The Next Step

Yesterday one of my granddaughters called me to ask questions from her 6th grade art assignment. When she finished interviewing me, I asked her the same questions. She will be 12 this year. I will be 80. We both have questions; we both have some answers.  There are questions that seem impossible to answer. This week marks the one year mark of recovery for me after a serious injury. Now, our world is reeling from injury of more kinds than we can count. I am thankful that in this prayer from Every Moment Holy by Doug McKelvey.I see the words “But You…”  

 

“In a world so wired and interconnected,
our anxious hearts are pummeled by
an endless barrage of troubling news.
We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,
than we can rightly consider,
of more suffering and scandal
than we can respond to, of more
hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
than we can engage with compassion.

But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted by such news of cruelty and terror and war.
You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.
You carried the full weight of the suffering of a broken world when you hung upon
the cross, and you carry it still.

When the cacophony of universal distress unsettles us, remind us that we are but small
and finite creatures, never designed to carry the vast abstractions of great burdens,
for our arms are too short and our strength is too small. Justice and mercy, healing and
redemption, are your great labors.

And yes, it is your good pleasure to accomplish
such works through your people,
but you have never asked any one of us
to undertake more than your grace
will enable us to fulfill.

Guard us then from shutting down our empathy
or walling off our hearts because of the glut of
unactionable misery that floods our awareness.
You have many children in many places
around this globe. Move each of our hearts
to compassionately respond to those needs
that intersect our actual lives, that in all places
your body might be actively addressing
the pain and brokenness of this world,
each of us liberated and empowered by
your Spirit to fulfill the small part
of your redemptive work assigned to us.

Give us discernment
in the face of troubling news reports.
Give us discernment
to know when to pray,
when to speak out,
when to act,
and when to simply
shut off our screens
and our devices,
and to sit quietly
in your presence,

casting the burdens of this world
upon the strong shoulders
of the one who
alone
is able to bear them up”.

Amen.

This liturgy is from Every Moment Holy by Doug McKelvey.

 

 

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Stitched Together

Photograph of briar stitching on a crazy quilt made by Mary Clyde Terrell, 1887 – 1977.

This week our sons, one of our granddaughters,  and my husband traveled to North Texas for the burial of Joe’s brother, Pasco Parker. My stage of recovery from a spinal injury did not allow me to travel that distance. In the days they were gone, naturally a flood of family memories and reflections surfaced as I pictured the gathering that was taking place.

There were 5 brothers in Joe’s family of origin. Now he, the youngest,  remains, along with his oldest sibling, a sister. As those siblings decrease in number, the increase in numbers of their descendants is great. Family. Stitched together by blood and bone.

Over 42 years ago I lost the grandmother whose gnarled hands lovingly created the art of stitches pictured above. But there remained so much more than I could have then imagined.  When she passed into eternal life,  her family and legacy of faith grew and continued. As our family leans into the days and years ahead, there is certainty along with uncertainty.  There has been and will be loss. But there is also continuing connection, something we cannot lose. Those who have gone before and those who are to come are stitched together.

 

 

 

 

 

Blooming in the Dark

There is an old saying that declares you find what you are looking for. But there are times I find what I did not look for or expect at all. The times when I am surprised by grace. The cold, dark times when my face is lifted and lit up unexpectedly. This exquisite  blossom almost opened and faded without anyone finding it. During an early but short spell of freezing temperatures, all our container plants were pushed near the house on our back porch, clustered together. The small pot containing this plant was in a dark corner with large pots in front. There has been joy and activity in our home this Advent and Christmastide, but the many cold, wet days have kept us inside more.There have been colds and flu in the family. There have also been elements of loss, darkness and uncertainty, threatening soul drought due to my husband’s continued loss of vision.

Our little succulent helps remind me that hope and beauty bloom in darkness. Indeed, this plant requires dormancy to bloom at all. It must have less water, cooler temperatures, and at least 12 to 14 hours of darkness at night. But this is not the only lesson – plants may also need dormancy to survive stress.

After providing us this pleasure and beauty, this blooming in the dark, our Christmas Cactus will drop its blooms, then return to light and growth.

As 2019 begins, may we turn toward Light and thrive.

