Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rain: Thursday's Reflection

If I lived in the United Kingdom would I be more inclined to walk 
in the rain? 

I recently read a charming book called Rain, Four Walks in English Weather by nature writer Melissa Harrison, and it occurred to me that I am almost totally unprepared for rainy walks. I do have umbrellas, but I don't even have a rain coat or jacket or rain boots. I dash and dart between rain showers. I scurry from the house to the car when there is a downpour, and I certainly don't go on a morning walk if it is raining, even lightly. 

Why is that?  

First thing in the morning, I checked the weather app on my phone to see the chances of rain at any given hour of the day. 7:00 am. 50%; 8:00 a.m. 30%. I decided to chance it, grabbed an umbrella, a full-sized one, instead of the mini I carry in my purse, and headed out the door a few minutes before 7. It turned out I was on the rainless side of the 50%, and I didn't need to open my umbrella or walk faster than my usual leisurely pace.  

Here's what Harrison says, 
            ...if you only ever go out on sunny days you only see
            half the picture, and remain somehow untested and
            callow; whereas discovering that you can withstand
            all the necessary and ordinary kinds of weather creates
            a satisfying feeling of equanimity in the face of life's
            vicissitudes that may or may not be rational, but is real

I haven't considered the character developing properties of rain, even though, as a Minnesotan, I know I am tougher and more resilient because of our extreme winters. At least that's what we claim here in the Midwest!

It is raining as I write this and I could grab my umbrella and go for another walk. Maybe instead I will do some online shopping for the proper gear. Or maybe I will just daydream about walking on a rainy day across the English moors. 

An Invitation
Are you a fair weather walker? Or are you made of tougher stuff? I would love to know. 

Note: A bonus in the Melissa Harrison book is her list of rainy words. My favorite is muzzle--a fine, misty rain. Here are some others: 
A blashy day--a wet day
Cow-quaker--a sudden storm in May, after the cows have been turned out to pasture
Dringey--the kind of light rain that still manages to get you soaking wet
Hurly-burly--thunder and lightning
Posh--a strong shower
Slobber--thin, cold rain, mixed with snow
Thunner-pash--a heavy shower with thunder

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New View: Tuesday's Reflection

Our windows are clean! No, we don't hire out. In fact, this is the first time we have washed our windows since we had new ones installed at The Little House. One of the incentives for washing the windows, in addition to their being dirty and grimy, was Bruce's eagerness to plant the window boxes outside the snug. Once planted washing the windows would have been challenging. 

Surprisingly, the job was not that difficult, although it did take up a chunk of time on a gorgeous weekend. The result, however, is worthy of oohs and aahs, we think. 

What a bright and shiny, clear and open view of our world we now have. 

A new view, a new perspective is what can happen when we intentionally choose to reframe something in our life. I read someplace that choosing to change our negative or fearful or hesitant way of thinking or feeling is "putting our mind under new management." The way we tend to see things, to understand truth, is our own personal frame. Reframing opens us to other viewpoints, allows us to see new possibilities, helps us grow and stretch, and even creates a better sense of well-being. 

Perhaps we are frustrated and grumpy when the day turns out to be a rainy one, instead of the sunny one we hoped for. Our plan was to walk or go for a bike ride or work in the garden or entertain friends on the patio. Reframing, seeing the day through clean windows, might lead us to get cozy with the book we have been meaning to read or decide to go to a museum exhibit we put on the someday list or write a letter to someone who could use a kind word. 

Perhaps you are caught in a unforeseen life transition or challenge--retirement sooner than anticipated, illness, concerns about a child or friend, or financial difficulties. Maybe you feel overwhelmed with regret or grief or sadness. Is there a way to invite an additional perspective into the present situation?

I don't mean to imply we should adopt a "pollyanna" attitude. In fact, I think that often results in delayed reactions. Instead, what I suggest is opening to new learnings, new relationships, new understandings, new gifts. New views. 

A friend told me recently about a difficult time in her life and while the struggle didn't melt away in pools of sunshine, she did discover who the stand-up people are in her life. Those who are willing to be there with her when she most needs them. Now that is a clean and shining window.

"Found" Time
If you have read my blog for awhile, you are familiar with my phrase "found time," which is a way to reframe changes in schedule or periods of waiting we all encounter in our everyday life. When a client needs to cancel an appointment at the last minute, I am sorry to miss that connection, but I ease into a different way of thinking. Oh, now I can.... When I wait in line at Target or the post office, I try to use that time as a companion to stillness, listing my gratitudes of the moment or observing the life around me. "Found" time is breathing time. 

The house feels a bit brighter today, thanks to our clean windows, and I feel a bit brighter too, knowing I can reframe my attitude and perspective. 

An Invitation
Are there any inner windows in your life that need washing? I would love to know. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring Time Adjustments: Thursday's Reflection

I'm feeling itchy, antsy, jumpy. I have a major stack of books waiting to be read, and I can't seem to get beyond the first page or two of any of them. Work on my book awaits me, and I sit and stare at it. I could wash windows, for they definitely need it, but that feels like more commitment than I can muster. I don't know what to fix for dinner or how to order the day's errands. Or even what to wear. This is not like me.

