Seed Time

100_0146I am not going to be heading out to the garden to prepare the soil for receiving new plants and seeds. For the time being I need to be an armchair gardener. I will miss digging and planting, and will need to accept the help of my husband and other helpers if the sprouting, growing, and flowering I so enjoy each Spring gets started.

In these weeks of being still and refraining from  things to do,  I choose a different way of fasting and focusing for Lent. This means tending a different garden  – the garden of my soul. It is here that I will prune and dig out roots of unhealthy habits to make room for new growth. As welcome as the new plants outside will be, and as much as we will enjoy watching their growth and benefit from later harvest, even more important and welcome will be the results that can come from tending my interior garden.

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Hold On

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Suppose your whole world seems to rock on its foundations. Hold on steadily, let it rock, and when the rocking is over, the picture will have reassembled itself into something much nearer to your heart’s desire.     -From The Seven Day Mental Diet by Emmet Fox

Since my recent injury and then  surgery day before yesterday, I have been holding on  – to my husband’s loving and steady arms, the strength of my sons, our family, friends, and church, and, always, the eternal Grace in which I am bathed.. The picture has not been reassembled so much as it has been brought into focus. This camera lens has sharpened and clarified all the pieces. I am dearly loved, well cared for..basking in Light, healing.

My Lenten journey has begun.

Matter of the Heart

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Last month I opened my small 2015 calendar book and began entering appointments and commitments already made.  I like that part of beginning a new year with fresh calendar pages. It is popular now to do this calendar recording on phones and other electronic devices, but I like handwriting little reminders of place and time. By the first week of
February, I already had a number of dates marked with plans leading up to Lent and Easter, a happy time and typically a very busy time for our family.

And then, a week ago, I ruptured an Achillles tendon and began the changes which would clear almost everything already on the calendar and replace commitments for choir and handbells and meetings with appointments for doctors, an MRI, and surgery. I was not only in severe pain, but crestfallen, disappointed.  Of course I did not welcome this interrruption and the extra work it creates for my husband and our busy family, but I realized that I was not only reacting to the physical discomfort and  limitation, I needed some heart work. The weeks ahead of surgery and limited mobility closely parallel the weeks of Lent, Perhaps I could consider this time of being still and healing in that light.

At the suggestion of my friend and pastor, I have registered for an online Lenten retreat which begins a few days after my repair surgery which considers the questions: Why am I here? What is mine to do? Who am I called to be? And what can I contribute and offer to the world?   It is a matter of the heart. I have put it on my calendar.

If you should be interested in learning more:

http://www.shalem.org/index.php/shalem-programs/open-hands-willing-hearts-online

Where are You Standing?

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This is a fragment of a very old leaded glass window featuring painted glass and the one word “Blessed.”  I wish I knew the whole story of the window it came from, but I know only a little.  In the late 1970’s, my husband was approached about repairing vintage leaded glass windows which had been purchased in England by a couple who were members of our church .  They had donated the windows, where they were to be used in specific places inside the church.  This meant they must be cut to fit those places.  Joe disliked trimming the old windows, but did so.  There were many small pieces left, and this piece was given to me.  It now rests on a tiny easel in my kitchen window alongside another piece of stained glass. Recently, when someone cleaned the window sill, the glass was put back on the easel backward.

When I noticed the mistake, I reached for my camera and only after I looked at the image did I realize that the glass might be backward, but the reflection on the shiny granite beneath it is right.

How many times do I not recognize how blessed I am, simply because I need to look in a different way?

