Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Give. Grow. Receive.




A wise friend wrote me last month about a minister who told her that the mission statement for his church is Give.  Grow.  Receive.  Spot on,  I thought.  So simple.....so complete.

 I want to adopt that mission statement as my own.  Give.  Grow.  Receive.  What more is there really?

He also told her that his church finds that last one ....  the Receive part ....  the hardest.

And when I lay those words beside my life ....I think it's that third one that is out of balance for me too.  Possibly, many of us could say the same.

This past month, when a Monday commitment I had made to another got cancelled, I tucked myself into the big cozy chair beside the window with an afghan and a charming novel.... ALL morning long.  It was deliciously indulgent.  Not undeserved.  And I loved every minute of it.
BUT .... that is rare.

Now that I am retired, I do have entire days where I can give myself those delightful breaks....but other than trips away,  I rarely schedule them into my calendar like I do the lessons or the volunteering or, or, or!  Even when I know how important that is to do.

As excuses, I have a litany of blather....
             I still want to contribute... to make a difference .....
             The needs are so huge, after all ....  
             It's important to keep learning and growing and not stagnate...
Blah dee blah.  But I venture there is something unsaid here.

I simply think it is dang hard to receive. I struggle mightily to give myself permission to receive... even from myself.  Growing up, when I'd wrestle with a decision, my Mother would weigh options with me, but often say, "Well, you don't want to be Selfish!"

And then there's that whole other level ....  ASKING to receive from others.

Talk about being vulnerable. To say.....I am really struggling, could we go to coffee and could you simply listen to me?  Or.... I have a rotten cold,  could you make a meal and deliver it this week,  or pick up the kids, or the groceries, or walk the dog?  My head says,  How presumptuous of me!

Am I saving the ASK for when I truly have a need ..... am hospitalized with a terminal illness or lose a loved one?  And while I wait for that day, do I miss out on the authenticity and community that comes when we ask and receive on a more regular basis?   Do I lose out on the fullness... the wholeness perhaps, of my relationships ... am I limiting their depth and richness when I make this choice?

It's a good thing it's the dead of winter.  I have lots of time to wonder about this.  I am putting myself on Time-Out.








Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"One Nation....Indivisible"

Today is Election Day.  2016.


I awoke early ... my head and heart troubled and angst-filled.
I sit with it.  And know I need to get out for a walk.  But I must wait for the light to reach the sky so I sit with it some more.

 I grab Parker Palmer's book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, from the shelf and scan the pages.   I want hope.  I want wisdom.  I want answers.

The words on the page ..."One Nation, Indivisible" feel long forgotten .....  far from me ....  far from our country .... almost unreachable.

I read on.

               "If we aim to be "one nation, indivisible," he writes, the capacity to imagine ourselves as members of one another, despite all that separates us, is essential."

He reminds us that we belong to one another..... so we cannot be as "self-centered as we please" but must understand the necessity of differences and respect.  Respect, he reminds us,  takes imagination ..... that ability to really see one another ..... across our inevitable differences.

I look up from the page to find that the sky is now pink .... there is a sharp wind blowing .... but the walk will do me good.




Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Soul Place

We'd been hearing about this place of hers in South Dakota ever since we met her ....back in the 80's.

This place.... two small cabins, one large shed, one double-holer outhouse....her father's former hunting camp .... on a piece of land near the itty bitty town where she grew up.... deep in the ruralness of the Black Hills.

As a married couple, they spent each summer here in this place...with their children, then their grandsons....connecting and reconnecting with relations, friends, swimming holes, hiking trails, and quiet.  It was a long trek each year, both geographically and otherwise, from their involved lives as university professor and public school teacher in a sizable town up in northwest Washington.

We knew, from the stories, this place held rich memories laced with history. For years we wanted to take her up on the invitation to visit.

Finally. This was the year.....this was the summer.

She told us to watch for the county line sign, then a big tin shed on our right... their driveway would bend off that narrow winding road just past the shed.

And there she was on the red porch, waving through the dust our tires kicked up .... smiling her love and hellos from every bit of her small but sturdy, almost 82 year old frame.

Three days ...with her... in this place.  Wildly wonderful, but not enough.  Not nearly enough.



