Wednesday, September 29, 2010

pockets full of tomorrow

Last night the air was still and cool. I went outside after our frozen pizza dinner (smile) and started walking among my flowering plants noticing some mature seeds. With care I harvested seeds from two beautiful flowering plants that spread around my garden. It was not like harvesting wheat - I pulled apart seed pods one by one and drew out shiny black seeds with a vivid white edge. Then I bent over seed cups and tipped out hard black kernels that look like small rabbit 'raisins.'

From behind me I heard children playing in our creek and on the climbing fort Steve has built in there. I heard one boy of six yell, "Fire in the hole!" and I heard a splash and then hilarious laughter. I moved from plant to plant putting one kind of seed in my right pocket and the other in my left.

It occurred to me that I had pockets full of tomorrow. Something about the work of saving the seeds filled me with hope and pure joy. I was connected to God in that moment, doing God things. Beyond that my creek was full of tomorrow, too. The noises of tomorrow echoed around my silence. As I get older the urgency to preserve and empower the next generation becomes a main focus of my life.

In the stillness of that simple work I was filled with awe at the life I have been given to live. And I was filled with awe at the power of creation energy that pushes toward renewal and rebirth. I am fading but life is preparing for the next bold flowering.

Friday, September 24, 2010

on being gramma

Today I went to the public school to act as surrogate gramma to two Kenyan girls, Blessing and Esther. Their names are great, arent they? You should see their hair - rows of braids always fun and funky. Anyway, it was really an exercise in frustration except for the part with Esther and Blessing. Crowds of grandparents, a sweaty room, standing and waiting til a teacher's name is yelled and then scrabbling past a hoard of kids to try and find THE kid who attaches to you.

All in all, it ended quite nicely, with Esther and I eating in the gym at a table with two other gramma/kid pairs. Here is what I saw though. One of the grammas sat beside her little fair haired grandson, and proceeded to spend the next half hour texting on her iPhone. I don't recall one sentence of conversation until she said, "Well, I think it's time to go." At which time the boy stood up and walked to throw his waste in the can. What is the point of enduring all that bother if not to actually pay attention to your kid?

The best thing I did, I think, was obtain a second chocolate milk for Esther, since I could have one and so could she. As she swallowed the last gulp almost licking the container clean she informed me that the rule is only one, so this was great. Victory!

My own grandkids are all over the world. I don't (usually) feel sorry for myself about that. And today I was able to make two little girls show me their wide grins and stand in for their African grammas. It was a blessing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

on the death of a friend

You have no knowledge of this, but yesterday a lovely woman in Calgary passed from this life to the next, quietly and beautifully. Shelley was a friend of mine from my years in Calgary. She had a beautiful appearance and a heart that shone through her face. Her work was in the medical field, and during a surgery she accidentally came in contact with tainted blood. From then on Shelley fought a battle with hepatitis and many accompanying problems. She lived for decades with awful symptoms and yet remained a giver, one who saw others and served them graciously.

And so, although her life and mine are far apart now, her passing brings me into a common experience of all our lives - the experience of multiple emotions and responsibilities piled on one another and very little room to sort them out.

In an ideal world we would go to the grieving tent when we were grieving. In an ideal world we would go to the silly space when we were feeling ridiculous. There would be a place or space for all our experiences to be processed and held and honored. But the truth is we grieve while we laugh, we talk when we long to be silent, we strategize when we feel little hope for the future.

Yesterday I spent a couple hours with an architect on campus, dreaming about ideal spaces for students to use. The conversation was an exercise in hope. Perhaps a way could be made for space to fit our life instead of our lives being forced into the space that is there. But even if such space is created, will time constraints accommodate the space?

Anyway, yesterday, for me, was one of those days when too many streams are flowing at all kinds of levels within me, so much so that I don't know what the emotion of the day was. All I know is that at the end, in the dark, what remained with me was a great sorrow for all Shelley suffered, and a sense of wanting to honor her life for it was a great one.

PS - one other thought that occurs to me. After a day of unprocessed emotions yesterday I ate a HUGE supper... hmmm. Wonder why THAT happened?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Holiness Week

This past week at Asbury was 'holiness week.' The idea is simply to recapture the true and beautiful ideas of holiness and bring those concepts back to the forefront of our practice and thinking. Dr. Tennent was the speaker for the three main sessions and then we had meetings outside in a tent two nights consecutively. The tent was a touch of nostalgia and a naturally creative venue for us. I attended the Wednesday night meeting under the tent.

