Category Archives: mystery

Is this it?

End of pregnancy. So much waiting.

Is it time? Is it not?

Big enough to bump into things with the belly.

How much longer? When are you due?

Cramping on and off. Discharge. Nesting.

How big is that baby anyway? What does your midwife think?

Well…we don’t really have a midwife here. Actually, we are on a road trip.

A road trip?! When your baby is due? Are you crazy?!

Crazy. Yes. This whole pregnancy has been a little that way.

My husband had to do a trip and I wanted to come along. Actually wanted isn’t quite it. I got tired of the gossip and the questions back home.

So we started out. On the donkey. At least he didn’t have a breakdown. I might have had a couple, but I swore Joe to secrecy.

Traffic was a mess. And I had to stop and pee every little bit. It was slow going for sure.

Don’t get me wrong. There were moments of sweetness. The stars for one. Seriously! This one was up there just for me I think.

I really thought the baby was coming at the last rest stop. The sign said you can’t stay more than 8 hours, but at that point I could have been good with a barn.

Which is sort of funny, looking back. After we did the government forms in triplicate, which was the point, you guessed it. Nothing but “no vacancy” signs.

I was starting to get that Crazy of pregnancy, I am now going to tip over the edge feeling.

I have to get off this beast! I would rock a little, then stop and away. At that point, I lost all sense of time.

At the height of the surge, I would do a little squat. Joe was getting nervous. He would try to talk to me, just as things got intense. I waved him away.

Finally, he walked off, probably looking for the Midwives. He came back, palpably relieved. “Come on Mar…”

We followed a path barely visible by starlight. A rough shed was around back, dry and warm. It smelled like, well…

I was just grateful. I moaned and swayed, an ageless singsong chant without words. I’ll never forget this cow looking at me with her big eyes.

Then the song changed. A lower, open vowel, with a grunt at the peak. The barn cat circled nearer.

Joe locked eyes with me, dancing with me in slow figure eights. There was so much pressure, but a bit of a longer break between now.

And then. It felt like the power of my mother and my grandmother guided me into a squat. I could feel a deep sense of “yes”. There was no going back.

I felt down there, and something warm and wet and “other” met my fingers. My eyes came open, and I saw tears in Joe’s eyes.

And then, with a primal roar, I surrendered. It wasn’t a poetic “be it done to me as you say”. It was raw.

But time stood still. I was outside of time. It felt like, looking back, that the veil between what is seen and what shimmers just beyond got really thin.

I pulled the baby up to my chest, crying and laughing all at the same time. “Oh baby, baby, baby. I thought you would never come!”

I nuzzled the conehead, smelling the musty sweetness. Joe wrapped me and the baby in long cloths.

Finally we looked. It’s a boy! The name was chosen before I even knew I was pregnant. “Oh, Jesus. You are finally here!” He looked up at me with those old soul eyes.

The reverie was broken with another surge. I came up into a squat again, and Joseph grabbed a milking bucket from the stall next door.

The placenta slid in, followed by a trickle, the cord still attached to the baby.

I leaned back, utterly done. I felt so much love coursing through me. My son was nuzzling now, crawling up my belly as if he knew just what to do.

I looked down, watching him nurse. Joseph curled up behind me, whispering in my ear as we gazed at this creature.

So much wondering. What would the days ahead bring? I felt so inadequate to parent this wise soul. I know Joe did too.

But for tonight, it was enough. Enough to just be.

Welcome, baby. Welcome. Welcome to this world.

The Lenten Writings: when they are not…

Whatever happens, says our model, happens to God also and not just to us. The body of God, shaped by the Christic paradigm, is also the cosmic Christ—the loving, compassionate God on the side of those who suffer, especially the vulnerable and excluded. All are included, not only in their liberation and healing, but also in their defeat and despair. Even as the life-giving breath extends to all bodies in the universe, so also does the liberating, healing, andsuffering love of God. The resurrected Christ is the cosmic Christ, the Christ freed from the body of Jesus of Nazareth, to be present in and to all bodies. The New Testament appearance stories attest to the continuing empowerment of the Christic paradigm in the world: the liberating, inclusive love of God for all is alive in and through the entire cosmos. We are not alone as we attempt to practice the ministry of inclusion, for the power of God is incarnate throughout the world, erupting now and then where the vulnerable are liberated and healed, as well as where they are not. (Theologian Sally McFague, quoted in Daily Meditation email from Richard Rohr 03/07/2019)

These words are radical, some would say they border on heresy. I would challenge you to not place that label too quickly; but rather, to dare to take the words into your place of knowing.

