hard as those of the Christian faith begin to mark Holy Week leading up to Easter. But my heart began to race as laid on my pillow and then rose to scribble some words in the dark before I returned to my covers. 

*****

A few posts ago, I mentioned my intention to plant nasturtiums along our fence line.

Later on, I realized I hadn’t explained the significance.

There are have been markers in my life, you could call them signposts in nature which have been instructive as well as given me hope, especially during times of trial.

Ladybugs have been one, dragonflies are another and of the flowering variety, nasturtiums.

Nasturtiums seeds are hard and wrinkly, I think they resemble little brains.
The seeds can be large or small, in various hues of brown. A seed packet might suggest nicking or sanding the seeds with a file or even soaking them in water for quicker germination.  They can be planted in full sun or part shade. They grow best in poor soil, in fact, if heavily fertilized, the seeds will produce mainly leaves and few flowers. They can endure outside attacks as I can attest as one summer, an animal developed the habit of digging up the plants during the night. Each morning after plenty of sighing,  I would pat the roots back into their patches of the earth. In spite of this harsh treatment, the plants flourished and continued to bloom into the winter. They are a species that welcomes neglect to bring forth beauty to the eye as well as a peppery taste to the tongue.

We come in all shapes and sizes, beliefs and ideals, hopes and dreams, burdens and concerns yet we are united by this time of crisis.

I don’t know what each one of you has already faced or will in the days and weeks to come. 

What I do know is that each one of us is resilient. 

We are resilient people.

We can be like the nasturtium seed.

We can thrive in the midst of the worst possible conditions.

We can let our only hardness be that we are not easily crushed by the weight of trials but continue to retain the softness of our hearts.

May this time of isolation refine us by sanding off our rough exteriors and exposing our empathy and generosity. 

Burying a seed into the ground is an act of faith coupled with hope. It’s easy to feel buried behind our windows and doors and masks and gloves. 

We can feel hidden and alone.

We lose track of days and wonder if anything is happening for the better.

It is the same when visiting a planted plot of land, there is a longing for signs and evidence of growth. It requires hope to believe there is movement when it can’t be witnessed by the eyes.

Sometimes the only visible signs are weeds. And just when growth is seen, creatures tread upon the earth desiring to tear at the fragile leaves or unearth and destroy the roots

Be resilient.

You were made for this time, some days the sun will shine brightly and other days are full-on shady.

You can endure, no matter the weather.

Bury your seed, your life, as a hope,  your offering in solidarity with the world.

Get cozy in your home soil.

Look to the right and the left and see the other seeds dug down deep beside you. Seeds are always meant to be spaced apart for maximum yield. 

We are waiting in shielded sight together.

No matter what threatens your peace, keep clinging to the earth.

Keep assuming the position.

Let’s wait for the day together when our roots are made strong, reaching deeper than we believed and our blooms erupt in glorious color at the appointed time.

I am waiting and watching with you.

 
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