Monthly Archives: March 2016

Lenten writings: changing times

My advent ran into Easter! Three months into rehab from the car accident seems long. A year is the projection, for the nerve in the arm and for the concussion. The broken bones are strengthening. Soft tissue damage takes longer, but my arm is out in the open. 

  
Today is Easter. Breakfast in the garden at Hope House, followed by baptisms. On Good Friday, Neighborhood walked the paths of Canaan in the Desert, listening to Kit narrate the story of Jesus’ last days. A weekend made for me; natural light, evening and morning. After a long period of isolation, it is so good for my spirit to remember that I am deeply rooted in the very fabric of community. 

And this journey, this week; remembering another journey so long ago. Yesterday impacted me the most. Saturday, the day we know the least about in Holy Week.  Bits and pieces in Sxripture suggest much was moving in the places unseen. Sounds like another time in the void, where the Spirit of God, the Ruach Elohim, the great wind, moved over the face of the waters (Genesis 1). 

And now Jesus. Moving in the darkness, in the chaos, in the places unseen. Bringing life, hovering, calling forth, stirring. The Street Psalms community came to neighborhood. Kris Rocke challenged us to look for Spirit in the midst of chaos. 

This has been a time of crisis for our family, a chaos in the aftermath of the accident. I am curious then, in the light of Easter, to look for Spirit. 

The Ruach Elohim. 

Here. Now. In me. 

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Lenten writings: by name

I have called you by name, you are mine… (Is. 43;1)

Maybe this is all we know of heaven; to be called by name. 

There is the name each of us was given, at birth. As a midwife, I see people choose names for many reasons:  a favorite aunt, a family tradition, the season, circumstance, the meaning. Often in today’s culture of peeking in at a baby’s private parts, the name is chosen midway through the pregnancy. 

The last book of Scripture says:

I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

I was named “Joanna”, Ιωαννα, Grace. As my father’s sermon illustration explained, after 18 years of waiting for a child it was sheer grace. 

I found that hard to hold as I wrestled as a grown up with the reality of my story. How could a child be longed for and then so violated? And so I asked God about it, and the answer came. Your dad named you for his own reasons. I have named you “grace”. You are living into that name. 

Mary the Magdalene came, in tomorrow’s Lenten Easter story. She showed up at the cross too, choosing to stay in the pain. She had known agony; 7 demons Jesus cast out of her. And so she comes, drawn by love, to finish the embalming process cut short by the Sabbath. And He is gone. Her hope, gone. 

She asks the gardener where the body of her Lord is? Does he know where they have taken Him? And He answers with one word, Mary. 

And it is enough. More than enough. Her name, spoken by the One who knows her story. 

Joanna came too, to the tomb early in the morning, that first day of the week. Nothing more is said. Perhaps He spoke her name, too. 

Joanna. Grace. 

The Lenten writings: Spirit

As swimmers dare

To lie face to the sky

And water bears them,

As Hawks rest upon air 

And air sustains them, 

So I would learn to attain

Freefall, and float

Into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace

Knowing no effort earns 

That all-surrounding Grace.”

(“The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire by Denise Levertov, 1997)

Today I did Freefall for some moments.  Thought stilled, time suspended. The warm wind of Spirit caressed my soul with her gentle breath. 

The children were engaged in a discussion of history as dinner wound down. Young voices, man-cub and shrill, intermingled with grown-up tones. One-liners produced stifled laughs as sincerity begged to be honored. 

And I felt it. The Presence.  

Bedtime tuck in, roles reversed as the youngest prayed a blessing over me “that I would continue to be a really good mom”. Lord hear our prayer. Thanks be to God. 

Hands held over points of pain, feet on the ground, flowing movement.  Anxiety quiets, the rhythm of breath changes beat.  All-surrounding Grace. 

Free fall. Float. No effort. 

Creator Spirit. 

Embrace. 

Lenten writings:  waiting

“Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we learn about Him for whom we are waiting.”    (Henri Nouwen)

And so, like a woman nearing the end of her pregnancy, we wait. The weeks stretch out as the belly grows…36,37…40,41…

It seems that we can bear no more. 

The long wait of Lent is nearing a close. Today we remember the crowd, jeering. No, that’s not right; that’s Friday’s story. Cheering, that’s it. 

Crowds are fickle. Politics show that. Arizona politics especially. Midwifery politics in particular. 

Too often, the crowds just want somebody to do something, powerfully. And to do it now. Fear and hatred can flip a crowd in an instant. 

Jesus seemed to be the man of the hour. He would get rid of those dreaded outsiders. They were tired of the wait. 

Only that was never the plan. The plan was much bigger. And the long wait felt too long for that crowd. 

But I am jumping ahead of the story…

Lenten writings:  the sacrament of kindness

Sacrament:  “a visible sign of an inward grace…” (Dictionary.com)

I think of the sacraments in terms of big C church.  Things like communion or baptism, sacred things. Baptists like the stream I was spawned in call them ordinances. They save the word sacraments for the Catholics. 

I received a sacrament tonight, from my daughter. She washed my feet, soaking them in herbs sent by an herbalist friend in Rhode Island. Then she massaged coconut oil into my feet and my hands, “so they wouldn’t be jealous”, as the younger kids say. 

It has been a long day, filled with noise and the shrieks of laughter of bio siblings reconnecting.  We have a branchy family tree, complete with grafted branches. 