What is it? 

True, we had a house guest for a few days, so I drifted away from my regular routines, but then why couldn't I give full attention to the top priorities on my To Do list once the sheets on the guest room bed had been changed?

True, I was in charge of an event at church earlier this week, but planning for that was not difficult and all went well.

True, I am in a new phase with my book. I have been requested submit a book proposal to a publisher and writing a synopsis and chapter summaries presents a new challenge, but I know I can figure out how to do that.

Is it spring, the change of seasons? 

I am a winter person and miss the wrapped coziness of winter and am never as ready for spring's openness and energy as most everyone else seems to be. And yet, I am happy to resume daily walks without dodging ice and snow. 

I head out the front door eagerly these cool mornings to stretch my legs and my heart, but doing that means adjusting my normal routine. Should I walk first and then return to the garret for meditation time? Or the reverse? Do I take a shower right after my walk or after meditation? And then half the morning is already gone! I might as well do some errands then and devote the full afternoon for writing, I think to myself. So far that hasn't worked very well.

This is transition time, and although every year involves the same season to season transitions, some times I feel more tentative about the changes. That, of course, is an invitation for prayer, an invitation to listen to the promptings of my heart, where I feel unfinished and where I feel stretched. What is growing and what needs to be nurtured even a bit more?

Soon I will be in a spring routine that both honors the season of the year and the season of my life. I have done this before, and I know I can do it again.

            Come! Come encourage what needs to be born in us.
            Draw us out of winter's nurturing womb.
            Teach us to believe in our unopened buds.
            Accompany us into a world starved for new life.
            O Come! ...

            Come! Come laugh us out of our rigidity
            Lighten hearts grown weary with anxiety.
            Send us out to the meadows to play like a child.
            Rise up in our souls with lighthearted joy.
            O Come!
                                            Joyce Rupp

An Invitation
What are you noticing about yourself this spring? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Pieces of Myself: Tuesday's Reflection

I recently celebrated my 69th birthday and on my birthday my father always says, "I remember the day you were born so well." When he says that, I hear whispers of God's voice, "Nancy Lee Jensen Agneberg, you are my beloved  child, and I remember the day you were born. I am with you always." 

When I was born, hospitals made bead identification bracelets for a baby's tiny wrist. So much more charming than the plastic, stiff ones used today. Many years ago I asked our daughter to restring mine, so I could wear it on my now thick wrist. Lately, I have started wearing it again, not just as a reminder of who I am, but each bead feels like a piece of myself. Pieces I keep encountering wherever I go. 

When I drove to Madison not long ago to visit some friends, chunks of time and memories swirled around me. 

My driving day was rainy and cool, but the countryside was lime green and fluffy and baby animals dotted the fields. I got off I94 as soon as I could and drove back roads to one of my favorite destinations, Arcadia Bookstore in Spring Green. I allowed myself a half hour to shop and when I brought my stack to the counter and told her my time limit, she said, "I wish you could stay an hour." Yes, I did major damage! But that is another story. 

During each part of the journey, I met pieces of myself. One piece seemed to reveal another. I remembered so many of our drives in that area--quiet, small towns, and perfectly perched farmhouses, fields eager for planting, vistas that stretched beyond our imagination. I thought not only about homes and places where we have lived and what that time of our life was like, but also homes where we could have made a life for ourselves as well, if we had taken another route.

I not only remembered what was, but in an odd way I remembered what could just as easily have been. Those are pieces of myself, too.  Pieces that somehow fit together in the person I am now, the life I live now.  Catching glimpses of myself through memory and imagination are like encounters with the Divine. 

An Invitation
Where have you recognized pieces of yourself recently. I would love to know. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Walking and Listening to the Inner Voice: Thursday's Reflection

How happy I am to walk out the door once again and go for a
morning walk. 

This morning I realized my walks focus on what I see. Pansies newly planted in front step pots, tulips, the occasional dead Christmas wreath on a front door (g-r-r-r-r!), a For Sale sign where there wasn't one a few days ago, dogs and their owners, children's toys scattered on the sidewalk, a rabbit or two or three, and an area of bluebells tumbling down a steep lawn. A feast for the eyes in my urban neighborhood.

Along with all there is to see, sounds swirl around me, too. Cars, buses, of course, but also the birds in springtime conversations, a dog barking from inside a house as I pass by, clusters of children chattering as they walk to school, and chapel bells on the University of St Thomas campus. 

And a voice within. The voice I sometimes recognize as the Divine breaking through all the stimulation around me. 

This morning I thought about the Gospel story of two of the disciples walking to Emmaus. Jesus joined them, but they didn't recognize him. The text says "their eyes were kept from recognizing him." I suspect their ears were closed, too. What would have happened if the disciples entered this time as a walking meditation? Would their eyes and ears opened to the wonders around them? Would they have "heard" Jesus and recognized the movement of the divine in their hearts? 

