Category Archives: Stillness

The Advent Writings: the long goodbye

I said goodbye to a precious friend today. Not the long goodbye, as C.S. Lewis says; but a goodbye nonetheless. And goodbyes are full of grief. They hold the not knowing and the not yet together in equal measure. They weave longing and loneliness into a braid of beauty and pain.

I wonder what it was like for Mary, holding a baby that she knew would move beyond her. Was there an ache mixed with the joy of watching him play? And then he stayed around longer than expected perhaps… 30 years. He left home to go be with a bunch of friends, new friends really. They were going to go travel the country without a real plan. Rumors came back, bits and pieces of stories. They probably seemed much bigger than life. And in the middle of the wondering, always the ache. 

So much of the story is not told. Perhaps there is beauty in the mystery.

So for today, I choose to hold the not knowing. I will trust that the beauty will come as the story unfolds. And dare to hold the ache of goodbye. 

Photo Credit Kate Wilder

The Advent Writings: a seed

Darkness and Light. 

Waiting and Coming. 

Sorrow and Hope. 

Death and …

We hold so much at Christmas. All of that not knowing, together with the not yet. 

I am a desert girl, mostly. A turtleneck in the morning, just because. And then a/c when kids get in the car. Desert kids don’t understand winter. Therefore, they can’t know the mystery of spring, of green shoots pushing up through the snow. In Phoenix, we force bulbs. We put them in the refrigerator drawer for “winter” and then take them out to let them know it’s spring. A tiny shoot begins, stretching up bit by bit, reaching for the light. 

I am still sitting with this poem I shared recently, letting it work it’s way in deeper, one line at a time. Today it’s the “tiny shoot”. 

The poem was born from a midwife (Advent, by Sister Christine Schenk). 

I wait

With quickened hope

For crooked paths to straighten,

With tough-soul’d anguish,

While blinded 

Keepers of the keys 

Cut off

God’s own. 

(If such a thing were possible). 

I wait, 

And will not be 

dismayed. 

For tiny shoot 

Of Jesse tree

Took root in me. 

To love, 

Transform,

Give sight, 

Set free. 


The tiny shoot. 

In me. 

Reaching, 

Stretching,

Growing;

Toward the light. 


The Advent Writings:  I wait.  

I wait

with quickened hope 

for crooked paths to straighten, 

with tough-soul’d anguish, 

while blinded keepers of the keys

shut out God’s own. 

(If such a thing were possible.)

I wait,

and will not be dismayed. 

For tiny shoot of Jesse tree

took root in me. 

To love, 

transform,

give sight, 

set free. 

(Advent. By Sr.  Christine Schenk.        A midwife)

I have been bathing in the waters of hospital birth again, this time in a new role. I put on the white coat, with its instant prestige. I put on the title, reluctantly: “Professor Wilder”. I notice I am more comfortable with my first name. I am so aware that the kind of birth I get to do at home is 1% in our country. This 99% is the norm.  Full of risk, adrenaline, and hurry, and occasional moments of goodness….the babies are born. There are redeeming moments:  the nurse who goes the extra mile, the Doctor who dares to trust, the student  nurse who has eyes to see. For this reason, I enter; to offer my gifts. 

And yet, I am so aware of the stark contrast.  The precious spaces I  get to hold in the home with mamas are thick with the sense of the holy. 

There was another birth done in a way that was also countercultural. Even then, you didn’t birth in the barn. And yet the sense of the holy was thick, even there.
And so we come to Advent.

We invite the holy. 

And we wait.

The Advent Writings: the candle of hope 

Hope is a fragile thing. 

I was asked by my counselor (who specializes in disruptive questions):  “Do you have hope?”  My knee jerk response was, “I don’t want to jinx it.”  I regretted that response. She pursued my heart in kind and bold ways, and I left that fall Phoenix day feeling small and very stirred. 

At every turn that week the word jumped out at me, inviting me farther in. Ericka shared at Neighborhood that week from this passage about the longings of immigrants: for something better, for a home, for a place to belong. 

 Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.  (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Other translations say that God was not ashamed to be called their God. The alien, the stranger in the land. The ones who never got what they hoped for. Not ashamed. 

One of those crazy passages on suffering that got a bit warped in my growing up years says something similar:

because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5). 

Hope. It doesn’t put me to shame. Shame I understand, the Journey Mate of a wounded child. Ca-Ching.  God is not ashamed. 

I got it. 

Hope has nothing to do with getting what I hope for. That’s a terrifying relief. Over and over as I wrestle I see two resting places.

       God is present. God is good. 

Nothing more. 

And these I know. I have walked the inky blackness of suffering. I have plumbed the depths of these words. 

Today we lit the light of the prophets, the candle of hope. 

So yes, to answer the question, 

I have hope. 

Precious Lord

I woke up with these lyrics woven vividly into a dream acompanied by the music itself:

Precious Lord, take my handLead me on, let me stand

I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m worn. 

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. 

When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near

When my light is almost gone

Hear my cry, hear my call

Hold my hand lest I fall

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. (Thomas A Dorsey)

I did some reading about the origin of this song today. The author was leading music when he received a telegram saying that his wife had died in childbirth. A week later, the baby died as well. Somewhere in the journey of his despair he sat at a piano and this heart cry poured out.

I also learned,  curiously, that Elvis made this song famous and also Mahalia Jackson. This was not something I knew as those singers were banned in my Baptist upbringing. When I hear this song I hear it in my grandmothers voice. 

My grandma was the song leader at Aurelius Road Church, in the Lansing/Holt area. She had a deep voice, unusual for a woman. As the story grows, or goes, she wore a peacock feather in her hat.  She was single in a day that was rare. She owned her own gift and Bible bookstore, and had a dry cleaning business. She had her secrets, which died with her.