The constellation of brain symptoms the medical community calls post concussion syndrome were high. They all come together, like so many stars in the night sky. Dizziness, nausea, visual changes, warm pulsing fullness in the ears, zinging in the brain, an inability to process multiple items, difficulty finding words, and an overpowering sense of being on edge…

It is easy for me to go to self contempt. From that place I do violence to myself with my harsh thoughts. “You’re such a…” Or “why can’t you…” Or “how can you even be…” 

Interrupting the barrage of thoughts comes my daughter, drawn home from her grown up world by love. Candles are lit, lights turned off, water drawn, herbs crushed. 

And as my brain begins to quiet, the love seeps in. 

John 13.” It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

He loved them. And then He washes their feet. A servant’s job. It was a stretch tonight to receive, for this mother. (Peter thought so too, by the way). But it’s a love deal. And love breaks contempt, drowns it in kindness. 

And in that space the ordinary becomes holy; a sacrament. Just for tonight…

Lenten writings:  breathing

My house breathes children.

In and out, in and out.

The shouts echo, against the backdrop of an Arizona spring. They echo inside my head too, magnified by post concussion syndrome.

The sounds of life; of friends. Breathing in.

Leprechaun houses built with hours of creativity. The boys follow and strategize how to poison the leprechauns when they come.

A daughter here from far away, drawn by love. Here to help things run smoothly. To drive and cook and infuse joy and life to the muted tones of our house post accident.

A daughter gone; close in heart but living on the other side of the globe. I read the news first thing these days.

Suddenly, there is silence.  Breathing out.

Everyone gone.

The waves of pulsing begin to still in my brain. I welcome the silence, yet I miss the sounds.

I wonder if that is what it is like when the children leave? That day still far away for our family, stitched together in a long quilt by threads of birth and adoption.

For today, my house breathes children.

Like breath work, in and out.

Lenten writings:  Joy coming 

“Joy releases love and compassion. The joy comes at times when you are needing relief. It comes when you are overcoming. And it brings hope.”

  (John Perkins, Neighborhood Ministries, 3/6/16)

“How are you?”  People greet me with this question all the time. “I am here”  is my answer. And that is enough. 

How do I explain that I am in a season of healing and strengthening. There is not day to day or even week to week change. I can see month to month change, perhaps; as I look back from the perspective of week eleven. Nerves take time to regenerate. Concussions take time to heal. Bones take time to knit. Ligaments take time to strengthen. 

Time. 

“I have time.”

I say that often right now. Time to listen, time to pray, time to reflect, time to be still, time to envision. 

And that is enough for today. Enough to see the sunset changing its hue from my porch. Enough to watch the sparrows scratching in last year’s leaves in the morning light. Enough to hear the resonant snores of a pug. 

Enough time. 

Enough joy. 

Because it comes, John Perkins says. It comes when I am needing relief. It comes when I am overcoming. It comes. And it brings hope. 

Lenten writings: life 

I wonder, for you, what is life giving?  And what is life depleting?

Life giving right now looks like:

  • Walks to the canal with a pug
  • Coloring intricate patterns
  • The glow of the salt lamp
  • Hot tea
  • A tiny lunchbox of fruit/nuts
  • Listening to Adrian’s poem
  • Photos from Turkey
  • A box from Oregon
  • Stories of school
  • Cooking fresh CSA greens
  • Phoning in to the Mystics
  • Acupuncture, craniosacral
  • Chiropractic, reiki
  • A friend sitting in the parlor
  • Desert blossoms

Life depleting realities:

  • Being alone day in & day out
  • Not tolerating sunlight
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Doctors, doctors, doctors
  • Clocks
  • Predictions or prognosis
  • One handed folding clothes
  • No driving
  • Far away friends
  • Missing feeling mama bellies
  • Neurologists
  • An arm that can’t feel pain

As my own tank gets drained with this second list, I must choose.

What do you choose today during Lent…the long journey to life?

Lenten writings: beautiful hands

“Look at how beautiful these hands are! Just look at these hands…”

My rheumatologist’s words yesterday stopped me in my tracks.  I used to think my hands were beautiful. I remember as a third-grader riding in the carpool, looking at the other girl’s hands and thinking, “I’m so glad my hands are not ugly like hers. “. I loved the way my hands moved as I played the piano. I wasn’t so sure about the art, as my mom said I was the worst student she had ever had. But, I still loved my hands.

  
And so, as rheumatoid began to twist my hands, it twisted my heart as well. When I would look at my hands, the contempt dripped from my mind: witch’s claws, old lady hands, twisted, broken, useless. This week, a doctor dripped contempt with the words, “you hold your pen weird. Why do you do that?”  How could he  know how long it took to find a way to hold my pen with the changes that have been wrought from the rheumatoid.  And to learn to hold a brush, and bless my artist…this is the journey unseen.

I am beginning to learn that I have the hands of a healer. I place my hand gently on a mama’s belly, and connect with the baby who swims within her womb. I cradle the head of a child as he revisits places of trauma in the dark of night. I create.  Color and form move onto paper, redeeming the artist.  I place my hands palm up, feet on the floor, listening to story with my whole self.

And so the doctor’s  words jolted me. He was gleeful almost; so delighted at the stability of my rheumatoid, at seeing my hands without inflammation. Since the car accident,  I have to choose again to be kind to my hands. Right now, I long for someone to tell me I will be a two handed Midwife. I cannot turn my left hand palm up, can I still listen with my whole heart?  And, if my hands are broken, can I still be a healer?

The tears flow as I write this last line, the words go straight to the core of my being. Maybe that’s what being a healer is; I offer only my broken hands. 

Christ has no body but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. ”
By Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)