Tag Archives: transition

The Lenten Writings: the beginning of the end

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.

Theresa of Avila

Lent.
The beginning of the end.
The end of the beginning.

As you enter the Lenten season, would you journey with me?

Today I turned off facebook, printed some Praying in Color Lenten templates, and prepared my heart.

Lent is new too me, a recovering Baptist. I was introduced in the Mystic Activists. I was first marked by ashes from a prison parish priest. It was a singular experience.

Except for the obvious dunking ritual, Baptist’s shy away from externals. There is goodness in that; as faith is a very personal deal. How I encounter the Mystery may take a lifetime to unfold, and may not look very churchy.

But I think humans need ritual. It grounds me, it reminds me of the rhythms of the year, and it gives me pause. In this busy space called life, it is good to pause.

Enter Ash Wednesday.

epiphany: A trail of crumbs

Waiting

“I have fallen in love many a time in the fall of the year. I mean those times when body and soul are revived and, in the keen clear air of autumn after a hot exhausting summer, I feel new strength to see, to ‘know’ clearly, and to love, to look upon my neighbor and to love. Almost to be taken out of myself. I do not mean being in love with a particular person. I mean that quality of in-loveness that may brush like a sweet fragrance, a sound faintly heard, a sense of the beauty of one particular human being, or even one aspect of life. It may be an intuition of immortality, of the glory of God, of his presence in the world. But it is almost impossible to put into words. The point is that it is general rather than particular, though it may come as a reminder, this flash of understanding, of recognition, with the reading of a particular book, or hearing some strain of music.

“It is tied up in some way also with the sense of hope, and an understanding of hope. How can we live without it, as a supernatural virtue, ‘hoping against hope,’ during this dark period of violence and suffering through the world?

“I am bold in trying to express the inexpressible, to write of happiness, even of joy that comes, regardless of age, color, or condition of servitude, to us all. Regardless of failures, regardless even of the sufferings of others. If we did not have this hope, this joy, this love, how could we help others? How could we have the strength to hold on to them, to hold them up when they are drowning in sorrow, suffocating in blackness, almost letting go of life, life which we know with a sure knowledge is precious, which is something to hold to, be grateful for, to reverence.” The Reckless Way of Love, Notes on Following Jesus, by Dorothy Day.

I am in a season of waiting. Midwifery Grad school application out of my hands, last home midwifery birth logged in the national data base, phone off at night. I watch the world around me settle in for the long wait. The rains chase the last leaves down. The fog whispers of mysteries unknown. It is out of my hands.

My hands…these hands which doctor after doctor said would never catch a baby again. I told one specialist that my job is to hold the space, it is the mama’s to receive their babies. They gave me all they knew, these specialists. Words, so many words, statistics, prognosis, bathed in fear. Finally, I knew it was time. Time to settle into the work of healing. Healers are a rare breed. They speak in terms of listening, of knowing, of trusting. These are not the “faith” healers of my childhood, quick to lay on hands, with long and pious prayers. Those asked about private sins, insinuating that rheumatoid in a child must come from something more. They closed their eyes to the sin right in front of them, never daring to look into the eyes of that child, to wonder…

And so I sought out healers that listen for the old ways. They place needles and ask for wisdom. They extend their hands, for light and love to flow into tissues that have lost their message center. Three years now, nearly, since that driver ran a stop sign and sent us airborne; since the doctor said, “you will never practice midwifery again…”

Today, I wait again. The application packet out of my hands into liminal space, the space between. We are here in the old forest, and my senses awaken to memories, those of a child whose nights were full of terror, in the pacific northwest. The ancient trees hold their knowing, just as they did so many years ago.

There are others who wait tonight, in makeshift tents of plastic tarps. Their journey full of trauma, both in the leaving and the coming, and the in between. No country willing to receive them. Even a caravan could not magnify their voices enough to stir compassion. It is out of their hands.