” ‘What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.'”   C.S. Lewis, in The Magician’s Nephew

Blooming Anyway

IMG_1716In our part of Texas, we seldom have severe winter weather.  Although November was colder than most years, December was unusually warm until Christmas. But 2015 turned a cold shoulder on us. It has been wet and cold, with twice the normal amount of rain and very cold – definitely coat, scarf, and glove days.  Since we have a few tender plants in our garden, when temperatures are predicted to drop to an extended period of hard freeze, we scuttle about trying to protect plants, pipes, and pets.  We haul out our stack of covers and  try to secure them in gusts of wind that take cover off as fast as we put it on while we weight or pin it down.  We didn’t cover our antique roses, but they seemed to welcome the wet cold days with an extra crop of blooms.  I have written before about the difference in color and fragrance in a winter rose bloom, but this round of blooming was so welcome in the bone chilling  cold, gray days that I found them particularly welcome.  These “Old Roses”  are known for their survival.  They come from root stock that is known for its stay power. The notable thing is that these roses didn’t just stay alive in the bitter cold and whipping winds. They bloomed anyway.

It is one thing to be grateful for having come from strong roots (the stories of my ancestors tell me over and over how much grit and grace they had)) – but it is another thing to be aware of  what I may be passing on to my sons and grandchildren. I want to live in ways that can be described as not just surviving, but blooming anyway.

Threshold

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The day of Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, a day for remembering the visit of the Magi to the home of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus. This was a time of discovery, a time of finding what they had been seeking. Although we are not told how they lived out their discovery, only that they returned by a different way, I like to believe that part of that “different” way was not only to avoid Herod, but because they were beginning a new journey of change.  They had come to, and crossed a threshold.

As I enter the new year, I, too, am crossing a threshold.  I am moving from one place in my life to another. I do not always know where my steps take me, but I can trust that light will be given me for the way.

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Blessing the Threshold

This blessing
has been waiting for you
for a long time.

While you have been
making your way here
this blessing has been
gathering itself
making ready
biding its time
praying.

This blessing has been
polishing the door
oiling the hinges
sweeping the steps
lighting candles
in the windows.

This blessing has been
setting the table
as it hums a tune
from an old song
it knows,
something about
a spiraling road
and bread
and grace.

All this time
it has kept an eye
on the horizon,
watching,
keeping vigil,
hardly aware of how
it was leaning itself
in your direction.

And now that
you are here
this blessing
can hardly believe
its good fortune
that you have finally arrived,
that it can drop everything
at last
to fling its arms wide
to you, crying
welcome
welcome
welcome.

– Jan Richardson

Jan L. Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. She frequently collaborated with her husband, the singer/songwriter Garrison Doles, until his sudden death in December 2013. 

This Day, This Life

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As new calendars appear on our desks and the days begin to fill with scheduling and appointments, it is possible for us to slip into a feeling that one day is like the next, whatever our jobs or commitments.  But that is never the case.  Just as each snowflake is separate and unique and  beautiful, so are our days. Each new day may unfold within a familiar framework, but the minutes and hours it offers are unlike any other and will never be repeated. Of course, the same is true for each of our lives.

From Morning Prayer to Evensong, help me Lord, to treasure my moments and my days.  May I spend them well, because this is the way I am spending my life.

“How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.”  ~Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life

 

Sacrament of Broken Seed

I like to choose a word at the beginning of each year that I can come back to, like a touchstone in my pocket, over and over again. My word for this new year is ENCOURAGE.

There are times when we can encourage and offer strength to another. There are also times when we are the ones who have need of receiving encouragement, accepting offers of help. I have long loved the following poem.  I am reminded of the power of encouragement when I see the scarlet flash of a cardinal and watch him and his mate choose to nest in our garden.

At the Winter Feeder

His feather flame doused dull  by icy cold,  the cardinal hunched  into the rough, green feeder  but ate no seed.  Through binoculars I saw  festered and useless  his beak, broken  at the root.  Then two: one blazing, one gray,  rode the swirling weather  into my vision  and lighted at his side.  Unhurried, as if possessing  the patience of God,  they cracked sunflowers  and fed him  beak to wounded beak  choice meats.  Each morning and afternoon  the winter long,  that odd triumvirate,  that trinity of need,  returned and ate  their sacrament  of broken seed.

~  John Leax, professor of English and poet-in-residence at Houghton College:

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