A Reminder

November has been a month of spectacular sunsets. This one was changing so quickly that my husband pulled into a pharmacy parking lot for us to capture part of it before it began to fade. I will always remember this sunset, given on November 6, 2017 –  a day that an armed gunman walked into a small church during a worship service in Sutherland Springs, TX – a small town less than 2 hours from our home and killed 26 people, including children, a pregnant mother and the baby she carried.  The tiny congregation is decimated and the building itself will be demolished. I heard the awful news after we left our own beloved house of worship that Sunday morning. I was filled with grief at the time I saw this sunset. It seemed to me a needed reminder that God is still present even in the presence of evil.

A week later a memorial service was held by the church’s pastor, who lost his own teenage daughter in the massacre. I wept when I heard that volunteers had gone into the riddled church building, cleared and cleaned the space, covering bullet holes and painting the whole space white. Twenty-six white chairs, each containing a rose, were set into the space, which people could visit during the day. Now the building will be entirely removed, replaced by a memorial prayer garden. As my own family gathered for Thanksgiving, and this week as we pulled out old familiar ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree, I am reminded of those families who will have empty places at the table and who will not have family members there for celebrating this Advent and Christmas. There may be some who, like me, begin to shop early and already have gifts for a child or parent who won’t receive them.

I would rather have simply written a poem about the beauty of a November sunset. Instead, I offer my remembering and my prayers in this season of gratitude and beginning again of Advent expectancy. Lament has always been a part of its story.

 

Surviving

Globe Amaranth, Gomphrena

This flower is small but you almost never see just one or two plants. They have visual impact because they are usually seen massed together in a flower bed. That could be because there are so many seeds in a bloom not much bigger than the end of my thumb. Every petal becomes a seed. I once had Joe stop by a road for me to collect a couple of flower heads because that particular patch was a variety called Strawberry Fields – bright red pom poms waving in the sun.

It may be a stretch, but as I held this flower my granddaughter picked, an odd comparison floated up in my mind. I recently read in a morning quiet time the phrase “sturdy faith.” The words stuck and I have frequently considered what it means to have that quality, so necessary in a world of confusion and uncertainty.

Thrives in heat and does not need pampering.

Blooms nearly nonstop

Good for cutting and drying to share in many ways.

Attracts butterflies, adding to our garden’s beauty.

Harvesting promotes flower production.

Easily reseeds.

                                                                                 Survival strength!

 

 

 

Enough

I learned to love roses from my grandmother

why did I never take a picture of her cutting roses to bring inside

to put in a jar in the middle of a table

dressed with a white tablecloth she had ironed

so Sunday dinner could be offered to the preacher and his wife

or family could sit down to fried chicken and peas from the garden

or tea cakes and cold milk shared with a skinny brown-eyed girl

she only had that one rose bush  under the front window of the farmhouse

bearing teacup sized yellow blooms that smelled as pretty as they looked

she only had that one rose bush

but it was enough

enough for her to grace food offered on mismatched china

enough to brighten the room they called a sleeping porch

enough to make a little girl remember

I wish I had a picture of her with those roses

I have her table, even the tablecloth

I have her love of one rose bush

I have grandchildren to help me pick roses

it is enough

 

Waiting

fog

Winter Fog

bare branches reach

waiting in a gray veil

to wear green again

On Christmas day,  Nora and I rode in the back seat of our car to church, watching for trees. She said the leaves were all gone away and I agreed.  I said they would come back in the Spring and be here for her birthday. This is an often repeated story recently as she widens her 2-year-old world to pay attention to things that go away. I thought of this the last few days in our early morning fog. Most mornings, I can see beyond our fence and across the lake to a house that is being built there.  I see duck families and herons on the water. But the fog here obscures all but the most pronounced and closest objects. So it is with these days approaching year’s end.  I know what recent days have looked like, but the new year coming holds no clear vision for me.  I am called to trust, to practice discernment, to watch for markers that remind me I have been and will be guided.

“Spiritual discernment asks us to pay attention…on many levels:  to sensus fidelium ( the collective ene of the faithful), to read widely and deeply the best ancient and contemporary thinking, to pray, to attend to the prick of conscience, to watch, to wait, to listen.”

~from “Passing Angels: The Arts of Spiritual Discernment” by Wendy M. Wright in Weavings, November 1995

Light for My Path

Clear shining light,

Mary

s childbeacon

Clear shining light,

Mary’s child

Your face lights up our way

Light of the world,

Mary’s child,

Dawn on our darkened day

 Geoffrey Ainger

Advent is neither just a period on the church calendar nor my personal one. Advent has become an important preparation time, a time to reflect on my path, entering into the darkness of unknowing, opening to new possibility and radical availability.   Light coming into darkness.