Advent is a season of waiting. It is a season thick with silence. Four hundred years of it, broken only by one voice to one woman. And now she is waiting, enlarged by the secret. Eyes look, voices whisper, judgments pass from ear to ear. Even the government seems to be against her. Who wants to join a caravan on a long road, full of dust and bandits? Especially when a baby is coming.

Yes.

A baby is coming.

And in the middle of that dark night, hope stirred.

Perhaps it still stirs, even today.

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.

My Ebenezer…

In Hebrew the meaning of the name Ebenezer is: Rock or stone of help. Famous bearer: the Old Testament Samuel gave the name Ebenezer to a stone set up in recognition of God’s assistance in defeating the Philistines.

Today we were given this Ebenezer, a very heavy exact replica of a huge look alike on the property of Neighborhood Ministries. The Ebeneezer on the property holds the prayers of children. Kids like those who will converge on the property tomorrow for Kid’s Club, 500 plus a hundred leaders. The stones there are the prayers, hopes, dreams, and unnamed pain and violence of their stories. It is a beginning for them, a naming. Even this small private act gives courage to name these raw things to a person. And we know that the words written on those rocks have been heard by “El Shama“, the God who hears.

But these rocks today were placed one by one by hands dear to us. This was our goodbye. Written on the rocks were words representing a prayer for us. Courage. Risk. Adventure. As each person passed by, they placed a stone. Before it was placed, there were long hugs, many tears, eyes locked in raw seeing.

Here in the desert, in this often overlooked part of Phoenix, we have shared life together. Overlapping three generations now, these thirty years. Neighborhood started as a simple act, really. What if one group of people committed to one distressed neighborhood in Phoenix, for the long haul? We were assigned to this fledgling ragtag group to “grow up” a little. True story.

Today looks a lot like family. Bio family was there, surrounding our boys with tears. Today is Father’s Day, often a day of pain for me. Family can be messy, and this group of people is raw and real. None of the in-the-box church here.

And so I am grateful. Grateful for words spoken, and for those left unsaid. Grateful for rocks held in hands full of love. Grateful that we can carry them with us on the road to Oregon.

I talked with my kids later about why Kit used the word Ebenezer. We had heard that word sung in an old song Come Thou Fount today, a change from the vibrant Spanish melodies.

Here I raise my Ebenezer

Hither by Thy help I’ve come

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

My daughter recognized it, and sang thT verse. Then she sang another line and it sounded a bit different than the one I heard in my growing up years.

And my heart says yes. Yes, to the God who Hears. Yes, to the God who Heals. Yes, to the God who goes before and behind. Yes. May it be so.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and heal it

Heal it for Thy Home above.

Letting go

This place has sheltered us for 24 years. We entered it as young parents, with a toddler. Our ideas of parenthood and life were clear and strong. We were leaders, planting in the inner city. Everything was in a neat box, tied with a bow.

And so this has been in place of learning, and of letting go. The process of unraveling has occurred here. Much pain has been revealed. There has been an invitation to continue to live into the space. To continue to live into the stories of our growing up years, and the growing up happening right in our house. That is a painful road.

It has been a place of joy. Countless birthday parties, Easter egg painting, games of “ha!”, and cooking experiments galore. Five of our kids have grown up here largely. They are desert kids. We have learned how to blend of family. We have learned to love here.

And so the invitation comes to step out. We say and we hope that we will be back to this desert, to this city, full of people we love. But much is unknown.

What is known is that someone steps out with us. And in that knowledge, into the swirling mist we go. But we do not go alone.

And so far this place, we ask that it would be found by someone who would need a space of refuge. A place to call home. A place for the heart. Perhaps, in it’s very walls, lies the courage and the invitation to go farther in and farther up.

May it be so.

I am not alone

Sitting at neighborhood this morning, I felt waves of emotion. The reality is hitting me. I am leaving this community where I have woven into the lives of now the third generation of this Neighborhood.

How do you begin to form a community in a new place? I know that it starts by being willing to open my heart. And then, the risk is, I don’t know where the journey will lead.

