Friday, November 30, 2012

Peter's Prayer, a post by Nancy L. Agneberg

Meet Peter, our 4 1/2 year old grandson. Everyone should have access to a 4 year old for at least a few minutes a week. Sometimes our daughter would appreciate a little less access, but I digress. Peter and his family were with us for the Thanksgiving weekend, and he was actually a good help Thanksgiving morning, helping me set the table. He decided who would get which turkey plate, and he selected napkin rings for each place setting. Finally, he arranged the vintage turkey and pilgrim candles on the table and did a mighty fine job, I must say. 
      Peter's Gift
      His real gift, however, was given the day after Thanksgiving. He was sitting at the counter having his breakfast, and I was emptying the dishwasher and fussing in the kitchen. Without any prompting whatsoever he said, "I loved yesterday."
     Three simple words. "I loved yesterday." 
      "Oh, Peter, I did, too. We all did."
      And life went on, but his words of wisdom have stayed with me, even when "yesterday" was a day that I lost my internet connection for hours and was a day when prospective buyers came to see the house and didn't take a brochure--a litmus test of interest. I admit I don't love all yesterdays, even though I know there are so many things to be grateful for each day, including the fact that I have lived from yesterday to today. 
      I have just started reading Anne Lamott's new book, Help, Thanks, Wow, The Three Essential Prayers. Now I must admit the writer in me thought, "Why didn't I think of that?" but that's quite another issue. When Peter said, "I loved yesterday," he was praying. He was saying "Thanks," to God, even though he didn't know it. But I knew it, and I know that God did, too. How lucky I was to be an eavesdropper. How lucky I am to have a 4 year old teacher. 
     Here's what Anne Lamott says,
     The movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening. Gratitude is peace. Maybe you won't always get from being a brat to noticing that it is an e. e. cumming morning out the window. But some days you will. You will go from being Doug or Wendy Whiner, with your psychic diverticulitis, able to eat only macaroni and cheese, to remembering 'i thank you God for most this amazing/ day.' 
     When Peter said, "I loved yesterday," he reminded me not only to be grateful for the wonders of yesterday without being stuck there, but to love today, right now, as well. No matter what is swirling around us in this moment. 
     Bruce and I are driving to St Paul today for the weekend. Tonight we will attend opening night of a play our 10 year old granddaughter Maren is in--The Best Christmas Pageant Ever--and tomorrow we will go to the magical St Olaf Christmas Festival at our alma mater, and Sunday we will bring my father home with us for a couple days. Already, I am anticipating loving those days. I'm going to be praying a lot, I think. 
     Here's the bonus, I think. Loving yesterday, loving today, loving tomorrow are all the same. 
     I love you Peter. Love, GrandNan

An extra gratitude: A few days ago I made the decision not to decorate the house for Christmas, except for some welcoming greens and lanterns on the front porch. This was not an easy decision for me because I LOVE decorating for Christmas. Once the house is fully in the holiday spirit, I am, too, and move through the shopping and sending cards and wrapping etc with less stress and strain. Because we continue to have showings, including one this morning, I decided not decorating was the prudent choice. Therefore, I was so grateful when I discovered I have a clear view of our neighbor's large Christmas tree holding court in their family room. Thick with white lights it sparkles and glows enough to fill my heart with contentment and peace. Thank you.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

On the Bridge, the Spiritual Practice of Transitions a post by Nancy L. Agneberg

    I am frequently aware of being in the midst of transition, and that interests me and becomes an opening for examination of both my inner life, as well as what is swirling around me in my outer life. 
   Fall into Winter
   This morning I noticed evidence of transitions as I walked through the neighborhood. Mainly, the transition between fall and winter, between Halloween and Christmas. Pumpkins, some almost melting in on themselves thanks to frosty nights, along with pots of mums, browning and losing an intensity of color still dominate the scene, but at the same time Christmas decorations are beginning to appear. Greens in window boxes. Lights on trees. Even an artificial Christmas tree on a front porch where pumpkins still march up the stairs. We know we are not quite done with one season, but still there is the temptation and inclination to move into the next season. We treasure and exalt Thanksgiving as a holiday that demands little of us except turkey and mashed potatoes and offers us a chance to express gratitude for our many blessings, but at the same time time, we feel the urgency of Christmas looming ahead in a countdown of shopping days. I say this not to pass judgment or to plead for simplicity and sanity. Instead, I think about the movement in our lives.
     A Transition of the Heart
     Earlier this week my husband needed a heart catheterization in order to determine if the symptoms he was experiencing were the result of blockage and damage to the heart. The good news is that no stent or bypass is needed, but instead drug therapy is proscribed, along with some life style changes that will be good for both of us. The day in the hospital awaiting the procedure was long, but we both remained calm and patient. Bruce rested, and I gazed out the window with its soothing view of Lake Monona over the bare treetops.  Time to breathe and time to be. 
      Later I thought about how my diagnosis of uterine cancer 10 years ago when I was 54 felt like an experience out of time.  Not in the rightful order of things. I felt too young for that to happen. A totally unrealistic assumption, of course. Now we are 64, and as we face this wake up call, it feels as if we are taking a major step into the next stage of our life.  We can't dismiss the possibility of physical issues beyond the norm of colds and flu. Dear friends face cancer or recover from surgeries of various kinds. We are getting older. We are in transition. 
     Bridge Work
     When I meditated the other day, a word arrived in my heart. Bridge. That is how this time feels. We are on a bridge. At times the bridge seems to sway in a strong wind and at times I lose sight of where I have come from, and the way ahead is not very clear, but I don't feel threatened by that. Instead, I am aware of the importance to take every step, to stop and pause often. To breathe and to be. 
     The morning of the heart cath I spent my meditation time with   the new book, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, Staying Close to What is Sacred, by one of my spiritual guides, Mark Nepo and was given a gift of two words: unplanned unfoldings. This is how transition feels to me. Nepo says, "The larger intention is to stay in relationship with everything that comes along, at least long enough to taste what is living." As I become aware of where I am on the bridge, I pray I accept the invitation of unplanned unfoldings to live fully with love, instead of fear. 
NOTE: As I have been writing this post I have observed a hawk on a nearby tree. As I entered the last word, he flew away. I am grateful for his watchful presence.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Cancellations as "Found" Time, a post by Nancy L. Agneberg

