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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…

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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 writing:  a lament for my head

“I worried a lot…Will the garden grow? Will the rivers flow in the right direction? Will the earth turn as it was taught; and if not how shall I correct it?  Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning and sang.” (By Mary Oliver:  “I worried”)

With apologies to Mary Oliver, I am going to borrow her cadence and rhythm to write a lament for my brain, 9 weeks into post concussion syndrome. 

I worried a lot. Will my brain heal? Will the words come? Will the thoughts flow freely in the right direction? Will my mind synapse as it was taught; and if not, how shall I be me? Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing and was making my brain symptoms worse. And took my old body and went out into the morning. And walked.

Author’s note:  I couldn’t write “and gave it up”. I might do it again yet. 😏

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.

Lenten writings: The box


The uses of sorrow

By Mary Oliver

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.

What is the box you were given? 

  
Is it tattered or shiny designer? Shaped round like a grand mother’s hat box? What does it smell like: moth balls, or the faint scent of rose water? Are their tastes in the box, flavors of family holiday meals?

Have you peeked inside?

I peeked, nearly 18 years ago. The lid lifted with a crazy prayer: “I want to know.”

It never fit back on again. I am still unpacking it. But I wouldn’t trade the knowing for all the perfect p.k.’s (preacher’s kids) in the world. 
People give things up for Lent, or so I hear. Maybe this year for Lent you might climb the ladder of your heart and bring down a box or two. 

Peace on earth begins with birth

I got to be encircled by Midwives this weekend. It was good for the state of my soul.

I had so wanted to hear the teaching of Sister MorningStar and Gail Hart at our state conference. It seemed impossible, as the realities of healing my broken bones and the concussion dominate each day. 

“Come,” they messaged. And so one by one the details were thought through by my sisters. Someone drove me, another volunteered to take me home if needed. The fees had been covered “by angels in our midst”. When I entered the room I was greeted like royalty and escorted to a sofa covered with soft pillows. There was a dark room nearby if the stimulation was too much. The light was soft, natural. Midwives brought me tea and nourushing food. 

And so I stayed, one hour at a time. I soaked in the love of my sisters, and the teaching of these wise elder midwives. We talked about intuition, how to follow our instincts. We learned about the latest in evidence-based research on topics that are current in obstetrics. We did a village prenatal with two pregnant mamas, weaving around them with song and love.

The music entered my soul as well. “All your cells are healthy and strong“. Good word medicine to balance all the dire predictions of the medical experts who offer their gifts. I realized, as I watched my sister Midwives Circle the women, that my life force is depleted too. And the magic of this space, so rich with oxytocin flowing, strengthened my heart. 

We ended with a circle, held safe in a room womb by the presence of two Elder Midwives. We had some family business to take care of together. We dared to speak truth, asking for clarity of thought and healing for this holy work. The space was held safely. Midwives not present were held with honor and respect. I realized anew how much I need these courageous women around me.  

If the future of birth lies with Midwives, it is in good hands indeed.

Let peace on  Earth begin with birth”. 

Bathed in love 

Creativity flows from people all around me, scattered through days. It binds the narratives of the years of our stories together.

It’s curious how people draw together in times of crisis. One brings soup, another bowties for a dance, someone drops puzzles by… There are bills paid and groceries bought, floors mopped and laundry folded. 

And folded into the clothes is love. I’ve had several people say lately, “I hope you know how much you’re loved.” It’s interesting that it’s hard to let that much goodness in. 

Maybe that’s not my job.

And so, the love flows over and through, filling in the cracks. And I’m asked for nothing more than to stay in the moment. To let the goodness in requires a different kind of courage.

Provision for today, courage for today. And all the cracks and crevices between filled in with love.

Changing light

The light pools, pouring into the street below like rain. Blue white Mercury, chilling all in its path. Memories stir, drawn by the eerie light to surface. 

It was pink, warm, comforting; as much as a city light can be. He changed it, the neighbor, cherry picker in his electric truck just right for the work. 

Now the light pulls me back into the past. Another bluish light, another window, a tiny girl. The icy glow frozen in time, terror illuminated in its broad circle. 

The warmth of the rosy  light resonates within now, impenetrable by a streetlight. The memories are mine, no longer lurking in the shadows. Released from their shroud, they lose their bite of power. 

Grace like rain

Live in the moment. 

The grace that’s in this moment is your mana. (Ann Voskamp)

This is a very in the moment season. Between the post concussion symptoms and the healing of the broken bone life is gotten very still. There is pretty much only this moment right now. I am losing a sense of linear time.

But in that moment the manna comes. Just what is needed; no more. If I try to save it up it goes rotten. It doesn’t keep.

Manna looks like a neighbor showing up to get laundry, like $100 bill coming in the mail for cleaning, like someone at school paying for the kids lunches so they don’t have to pack, groceries coming unbidden to the door, meals not on the meal train that pulled up to our stop anyway, a team of women cleaning the community house at GracYa, chauffeurs for every doctors appointment and every trip for school, healers who offer their gifts of acupuncture and chiropractic, scholarships that come unbidden for sports and conferences, people to show up when courage fails. 

Manna. Just for today. It doesn’t keep; but it just keeps coming. 

And it is enough.

Call it like it is…

When do we begin to name what is?  So many places in our culture have a different set of rules. Let the phrases trickle through your mind that you have heard over the years:  that’s just how it is in medicine, that’s the job of the church, that’s how people talk in sports.

When do we begin to name what is? There are words for this: sexual harassment, spiritual abuse, bullying. It takes courage to use the names. It takes courage to call what I see in me what it is: Control, contempt, manipulation. I learned to call it by nicer names. Those names do not recognize the violence for what it is. Even when there are no words:  Silence can be violence as well.

It takes courage to name what is. Courage comes each day like Grace. It is not something that I have to drum up; it is given. 

Dare. Begin. Name.