Lately two sources of learning have been playing together in my mind. From psychotherapy class I am learning about the brain and how it works - its malleability, and the role it plays in our states of mind. I have also been thinking about metacognition - this all sounds so big, but basically it is thinking about thinking. Instead of accepting our thoughts as the real and right interpretation of our experience, we can think about what it is we are thinking and why we have that response to experience. Also, my vanKaam human formation training is always a foundation on which to organize my learning.

So ... Wednesday night and all this formation stuff circulating through my thoughts. How do they connect? Something deep shifted in me Wednesday night. I did ask a friend to pray for me, and I am always grateful for prayer. But the shift was really a culmination of a long journey - maybe two years or maybe as long as ten. Many streams converged in me on Wednesday night. The experience wasn't emotional, really, nor was it mystical. Rather, suddenly I had a grasp of something more than words or ideas, but something profoundly alive and broad as the universe.

My 'tent moment' was another point of clarity in my process of being. Each moment builds on the last and yet stands alone in some way. All along the way I am being renewed. I can't say it is a process of being perfected. But I am quite sure it is a true process of becoming fully human and alive and really, quite happy.

Let me share a couple lines from a poem.

God lives down the corridor,
last door on the left.
At nine I bring the wine
pressed from the defiant grapes
of five and eighty years.
For bread, the mud cakes of my days,
carefully burnt in the sun.
The wheelchair cannot strut,
and the brag is gone,
but these gifts
I lay upon the altar
and see God bending over
my small mess
with infinite delight.

(Kilian McDonnell)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

36 years

So we passed our 36th anniversary yesterday. September 14th, a magical date for no-one but us. We chose it for some reason I am sure, and by choosing it made it part of our story.

Steve says the thing he remembers most on that day is walking over to the grocery store to buy polish for his shoes. He remembers thinking, "I am buying polish for my shoes because I am getting married today." He wanted someone to tell. But there was no one. So he went home, to no one, and polished his shoes.

Steve and I both grew up in a small house full of kids and mostly not enough money to go around. But one poverty that both of us endured was unnecessary. Neither of our families knew how to enter into the other person's life to pay attention, notice, celebrate.

Once when we drove across the border from Windsor to Detroit, getting lost and ending up in a rough neigborhood, I noticed how there was no sign of Christmas on any houses. Only very occasionally was a wreath or bow attached to a door or window. I pondered and realized that when there isn't enough, all the celebration fades. When there isn't enough money, yes, but more so, when there isn't enough hope, enough energy, enough support, enough gentleness. When there isn't enough it is survival with no frills.

That was the condition of both our homes on September 14th, l974. On that morning I sowed daisies into a kind of bouquet to carry down the brief isle, and Steve sat on his crumbling porch, polishing his shoes.

Our marriage has been much better than our wedding was.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Everybody's moving

Everybody has shifted two seats to the left. The air is fragrant with transition. New students push their kids in carts up and down Wilmore streets, smiling at anyone who will smile back. Returning students show up full of summer tales. Classes are starting. People are putting on ironed shirts to show up at new jobs.

And no one is quite sure. Not quite sure how to be. Not quite sure what today means. Not quite sure what to say. Whether to go through a door or not. Whether to say what's on their mind.

One would think we would all be experts at transition since we have so much experience. We face new every day. And the search for new is in American DNA. The difference is, we used to believe that the 'new' was surely to bring us something better, richer, freer and more fulfilling. Now we are not quite sure. Have all the changes we've made put us on a road to something great?

Well, I don't know. That's the truth. But I know that we can live in faith, hope and love, even on an uncertain day. Faith gives us eyes to see what isn't quite in view, and calms our fears with the knowledge that there is a loving Father watching our every step. Hope gentles us, creating patience in our responses to ourselves and others. Love restores our perspective.

The greatest of these is love. Even if the whole endeavor fails, and some do, love stands. And when success comes in bigger doses than we can get our arms around, love passes the joy around.

Transition is a moment by moment endeavor. Put love into a breath, a heartbeat, a choice and you might see home.