I know that for me, as a child, my grandmother provided moments of safety. I had named her Meemie, early on. Supposedly, this was my childhood attempt to say pennies, and she always brought me plenty of those. So I would look at her purse In her photograph and say Meemie’s. (I will let you draw from that what you want to; it is not the point of the story). 

Meemie would come to see us on a big airplane, her floral suitcase bulging and held together with packing tape. When we opened it, it would be full of crackerjack prizes. No one ever pointed out where all those boxes of crackerjacks must’ve gone.

 I would lean my head against her fur collar as we came home from the airport,  trying to avoid the scratchy wool coat. It was cold, and it smelled like mothballs. I remember going to sleep with her sitting by my bed and singing the old songs, one after the other.

I felt safe those nights, and I think they were held safe by her presence. She represented moments of respite in a very confusing world.  

In later years, the tables turned. She had followed us to Arizona. I stayed to graduate with my class when my family moved to Canada. I was left with the car, weeks away from my 16th birthday. The agreement was that I would visit my grandmother once a week, and put $.10 a mile in a jar. I started out doing it out of compulsion. Very quickly, a deep friendship grew.

I would surprise her with Kentucky fried chicken and Mountain Dew. She would make waffles for dinner, and fill them with every mix in imaginable. I would bring my textbooks and study. And somewhere in the evening I would take out her old hymnal and sing. All the verses, one song after another. She would join in, her voice quivering.

There were many years where it was hard to sing those old songs as I wrestled with the reality of my childhood contradictions and violence. They are being redeemed one by one. The truth contained in the ancient words still calls to my spirit.

I walked the dark street tonight with my pug, singing this song. If the neighbors could hear, they might have wondered. They don’t know that a story continues to be written, co-authored by God. 

It is the story of an old woman and a little girl, a story of music in the night.

If God loves me, why can’t I get my locker open?

an ode to a friend.

i was thirteen when i met you; well, one day shy. scared someone would ask, guess how young i was. too young for highschool, really. you were two doors down from me. lockers were arranged alohabetically, my “l-a” just two doors ahead of your “k-u”. you wove a strange humor into this new world: lunch in the kiva, essays about locker buddies, crashing each other’s baptist youth groups. we capsized a catamaran and hiked and jumped our way into a canyon. we helped eat a six foot long banana split and sported cigars in a hobo contest. we survived the sophomore year ghetto lockers, complete with cockroaches and black widows. we read “devotions” in a book by the title of this blog. mostly, you did the crazy things, some of which you didn’t own til our 25th reunion. i was too much a good girl, my only safety in a world of day child/night child.
and so this week, we “retreated”. a combo of work for you and silent space for me. and in the evenings, shared space. we turned the temperature down to 68 in our desert hacienda, and lit a roaring fire. we shared story and tears, and laughed over tea bag mishaps.
through it all weaves almost 4 decades of shared life. not quite; you are still older than ne. just like that first day of highschool so long ago.

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.

 

 

These hands 

You have no business catching babies.”

These words, spoken by a doctor this week in about 20 different ways, have haunted me. This is the second Doctor who has made grave proclamations about my midwifery practice and my hands. 

What do they picture when those words are uttered? Sitting on a stool with the mom up in stirrups, gloved hands in the air? Do they imagine some sort of intense hand maneuvers?

Perhaps they do not picture quiet waiting by candlelight. Maybe they don’t see the mom reaching for her own baby? How can they sense the deep stillness with the only sound being the movement of the water in the birth pool. 

In this place, this holy ground, hands are still needed. But they are gentle hands. 

I was privileged to hold space to welcome a baby last night. Another midwife was there, for the strong hand movements if needed. An apprentice brought her strong and capable hands. And so we held this vigil together. A vigil for the new baby, joining us earth side. We held space in our hearts for another baby born three years ago on this night who we knew could not live outside the womb. And there was a tender knowing that the space was also sacred tonight for these hands of mine, healing still. 

No doctor can imagine what it means to be a midwife in a home. The most empathetic practitioner falls short in picturing this holy work I am called to.

It is not a business; I do not need a work release. It is a calling. And so I listen for the Spirit; for the yes and for the no.  And I am encircled by my sister Midwives, Who protect me in this fragile work of healing.  They bless these hands. 

No one knows the journey ahead. Perhaps I live more aware of that and than some. But for today, this knowing is enough. I have stood again in that space where the veil between heaven and earth is so thin it shimmers. 

  
And to this holy work I offer my hands; broken, and healing. 

These hands. 

(Picture used with permission)

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?

The Lenten writings: manna for today

Today I have a sense that I am supposed to notice that all that I need is provided.  There have been three times today that I have been  confronted with the fact that I am not in charge.

Money for rent for the community house, a ride for the children after I called everyone I could imagine, dinner that came unasked to my door, help that is coming during chess nationals.

I was so discouraged on Sunday. I cried a lot of tears, holding my arm just so and trying not to move my head. (It sort of takes the fun out of crying!). I am not out of the house unless I go to a doctor or acupuncture, so it can be days at a stretch.  And if I try to go out of the house, generally the brightness of the sun or fluorescent lights or the noise set off the concussion symptoms. The Birth community has been incredible in surrounding me with an outpouring of love. But I was feeling isolated nonetheless. And into that space, the lies come.

As I was taking my morning walk this morning before the sun was over the horizon, some phrases begin to March through my mind to the cadence of my footsteps. “All I have needed by hand has provided “. “Manna for today.”  “This moment… ”

That is what I have, this moment. Actually, that is all any of us have. This moment, today.