The very presence of God, of the Divine, is the essence of faith. It is what makes a person truly human. It is as I look into the eyes of another and DARE to see Another that I understand my own humanity.

It is in that bold gaze that I can see another as my brother. It is in that gaze that I can truly see myself. I see my gay brother as me, I see my bi friend as me, I see my trans friend as me. I see my hermana de Guatemala as me, I see my hermano de Mexico as me, I see the man on the corner with battered sign “I will not steal” as me.

It is not because I am holy that I can say this. (FYI- I am not). It is because I know deeply my own story. And in that story there is goodness and harm, courage and violence. As I do the hard work of entering my own narrative, I have the right to hold space to listen to a midnight recounting of childhood trauma. It is as I sit with suffering that does not end, I have the right to sit with a person in labor and say “Yes, you can do this.”

In this place, understanding that the very power of God is incarnate, there are no borders, no barriers. There is only the very essence of the Divine.

And it is present…

When there is healing and hope…

And

When

There

Is

Not.

The Advent Writings: Christmas night

All the stories start with Christmas morning. But what about the night?

I am a birthkeeper. I enter those spaces in the hours before and after birth, with reverence.

I know to keep the lights dim. A baby is new to the world. Eyes used to womb light, rosy in tone, are unsure about bright lights. The time is now, these hours of imprinting on mom’s face and dad’s voice.

Voices are low and singsong. Baby’s ears have heard these familiar sounds through the abdominal cushion. The startle reflex comes too easily, limbs out, eyes wide, head arched. We fold the arms and legs into the familiar, swaddling the wee one.

Smells are important too. The salty smell of amniotic fluid lingers on the skin. Vernix rubbed into soften, the new baby smell that Johnson & Johnson can never replicate. The baby follows the unique smell of the mother, able to pick out that one mom from a roomful by 24 hours of age.

Smells draw, and instincts follow, leading the baby to latch onto the breast. The golden milk, packed with goodness, drips out bit by bit. All this baby needs is here, unique for the gestational age, the perfect balance of protein and fat laced with sweetness.

And touch. Not the myriad of painful ways a baby encounters the world today. But gentle touch, reassuring this new one that the world is a safe space.

Was it like this, that holy night more than two millennia ago? One undisturbed birth, interrupted only by some sheep herders accustomed to dark and lonely quiet spaces.

It matters how we are born. It matters how we welcome new humans. And this more than a baby, welcomed as a caravan stopped for a government rule, deserved no less.

Oh Holy Night after.

The Advent Writings: watching the star

Last night I watched a star. Round and amazingly bright, it did a dance with the evergreen that tried to hide its brilliance.

I watched the star for hours.

I am sick, 3rd in the family to succumb to a viral throat morphed into bronchitis… miserable combo. Any mom of littles knows, coughing is worse at night. So finally I gave up on sleep and sat by the fire, watching the star.

photo: The star at sunrise

There were some smart fellows that did that some years back. Most people thought they were crazy. You see, they loved to get up in the night and look at the heavens. (That’s an old fashioned word for the sky). Then, get this…they made an international, once in a lifetime trip not because it got a five star rating; but because of a star.

A star.

This star, it seemed, was unusual. It moved. All stars move, in a seasonal pattern. And the stars in the Southern Hemisphere are a whole different sky. I don’t know quite where they lived, in the East. But these smart folks knew this one was doing its own dance. They couldn’t figure it out.

And they followed it.

Okay. I am identifying with this part of the story more this year. I am following a dream; or more accurately, a disruption. I didn’t invite it, and I tried to make it go away. Instead of diminishing, it got bigger, welling up in the most unwelcome places. Wise women around me began to affirm that this was not my imagination. The star, in fact, was moving.

And so we came. The star went north, where the air is clear (cloudy actually) and the stars bright. The whole group of us. And now we wait, for a sign. (An acceptance to grad school actually. It’s like a long pregnancy…September to May).

And when they came…they worshiped.

This is so often quoted it can get cliché. But really, take the churchy voice out and think about it. What do you do when you have no idea what you are doing? How do you respond when you come close to Mystery?

You fall on your face.

And maybe that is worship.

Late at night, coughing my socks up, and watching a star.

My epiphany.

Liminal space stands still

Liminal space….the spaces between.

We are living in this land of the in between right now. It requires courage, and curiosity. Where will we be a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? Both literally, and figuratively…

And so, the questions come thick and fast, out loud from the children, and unspoken in the hearts of the adults. We are newly arrived in Oregon after 40 literal years in the desert (for me)….

And so in the middle, in the spaces between, there are moments of grace when time stands still.