Recently, plans have changed. Dates and appointments have been cancelled. An evening out with friends. A phone date. A lunch date. A visit from a friend. A visit to a friend. Even an appointment for a showing of our house was cancelled. Most of these items on my calendar have been rescheduled (Not the house showing appointment, however. Rats!), and most are just examples of life happening. Understandable and acceptable. Rarely do I worry about possible motivations underlying the change. Most of the time I don't view the cancellation as a criticism or disinterest, but instead, just one of those things. 
The Gift of Found Time
     However, this bundle of recent cancellations does make me wonder why so many in a short period of time? Is the Universe trying to tell me something? A message to be more flexible? An opportunity to be present to challenges in others' lives? A chance to let go of some control? To breathe? 
    Over the years people in my life have heard me use the phrase "Found Time." When plans change that open up space I didn't expect to have, I think of that as "found time." Sometimes found time happens when I am in the waiting room of a doctor's office or waiting to get my hair cut or an airline flight has been cancelled or delayed. I amaze myself, frankly, in those situations that I don't feel irritated or frustrated. Most of the time I am able to shrug my shoulders and exhibit patience.  I always have a book or magazine with me, so I relax easily into my found time with little or no  resentment. Sometimes, for example yesterday when the house showing scheduled for the mid afternoon was cancelled with a phone call first thing in the morning, I suddenly felt I had a whole day ahead of me; a day that did not need to include vacuuming and dusting. And a day that even included an extra hour, thanks to the clocks being set back, Talk about Found Time! 
How to Use Found Time
     I recognize that the experience of found time is a chance to listen to my heart. What is it I most want to do right now? My immediate inclination when there is a sudden appearance of found time is to fill it. Do errands I didn't think I would have time for. Do the next thing on the list of tasks for the week. Get a jump on something I planned to do tomorrow. Be productive. Accomplish something. Finish something I thought I would have to set aside. 
But sometimes I hear and respond to another message in the sudden appearance of found time. "Nancy, put your feet up. Sit. Relax. Enjoy time to read or write in your journal or take a walk. Slow down and listen to your heart." 
     Because there have been so many instances of "found time" lately, I have to wonder if instead of being asked to consider only my use of the immediate time, although that is a gift in itself,  am I being prodded to reflect on the bigger picture? How is it I want to be in the time I have left here on earth? How is it I am supposed to use my time? What is my purpose for this stage of my life? My call? I must admit I am struggling with that a bit these days, sitting in the midst of transition, a transition that feels a bit stuck to me. 
A New Intention 
     Therefore, now seems like a good time for a new intention; an intention that will not only help me respond to unexpected moments of found time, but will be a reminder to live in the present, for I believe it is in the present where we are given hints about the life we are meant to live
     My new intention:
For the next two months I will live fully in this house and in this holiday time of family and friends. I will honor requests for showings, but will treat them as a bonus and not as expected.
     As a sign of living fully here and now in this house, I moved my laptop back to the room on the lower level I have used as my office. Some potential buyers have not been able to imagine how to use this space, so I have "staged" it to look more like a family room. Many of my spirituality books, however, are still on the shelves, along with board games for family fun. This is where I feel most inspired to write and where I need to be. Here I can better fulfill my intention and find the time to write and study and pray. Here I can live in Found Time.
Reflection Questions
     How do you use "found time"? How do you respond when plans are cancelled? 
     What new intention is asking to be acknowledged in your life?

One last thing: Here in Wisconsin we continue to have lovely fall weather, although the temperatures are a bit cooler. These are "found" days.