But that is the only way. The reality is, that’s community. I have to be willing to enter with my story, to listen to the stories of others. And it is in this sacred space of story that the bonds began to form.

I am in the midst of the grief, of goodbyes yet to come in the move and now the long goodbye to my dad.

And so this morning the song washed over me.

I am not alone. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.

And my heart says yes. This is truth.

It stands in stark contrast to the cry of evil that resonated through my childhood; you are alone.

Truth says, I am.

I will go before you.

You are not alone.

Listen to the song Here

The Lenten Writings: not yet…

Beginners

Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,

Hope and desire set free,

Even the weariest river

Winds somewhere to the sea—“

But we have only begun

To love the earth.

We have only begun

To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?

— so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?

— we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,

only begun to envision

how it might be

to live as siblings with beast and flower,

not as oppressors.

Surely our river

cannot already be hastening

into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot

drag, in the silt,

all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet—

there is too much broken

that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other

that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know

the power that is in us if we would join

our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must

complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

~ Denise Levertov ~

(Candles in Babylon)

So much is unfolding that must complete it’s gesture…

I am in a place of unfolding. The unfolding of things that are new, much of which is unseen at this time.

The unfolding also means a closing.

Why is it that grief enjoy so often go hand-in-hand?

This poem is haunting.

We have only begun to imagine justice and mercy…

At Neighborhood, we swim in rivers where we talk about justice. And sometimes, in the river, The current threatens to pull us under. The fight for justice is real. It has faces. It has stories. It is salty with tears.

And then in the invitation to step into new arenas, the questions remain, hanging in the air.

Not yet, not yet–there is too much Broken that must be mended.

Source: Levertov, Denise. “Beginners” from Candles in Babylon. New York: New Directions, 1982.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.

Women’s Knowing

I am starting a course in herbal medicine for women.

In typical recovering Baptist fashion, tonight I dove into the first assignment. I looked at the objectives, read the key words, and made sure I understood how to turn in the homework. I had signed up for this to add to my knowledge of herbs, after all. And it was a chunk of cash! I even set up a study group to hold myself accountable.

It was a curious thing to notice there were reflective assignments that went along with the lessons. I added "get a new sketchbook" to my list.

The first chapter started with history. I settled in, pens in hand. The author, Aviva Romm, had suggested we write in the book; she gave her permission, she said. (The good girl lives in me still, but since I had permission…)

As she began to explore women's ways of knowing, I could feel myself settle deeply into my chair, tea forgotten. Yes! My heart resonated with the words. This is what women long for, to have deep meaningful relationship with a provider; to be heard. The work of a provider includes to learn to trust intuition and internal wisdom.

When someone begins to speak about "trusting the gut" and "listening to the body" I pay attention. These are themes that are woven deeply into the tapestry of my journey of recovery and healing. Radical phrases, in the context of my black and white upbringing, nearly tantamount to heresy. And yet here I am, taking another step farther in: learning about herbs. Steeping in the herbs, it sounds like, is the path ahead for the next 18-36 months.

I have been drawn to plants these last few months. I always thought I had a brown thumb. My mom never let me touch her plants, except to rub mayonnaise (Miracle Whip I think, as it was the 70's) on the leaves to make them shiny. I think she read it in a women's magazine in a doctor's office. My dad kept the garden, but he had lived on a farm off and on growing up, so of course he knew these things. My roommate in college said I could buy the plants and she would take care of them. That sounded good to me. Even when I put a few plants in the dirt, my husband always dug the bed for me. I bought well established plants, and he watered them. That seemed wise, because I had a brown thumb.

This morning I was out with a lightweight shovel I bought especially for myself, digging in the dirt. It is still 104 here in the desert, but fall is in the air. You can feel it in the first cool of the morning, in the breeze late at night.

And now here I am, deeply still as the words unfold on the page, aware somehow that I am entering another layer of redemption.

Maybe I will even start some seeds this year.

And you know what? My thumb looks to be just the right color for this season of life.

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.