Today I was sharpening pencils. The colors rolled off the ends, whittling blunt into sharp. All that we have accessible to us was brought in our two Prius vehicles, complete with matching car top carriers. Of course, that duffel included my Prismacolor pencils. But I forgot a sharpener, so a 50 cent one was found in Portland.

I took a walk today, and I picked up maple keys for my journal. They crunched under my feet as I guided the pug the long way around, behind the trees. He burrowed into a thorn bush, wanting to leave his mark on the territory. Surprised by the sharpness that came through even the pug blubber, he backed up, then tried again.

We stopped for vegan ice cream today at Dairy Hill, a local icon which (contrary to the name) has four dairy free coconut options and two sorbets. The dark chocolate melted on my tongue, and the dazed feeling of studying for math equivalency exams melted away.

The sun sets late here, and it masked the lateness of the dinner hour. We had done a marathon of rental applications, racing each other through seemingly endless “pages” of questions on our iPads. The smell of the pork and lamb mingled together, smoke swirling in the sun, as it slipped below the line of spruce and pine trees.

And so the moments come. In the middle. Memories, in years to come, will be anchored in taste and smell, the angle of the light and the feel of fresh pencil shavings.

And so we trust, the answers will come, to questions voiced and those unspoken.

In the land of the in between…

Wikipedia states: In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rites, when participants no longer hold their preritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete. During a rite’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold”[2] between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the rite establishes.

I need only to listen

We went out tonight to explore Multnomah village. A mama daughter date, to talk.

  • A decision was before us. I asked what she might need for the conversation. Pen, paper, journal….?
  • I need only to listen”

I stopped, startled by the simplicity of her words.

There are many decisions in front of me, of us. Adult in size and weight, things like housing and jobs and schools. I can get caught up in the task, scrolling through data and going back and forth between supposed options.

  • “I need only to listen”… comes with the whisper of Jesus’ invitation.
  • Cease striving, and know.

Listen.

The Lenten Writings: floating on my back

The Avowal

by Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.

Source:   “The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.

I remember…

Trying to learn to do the back float.

Arch your back, they said. Look up at the sky. Don’t look down. Don’t tuck your chin. That was hard. Invariably, I would try to see where I was, tilting my head down. And I would sink.

I do that in my journey too. I stop floating. I want to see if I am making progress. Where is everyone else?

And I sink.

Recovery is hard work. The road back into my story has lots of twists and turns. If it were a river, there would definitely be whitewater and a waterfall.

I want to pause, to look around the bend ahead.

And I sink.

Today’s Lenten poem is about just that.

Just float.

The Lenten Writings: strong in the wind.

The Observer
by Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I can tell a storm by the way the trees are whipping, compared to when quiet, against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn’t bear hearing without a friend or love without a sister close by.

There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age, changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm, so earnest, eternal, and strong.

How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things and acquiesced to the force of the storm, we, too, could be ageless and strong.

For what we can conquer is only the small, and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument and played their low-sounding chords.

Whoever submits to this angel, whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright, and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One’s progress is to be conquered, instead, by the ever mightier one.

Source: “The Observer” from Pictures of God; Rilke’s Religious Poetry, translated by Annemarie Kidder.   Livonia, MI: First Page Publications, 2005. I am standing. I am feeling the movement of the wind of the spirit of God. I am standing. I am listening for the voice underneath. I am standing. I am speaking voiced truth.I am standing. I am keeping my eyes open, and asking for courage to see.I am standing.

The Lenten Writings: the Mystery

Days pass when I forget the mystery.

Problems insoluble and problems offering

their own ignored solutions

jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber

along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing

their colored clothes; caps and bells.

And then

once more the quiet mystery

is present to me, the throng’s clamor

recedes: the mystery

that there is anything, anything at all,

let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,

rather than void: and that, 0 Lord,

Creator, Hallowed one, You still, hour by hour sustain it.

Source: “Primary Wonder” by Denise Levertov, from SANDS OF THE WELL, copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996 by Denise Levertov

The mystery.

So hard to find amidst the cacophony of noise. She pictures it here in metaphor, like courtiers, brightly colored clothes swirling in dance.

And it is through that crowd, in a quiet place beyond, that the mystery is found.

There are many things swirling for me right now. The voices clamor for my attention. Each one distinct, each need important.

Problems also line up for solutions, jostling for a better place. Perhaps some, as she points out, are insoluble. Others, if given a voice, present their own solutions.

They too can distract from the mystery.

Yet even those voices, strident in their need, recede as I come near to the Mystery.

The mystery, wisely, is not named. How could it be?

And yet, it is there, as my very being is sustained for another breath.

And all the noise recedes.

And it is enough.