Category Archives: Presence

The Advent Writings:  may the carols come true 

Truly He taught us to love one another,   His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. 

The lyrics from Oh holy night are my heart cry this year. For myself, in this home; and in our land. Never have I been so aware of a time where fear and hatred rule the day. 

I picked up tamales tonight from a dear one this afternoon and felt  the terror looming for the uncertainty of the change if power in January. And so we eat them, recognizing that this gift is as sacred as the breaking of the bread. These are our brothers and sisters who awake each day in fear. This is My Body, broken….

And so tonight we remember an immigrant family long ago would flee to Egypt the day after the baby was born. Not what I would recommend for one day postpartum as a midwife!

I am deeply aware as well of my own need this year. The car accident a year ago represented for me the fragility of life. And the shockwaves that continue to move out from that day keep it in front of me. 

And so for tonight, I will hold the goodness of the traditions that weave the years together. We are family, in the middle of.

And so, I will go to the airport and our nest will be full. And we will welcome the night with pajamas and the morning with cinnamon rolls, hot from the oven. 

We will eat our tamales, and give thanks, and cry for mercy. 

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: 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. 

Word crafting 

My daughter wrote in her journal tonight. The idea she was chasing is that when I write I express the image of God.

It made me think. What does it mean when “Word” is used to express a name for God. Is writing part of that expression of the very reality of being made in His image?

When I began  to write, I would sometimes say that I was writing because it was the only thing on my list of “things I will never do” that I had not done. Here is the list: foster care, adoption, homebirth, women’s groups, writing.  (If you know me at all, you are probably laughing about now). 🙄

So on the light of that list, and the humor of God, sometimes I joked that I started to write because it was inevitable. But I think that this reflection calls to me in a tender  way;  in simplicity and truth.

There are  words inside of me that long for expression. Perhaps that is part of how I am made, to express an Image.  When I write, I am  reflecting something bigger.

And so, I write.

Coming home

A daughter came home today. I watched for her face in a crowd of strangers. I strained to see her, the anticipation rising in my soul. I felt the sheer delight burst through my spirit as I saw her, and hugged her tight.

I saw a friend once, so precious to my heart, moments after she passed into the Mystery. Her face held that same longing, that delight, like she had just seen someone for whom she had been longing all her life.

I just finished re-reading Frederick Beuchner’s A Sacred Journey:  “we must learn to listen to the cock crows and hammering and tick-tock of our lives for the holy and elusive word that is spoken to us out of their depths.” 

There was a moment when we were all sitting and braiding hair this weekend, a mother and two of her daughters. And for an elusive breath of time I saw the holy. 

 

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. 

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.