                    On our first night there, as we lay back into the dark of the lower cabin amidst the hooty hoot of the owls outside, while half of me remained on alert recalling her comment, 'I hope you're OK with rodents!" my husband said across the quilt, "Well, this certainly is her soul place!"

Yup.  True.  We both knew it and felt its embrace.

For those three wonderful days ... (and still, actually),  I wondered about what defines a Soul Place .... what bullet-pointed items fall under that heading ....  what descriptions get the blur out.... what words articulate the experience....that palpable yet intangible experience that shouts Soul Place.

Was it that we were snugged in amongst family photos, memorabilia, tale after rich tale, furniture and artifacts from times past, abundant quiet, new faces that understood and shared our love for her, longings for a dear husband and father now gone from this earthly place, bird song, pine smell and breath-catching beauty?

Certainly it was present in that visit to the six building town where her Mom and Dad had run both the only store and the only gas station while she grew up with a beloved Grandmother some distance away.....and at the visit to the ranch that was home for her earliest years where we couldn't distinguish which weather-weary-but-still-beautiful building had been the house and which the barn... and at the visit to that peaceful ponderosa pine-smelling cemetery high on a hill where she and her husband will rest alongside one another some day....

Was it present here,  I wondered,  because internet, cell phone service and television reception were not?

Was it present here, I wondered,  because this strong wise woman has, it seems, done her own version of the Australian Aboriginal Walkabout... alone on this wild land much of each summer since her husband passed away?

I started a new book the night before we left ... one I had picked up on the trip.  In A Singular Notion, Renee Carrier describes her ranch outside the small town of Hulett, Wyoming as "not a ranch, not a farm per se, it is a place."  
"I love,"  she continues, "the Muiresque definition of a place as being a part of the environment claimed by feeling."

I dog-eared that page.

Certainly, my friend has deep and strong feelings for this place. It seems to breathe the very values she holds dear.
Or could it be the other way around?  Did her values come from this place?
Sort of a chicken and egg kind of question.

Either way ....what a joy to have and know a place that sings the very song your heart sings ....a place that calls you to remember what it is that brings you closer to your sacred self.

I treasure the gift of those three days with her in that place. They reminded me to live more fully into Rumi's words ....

Wherever you stand
Be the soul of that place.

   Rumi 













Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Orange Cake





Orange Cake


A slice of the orange "W" cake sits before me.
Ice cream pools at its edges.
My fork lifts a bite.
I chew and swallow....not tasting.

Bubbles rise in the champagne along with the emotions inside me.
Toasts, tears, poetry bring memories of that day seven years ago.

His siblings, eating orange cake alongside us, watch, listen, ask questions, take it in.

We are two families, strengthened, perhaps even bonded, by this grief....
Gathered as one
Around an orange cake,
Longing for a little boy.



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ideas are All Around .....

I am having trouble concentrating on my writing .....



THIS MIGHT BE WHY!!!!

We are rejoicing in a week of warm, stunning weather here in the Pacific Northwest!  After a wet and rainy past few months, this tantalizing spring-time beauty and longed-for warmth has come exactly when I took myself on a three day writing retreat.....to a spot where the beauty and the warmth is especially stunning.  I am in a full-out fist fight with myself to stay indoors writing lit for kids when this weather screams at my window to come out and play.

 I want to walk the beach ..... poke in the nearby village ....  sip pinot gris on the deck .... and chat with my writing buddies.
And..... I want fresh, fun ideas and creative inspiration to abound in my brain.

This morning when the third-in-a-row bright sunny day dawned, promising to be warmer still than its two predecessors, I thought of this wonderful new kid lit book I bought last week.  Titled Ideas are All Around,  it is by the enormously talented Philip C Stead (think A Sick Day for Amos McGee) and his wife, Erin E Stead.  Philip Stead needs to be spending the day writing but hasn't any ideas and his dog, Wednesday, wants to take a walk.  So off they go ..... into the sunshine, the neighborhood, the neighbors,  the turtles at the pond,  the spilled blue paint that looks like a horse, and find that IDEAS are all around  ---- you just have to find them.

So I went for a walk .....      
                                                               

     I returned thinking about WallyDing, a bell-ringing Orca whale.

Thank you, Philip and Erin Stead.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

She Wonders Why she's still here.....




