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
Clear shining light,
Clear shining light,
Your face lights up our way
Light of the world,
Dawn on our darkened day
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.
What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year… is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snow-blind longing for him. ~ Frederich Buechner, from Secrets in the Dark
summer’s precious purple flowers
give way to Autumn’s call
golden globes of berries glow
telling me it is time to let go
For about 40 years I have taped these words inside a cabinet door or in another place, always close to the spot I make my coffee so that I see it every morning. I recently removed it to take with me to a new kitchen. Mornings will still mean an early cup of coffee and a new day for this resolution. It reads:
All this day I will realize that I am a child of God. His love is round about me, underneath are the everlasting arms. I will be honest and true in everything I say and do. I believe that all things work together for good for those who love God. I will try to replace all bitterness, hatred, resentment, over-anxiety, and fear with the spirit of understanding, tolerance, love, patience, and trust. Behind all that comes, God’s love and wisdom will be present to strengthen and sustain.
_ Copied, author unknown. I clipped the words from a newsletter published by Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, around 1977. Bruce Willcox was pastor of Willshire, a church we previously attended when we lived in Dallas. Our youngest son, Ben was born in 1973 so his baby dedication was held there.
story by story
palimpsest of homecoming
always grace for the journey
I wrote the following for a post on April 5 2011. 5 years later, we are moving to a new home,so the container changes once more, but the God given surety inside me remains. I am given Grace to take each new step. I do love coming home.
Every time I enter my front door, even before turning the key in the lock, my eyes rest for a moment on the small engraved stone nestled in the feathers of foxtail fern planted in an urn beside the door. I take the word into the house with me, breathe deeply, and am grateful once more for being home. The house itself is only a container for this awareness, though tucked into baseboards and behind walls throughout its rooms are small scripture cards which we placed as the house was built. The walls are only reminders, with their glad burdens of family pictures and framed statements of faith and hope. Home is God-given surety inside me. I love coming home.
“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.” -Wendell Berry
Cool, rainy days coaxed our roses to bloom- full, fragrant garden gifts. But the two rose bushes that produced this exquisite flowering are not growing strong and healthy. We have a large white crepe myrtle tree and a lovely purple flowering Vitex near our back porch that have grown so tall and full the past 10 years that they provide shade for that part of our garden and porch. Wonderful respite from the heat of summer sun for us when we sit on our porch, but now a threat to the rose bushes. Roses require at least 6 hours of sunlight a day so the spot where they are planted has become too shady for them to remain healthy. We need to move them if they are to survive. I understand I must do certain things to help them make the move: Reduce the plant size, dig a new hole, remove the plant and roots and transfer, nourish the plant by providing the right soil, watering, and not forcing growth by fertilizing too soon.
As I thought about this, wondering if we might do best to remove them and take them to plant in our new house when we move, I was surprised to realize that the same advice applies to us as we get ready to relocate. We have already reduced the quantity of things we need to take with us by clearing clutter, passing on family treasures, selling, and donating. We have found the place where we will be transplanted, along with our son and his family. But we will need to remember the need to stay nourished and avoid forcing too much change too fast.
I am thankful for the plans we have made to be attentive to those things. And maybe we will take two rose bushes along with us to remind us.
Looking forward to blooming in a new spot.
My observance of Lent this year involves fasting, but not from bread or chocolate or TV. I am finding it more difficult to restrict that which is less obvious and tangible, such as multitasking and rushing. I am discovering that this intentionality and focus frees me to new ways of seeing and listening for God’s presence.
no to getting it all done,, yes to being still
Author Susan Tweit mentions hearing her Scottish grandmother repeat a phrase I have seen used in various training programs: “Begin as you intend to continue.” This is a reminder I am repeating as I cross the threshold for the year 2016. I will add the word I have chosen for the year – Joyfully. I choose to focus on expressing joy in actions and speech, with a desire to cause and bring joy.
I make this decision with intention and purpose as I enter a time of uncertainty and change. I do not depend on circumstance for reason. What decisions do you make as you begin new calendar pages? As we take one step, and then another into new experience, may we” pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it.” * We are not alone in the journey.
*credit to Mary Oliver for these words Oliver’s approach to poetry is seamless from her approach to life and to faith. One section within the poem “Sometimes” sums up all three.
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
Nora places the star on the stable, telling again the Christmas story. The star is a symbol of the true Light that has come.
In the church year are found Cycles of Light , Cycles of Life and Cycles of Love:
Today, the celebration of Christmas with family in the kitchen and around the table with festive celebrating has changed – slowing, stopping , savoring. Standing still in the Light..
The first step to peace is to stand still in the Light….