Sitting, Still

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This bloom on a small container potted shrub reminds me of another purple bloom, in another place, the garden we moved away from a few months ago. It also reminded me that I still need to sit, that I need to be still. The birds and flowers are different, but there are yet the settling and knowing, the holy moments.

“Sitting in your garden is a feat to be worked at with unflagging determination and single-mindedness – for what gardener worth his salt sits down. I am deeply committed to sitting in the garden.”       – Mirabel Osler

Sitting still is necessary for so many things: I listen better when I sit still.  I hear things unheard when I am crunching on the gravel or digging or clipping.  The butterflies and hummingbirds come closer when I am still.  The cardinal pair lingers longer on the fence.  Appreciation and savoring of beauty may run after me when I am on the move but they settle around my shoulders like a soft cover when I sit still.  And in the stillness I begin to settle – the cloudy debris of things which can fret and hurt begin to drift to the bottom, leaving pure, clear knowing.  Holy moments can happen when I sit in my garden.   (Reposted from this blog, written on August 17, 2013.)

Still true, in a very different garden. Three years ago, this is the picture I posted, a different purple bloom on the Vitex tree in that garden.

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Windows

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View from a windowr in our living room

Because our local temperatures have mirrored the widespread hanging on of Winter, I am even more grateful than usual for the warmth of my home and plenty of books to read. But I know that 29 degrees and wind and rain are minor compared to severe cold,snow and ice elsewhere, I am also grateful I don’t need to shovel snow and drive in those hazardous conditions. I know that Spring is around the corner – but I was still smiling in surprise when I saw this redbud tree in full bloom as my husband drove me to the surgery center 2 weeks ago.  When we returned this week so I could have sutures removed, I asked him to go the same way so I could look for the tree. There it was, on a corner where we could stop for a quick photograph.

I am thankful for windows, and for vision to see through them to beyond my immediate surroundings. But these would not be enough if I did not pay attention to them. At this very moment, I am in a room with windows but the blinds are closed. By paying attention, I hear not just one but many birds warbling and calling. It is still and there is no sound of rain beating down or wind tossing branches so I know the storm that ushered in this latest cold front has moved on. I am reminded again that being aware and giving attention to my surroundings  provide windows and views as well. And I am aware of stirrings within me. There  are also seasons of the soul.  I welcome Springtime..

IMG_1920 (2)View from the car window

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

Christmas Eve: Relationship

The final figure has been hung in my Advent shadow box. In our Nativity scenes, the manger holds a baby. It is Christmas Eve, the time of laboring, receiving.  As waiting and expectancy end, the intense work so aptly named labor begins, the urgency of a baby’s entrance into our world gives way to embrace. With the birth of our granddaughter this year so fresh in my mind, I think of holding her minutes after birth.  So small and precious in my arms, so helpless, yet holdiing such power over my heart. In the hush of those moments, relationship locked and sealed forever. Relationship that began the moment I heard of her coming, that grew so sweetly when I saw ultrasound images, became one that will endure past physical life.

It is in that way Christ came to us. In that picture of receiving Him that we see God’s intention for relationship. We don’t just know he is coming . We welcome Him into our hearts.

 

IMG_1479This Nativity belongs to our youngest son. He first set it up when he was very small. As a boy, he built the little shed from scraps of wood shingles.  Now it sits in his own home, where his daughter holds the figures as she discovers her very first Christmas.

 

 

Connecting

594-20141215 (2)This bridge spanning the River Sligachan on the isle of Skye forms part of the only road to the west end of the island.  It is in the heart of the rugged Cuillins, and the Sligachan is a rough and wide river, so the road literally makes the way possible.

In the very early morning, while my house is dark and still, the flame of our Advent candle reminds me of Emmanuel, God with me, bridging impassable chaos and separation.  Advent, moving forward in the days to Christmas,  sings of bridges. By his coming, Christ did the unthinkable.  He linked the unlinkable.

 

“But you did the unthinkable.

You build one Bridge to us,

solid enough, long enough,

strong enough to stand all tides

for all time, linking

the unlinkable. ”  ~ Luci Shaw

 

Surprised by God

IMG_1406This folk art crèche from Mexico was given to us as a 25th wedding anniversary present.  We lived then in Indonesia, and many of our friends were expats who had lived around the world.  The couple who gave it  had names similar to ours and the gift tag read  “A Mary and Joe from Mary and Joe to Mary and Joe!’

Thinking of Mary and gentle Joseph as simple Joe and Mary somehow gives another dimension to these little nativity figures. seeing my sweet granddaughters as they laugh and cry and run to hug me helps me give flesh to Mary , too. In her innocence, trust,  and willingness to say yes to what seemed impossible, she modeled for me the miraculous outcome of being surprised by God.  This touches me in a way that none of the Madonna masterpieces in all of art history.

Announcement

Yes, we have seen the studies, sepia strokes

across yellowed parchment, the fine detail

of hand and breast and the fall of cloth –

Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco, Rouault – each complex madonna plotted at last

on canvas, layered with pigment, like the final

draft of a poem after thirty-nine roughs.

But Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance

to pose her piety, no novitiate for body or

for heart. The moment was on her unaware;

the Angel in the room, the impossible demand,

the response without reflection. Only one

word of curiosity, echoing Zechariah’s How?

The teen head tilted in light, the hand

trembling a little at the throat the candid

eyes, wide with acquiescence to shame and glory –

“Be it unto me as you have said.”

from Accompanied by Angels, Poems of the Incarnationn, by Luci Shaw

Recollect

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On my piano rests a book given to me by my son years ago. Every year around the middle of November, I take the book from its place on a bookshelf and place it again on the piano so that we can enjoy hearing and singing this music again.  It is a collection of Christmas music from around the world, many very old traditional carols. I do not form a new collection; I remember this very good one and bring it close to me so that I can use it, savoring the words and melodies.

This is a good picture of the word recollect for me.  My grandparents used that word, pronouncing it “reck-o-lect,”  as remembering.  But the wider meaning is one of gathering back, of bring back to awareness, to assemble again something that is scattered.

It is this sense of gathering back that I am given as Advent unfolds. As I choose to open my music book once more, I am practicing one part of this remembrance.