My Mother is days away from celebrating her 101st birthday.   Macular degeneration has taken much of her sight; very little hearing remains in either ear.  Her world has become  small and narrow.

She wonders almost daily why she is still here with us.

I understand.  I've even wondered this too at times .....

But after walking alongside her for the past six months, now I think I know why she is still here.



To teach me about affirmations and the power they hold to lift a person up .

To teach me about appreciation and how even when you can't see well, or hear well, or understand much of the why, and you hurt a-plenty .... you can still say a warm and sincere thank you for a kindness done.

To teach me the importance of allowing people in - to care for you and love you ---- that vulnerability  brings closeness.

To teach the young ones in our family about giving love.... about stretching to accommodate the needs of those you love .... like speaking slower and louder so she can hear.

To tell her stories again so the children can hear them and we can all keep them alive when she is gone.

To remind me about appreciating - every single day - those that I live with and love .... and to tell them that I do ....

....and so so so much more that I either can't articulate or don't know yet that I have learned.

She has been teaching me things all my life.  But somehow she is doing the underlining.... adding the Caps and the bold font right now .....

I am no longer wondering why she is still here.
I know why.
I will stay alert for the rich lessons.



Monday, December 28, 2015

What STAR will you follow?






Stars are a big part of my holiday decor....a large one greets visitors outside our front door, a plethora of different sized stars dance across our mantel, and of course one tops our tree ---- an aged wooden star we chose when the kids were little.  Our first family star.  It has a hole in the center ---- right where the fat ends of the points all start their journey outward.  There's a heart in that hole.


For many Christmases I added more ... I put them out and up and about .... their simplicity and beauty appealing to me. Until this year, that's been about the extent of it .... simple, beautiful stars.  And certainly that is enough.  I am grateful for that.

But this season, the stars gave me more than simple beauty.

On Epiphany Sunday last January our minister asked us to think about what STAR we would follow this year.  She challenged us to find a STAR that called us, one that we would give more to than an Oh-that's-pretty glance .... to watch for holy moments to guide us in our journey toward our chosen STAR .... and to be able, in January of 2016, to reflect on our Star-led journey of 2015.

Kind of a sacred way of setting a New Year's resolution.

So ..... what STAR would I follow?

Seeking an answer to that question led me to my generosity .... or specifically, my lack of it.  Not so much in my giving or my actions, but in my thinking!  I wanted to think more generously.
Yes,  that was it .... I would follow the kind-and-generous-thoughts STAR.....

I looked for Wise words to guide me.... words to give me a leg up as I took the first steps towards that star.....

Parker Palmer has always been my go-to.  His touchstone  When things get rough, GO TO WONDER  is on the wall by my desk.  I love those words.  It's always a challenge for me to go to Wonder .... to wonder why another did or said something ..... to wonder why I reacted the way I did ....  to go to wonder instead of to judgement.

But I needed some new words too .....

When I found this quote by Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr...."An alternative orthodoxy is never stingy with grace and inclusion because it has surrendered to a God who is infinitely magnanimous and creative in the ways of love and mercy,"   I thought, YUP .... and YIKES.

YUP !  I no longer wanted to be stingy with grace!  Bingo.  That's it.
But YIKES.... all the time?  Even when someone really bugged the heck out of me?

And this "infinitely magnanimous and creative with my love" part .....whew, tall order.
I remember thinking I was glad I had 12 months for this journey.....
ha .... 12 decades or lifetimes maybe.

So, it's almost January 2016 .... my journey to the kind-and-generous-thoughts STAR has had its successful days and its failed-badly days. But what I have loved is noticing how I feel when I am stingy with grace .....and how I feel when I am magnanimous with love.  Loving creatively comes easily some days and is downright impossible on others.
I plan to keep following this star in 2016.  I have work left to do.

As the simple and beautiful STARS came out of their boxes earlier this month and went up and about and on top, they each held a reminder of this star I am trying to follow.  They were more than simply beautiful.

And when that old wooden star went on top of the tree this year and I saw its red wooden heart in the cutout center where the points begin their journey outward and where it's been for lo, these past thirty  something years, I saw that old STAR and this journey I am on with brand new eyes.



May your 2016 be full of wonder and blessed with magnanimous and creative love!