Monthly Archives: June 2016

After the rain 

You don’t treasure rain until you have lived in the desert. The heat rises so intensely that it is palpable. You know the feeling you get when you open the door of the oven to check the cookies? That’s Arizona, every time you open the car door. “Why oh why do we live in an oven?”  One daughter’s query when returning from South Anerica left us all laughing. Why indeed?!

And then the monsoons come. The humidity rises (not like the Midwest) and temperature drops. 108′ and a little sticky; better then 118′, maybe. Whispers of wind tease us, clouds build up every afternoon. Up north, it rains every day, til the pine trees glisten. Here, heat lightning clears the city pools, teasing us from afar. 

Pink from city lights, the clouds glow every few minutes with the lightning. Thunder rumbles in the distance, not quite close enough. 
And then it comes, smell first. Then the wind, stirring the leaves of the eucalyptus. Rain begins to fall, softly sometimes, pounding the sidewalk and flooding the streets at others. In Arizona, we run outside in the rain. “Puddle-stomping” barefoot kids march up and down the edge of streets. Windows open, porch rockers sway in rhythm as neighbor’s emerge. 

Maybe this is what hope looks like. Maybe it smells like the desert after the rain. 

Maybe it smells like Jesus. 

The dark night 

Today I am thinking about a friend walking through her own dark night of the soul.  I am thinking about how suffering marks us. It takes us deeper in.  

She  will not emerge the same. There is grief in that at times, and a sense of being “apart.” It can also be lonely. I often feel that acutely when I am in a social situation. There is a sense that I have spent long stretches of time cocooned with a Presemce. It can make it hard to “small talk.”

And there is beauty. Richard Rohr says suffering  can launch  you into the second half of life, early. Not in terms of chronological age, although some days it may feel like that. But where new tasks await and the old containers no longer serve. (Falling Upward). There is a clarity, a sense of vision, that influences even the smallest “yes and no” choices. 

There are some unknowns on my road ahead; far more questions than answers. I hold all of that uncertainty in my stomach. It feels tight, like someone gave it a quarter turn. I check my body for feelings, because I learned early on in my recovery process that my body tells the truth. Grief, sadness; that’s what sits in my stomach. I want desperately to claw for control. I slow my breathing, turn on the sparkly copper strung lights. 

And so I fold the clothes for a ten year old, halving and smoothing with Waldorf-like rhythm. Suffering opened this gift; I used to fold and listen to a podcast or talk on the phone. Double tasking is the American way, right?  Until you can’t. Usually not by choice. And when the ability comes again, I can choose. I can keep the rhythms slow, meditative. Feel the fabric, marvel at the way a ten year old slides through knees. 

Because this is the time. 

There is no other 

I have this moment. Today. 

What is a family?

We are on a branching family tree. Some little branches have been grafted in by adoption. We fostered and adopted within a sibling group with several other families. We have big kids and littles in our birth family. 

We have family of origin and family of choice. There are lots of ways to show up as family. We have family in this country and family in South America and Canada. We have family whose heritage is woven with the ancient people of Mexico. Family with African roots. Family looks lots of different ways. Some of the seedlings are starting family. Family that is rich and diverse. 


  It seems that my ideas of what it means to be family doesn’t  look the way I imagined many years ago. Gratefully. I am learning that family can be more diverse, more multicultural, more challenging, and more precious than anything I could have dreamed. More challenging, and more precious than anything I could have dreamed.

It takes a lot of work to grow family. Sometimes, the intensity is hard to hold. But we are family.

 

 

Be still…of muffins and life

Today I am baking muffins. A small thing really; although you have to count the cost of using the oven in the summer in Phoenix. My movements are slow, meditative.
I shape the muffins by hand, left palm up. The motion I was not “supposed” to get back. Sort of a secret form of physical therapy. This is the second time I have tried muffins  since I broke my hand and elbow six months ago. 

The first time, my daughter was with me. I could feel my anxiety rising as I tried to hold the bowl and mix the thick batter. I was hurrying, trying to make muffins (ironically) for the Mystic Activists group. She watched me for a while, love and compassion in her eyes. Her question startled me in its depth of knowing: “why do you bake as if 70 people are going to show up? Couldn’t you just enjoy it? ”

It was a question pregnant with story. It cut through the answers already forming on my tongue and left me silent. This image of my childhood, remembered by a daughter, vivid in color.

My dad was president of a Bible college for many years of my childhood. As such, we often entertained large groups of people in our home. Often times, he would forget to tell my mom that they were coming. A chance remark by the Secretary would throw us all into a frenzy of preparation. My mom would go off to the store and leave me in charge of the baking. I would send my brother to gather the neighbor children, and put them all to work at stations. I would move from table to table, instructing one to stir more, and another to pour the batter. It doesn’t take a therapist to notice signs of control at an early age. And so in this way, the baking would get done. Another group would come, and I would bask in the comments about how good it tasted. 

And so this is how I bake: in triple quantities, multiple recipes, and fast. I have a feeling of satisfaction when it is done, but very little joy.

And so this question stirred sometging asleep, deep within me. What would it be like to bake in a meditative way? Somehow, in the process of healing, I have begun to fold clothes this way. Slowly, feeling the warmth, smoothing the wrinkles. An act of worship. 

Some of my friends are keeping Ramadan. Often, we pray for each other during this time. One wise friend, grafted into my family tree, sent me a phrase from an ancient song book:  “be still, and know, that I am God.”

Today, while I was baking, the words came up in my heart. I slowed my pace, noticed my breathing, and closed the second recipe book.

One is enough. I don’t need to push past any longer. I felt relief, and something akin to…joy?!

Be still.

 

For tonight. 

So many nights right now hold more questions than answers. Sleep beckons, then eluded capture. Thoughts and feelings tumble over each other for center stage. 

So what is true?  What is true for tonight is the Presence. It is both not enough and more than enough. 


I remember early in my recovery process in 1998 night times were terrifying. Memories often came back at night, and there was no way to know what new truth might come into full knowing. The brain works that way, processing trauma as it heals. I often would fall asleep to Fernando Ortega: Jesus King of Angels. The words washed over me, allowing me to surrender and sleep. 

So for tonight a bedtime prayer:

🌛the peace of God be over me to shelter me, 🌜under me to uphold me, 🌙about me to protect me, ⭐️behind me to direct me, 🌟ever with me to save me. 💫The peace of all peace be mine this night. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

The gift of silence

The house echoes with silence. The kids have gone down to the pool with my husband. Summer has begun. The houseechoes with the noise of children. Arguing and mediation are the order of the day. Tomorrow, Swim team starts. Neighborhood kids club is just around the corner. 

A normal summer! The temperature has just jumped in a week from 97 to 117. But it is not normal. I have been in silence for five months of healing of bones and brains. Sometimes my brain echoes, even after the sound of voices has died down.

The silence may come in captured moments now that summer is here. A late night walk with the pug, an afternoon nap, a phone call on the front porch. I wonder how you recharge in the summer?

This summer, we are all in transition as we listen for the voice of spirit regarding work and vocation. I am waiting for a couple of babies, grateful that my hand is learning to turn palm up. My husband waits too, for the birth of vision and hope. 

Perhaps that is the posture  this summer; Palm up. Open hands. Ready to receive, fists unclenched. The posture of surrender.