The disciples on the road to Emmaus told the "stranger" the gossip of the day, chitter-chattering along the way, and Jesus, still unknown to them, offered them new insights. Still, they did not hear. 

As I walked, feeling the uneven sidewalk beneath my feet, I paid attention to my breath, to the in and out of my breath. Gradually, I felt unidentified thoughts release their hold on me, leaving space for a quiet voice. A voice just waiting for some time with me. 

I was surprised by the question that rose in my heart, and I admit I  attempted to drop it into a hedge as I passed by, but the voice was persistent. "Hear me. Recognize me. Be with me." 

When I arrived home, I knew I had been on an unexpected journey-one that is just beginning, perhaps, and one that has an unknown destination, and one that will require many more steps. Who knew? I thought I was just going for a walk. 

An Invitation
Do you practice walking meditation? Does your inner voice, the voice of the Divine, go with you? I would love to know. 

The Long Road Turns to Joy, A Guide to Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New Neighbors: Tuesday's Reflection

Saturday was move-in day for our new neighbors, who appear to be 
a young couple with one child and another on the way. Yes, I have been watching. Some would say "snooping," but I prefer "being aware." Our snug gives us the best view of neighborhood activity.

The house had been on the market for some time, and finally, the right people, the right time, and the right house became the right match. 

I thought about our many move-in days over the years. Exciting and exhausting both. My goal on each of our move-in days was to make our beds and hang towels in the bathrooms. Once we had a place to sleep we were on our way to being home. I wonder how they all slept that first night.

When our daughter Kate was two, we moved into the house where we lived for eighteen years.  We moved there on a bitterly cold January day and like our new neighbors, we moved ourselves with help from family. All our plants died as they were transported from our small bungalow not far away into a big, drafty 1906 Victorian. But our excitement kept our hearts warm, and we knew we were at the beginning of the next stage of our lives.

At the end of the day when we collapsed in our living room, the doorbell rang. A neighbor stood on the front porch, introduced himself, and handed over a bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme. Now that is what I call a welcome! We were delighted with the gift, but what was more important was the feeling of being welcomed. 

A few years later a new governor of Minnesota was elected and moved into the Governor's Mansion just a few blocks away from our house. Kate, who was 4 or so at the time, said, "Mommy, when are we going to take cookies to the new family?" I was a bit puzzled by the question because we didn't have any new neighbors on our block just then. I asked her to explain, and she reminded me that the governor was a new neighbor, too, "and we always bring cookies when someone new moves in."

So, we made cookies and we walked up the to mansion and rang the bell outside the big iron gate. A security guard came to the gate, and we told him our mission. He took the cookies and said he would see that the governor received them. I don't know if he did or not, but Kate was satisfied. 

 We have been welcomed warmly when we have moved into a different house, but other times our appearance did not seem to have even been noted. Each move, however, has taught us something about the gift of hospitality, whether it has been extended to us or not.

This week I will make a loaf of zucchini or banana bread or maybe some muffins or cookies, and I will walk across the street and ring the doorbell of our new neighbors. "Hi, my name is Nancy, and we are so happy you have moved here." 

Sometimes our new neighbors look like us. But sometimes our new neighbors, whether they actually move onto our block or not, seem different from us, and it may not be as comfortable to welcome them, but they need our gift of hospitality, too. I hope I remember that lesson everyday wherever I am. Not just on my block. 

            Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
            for by doing that some have entertained angels 
            knowing it. 
                                     Hebrews 13:2

An Invitation
When have you experienced the gift of hospitality and when did you last extend a welcome?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Processions: Tuesday's Reflection

On Easter Sunday our 14 year old granddaughter Maren was one of the acolytes at the first service. She is tall and poised and always brings a level of confidence and assurance to whatever she does, even if she doesn't feel that way. Obviously, I am proud of her, and what is more, even if she weren't my granddaughter, I would notice her and want to know her. 

She is one of my teachers, and on Easter Sunday she taught me without knowing it about processionals. 

Processions are marches with some degree of pageantry. Think of wedding processions, for example. Or think of a funeral where the casket is carried forth from the back of a place of worship to the front. Those in the procession are individual units and have a role and are expected to perform their role with awareness, dignity, and yes, confidence. At the same time each person in the procession is part of a whole, and that whole moves forward together, passing those who have gathered to honor or celebrate or pay tribute. 

My eyes were drawn to Maren, but the procession was not about her. The qualities she brought to her task that morning, however, reminded me why I was there. We had lived through the Lenten season and Holy Week one more time and now I was there to rejoice in the Easter message. I was there to continue a tradition, to deepen my understanding of  the good news I cherish and believe, and to carry that into the world. I have a role, but I am also a part of the whole. 

Somehow seeing Maren in the middle of the procession, doing her part, reminded me that each of us is a component of the great procession. 

NOTE: I am taking a day off and won't post on Thursday, April 27. I will be back on Tuesday, May 2.