Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Surprise in the Garden: Thursday's Reflection

 What do you notice in this photograph of the garden, which was taken a week ago? 

Yes, you are seeing iris. Beautiful white iris. 

Now iris normally bloom in the spring, maybe early summer, but certainly not in September. What's the deal? Is this one of these climate change things or what?

Or is it just a delightful, unexplainable surprises? One of those things we will recall next year. "Remember the white iris from last fall?"

Each time I walked to the garage recently I felt a moment of surprise all over again. I stopped briefly and experienced a quickening of pleasure. One of those "wow" moments that makes me pause. A moment of grace, of gratitude. 

These white iris remind me to open my eyes, to open my heart to other surprises, other gifts. And, of course, what I discover and what should be no surprise is how many opportunities there are to marvel and to be delighted and to be grateful. 

Here are just a few:

* The sound of neighborhood children walking to school in the morning.
* The smell of freshly baked gingersnap cookies and homemade soup.
* The laughter of friends around our table.
* Baptism of two more babies at church.
* Words carefully crafted and vulnerably shared in my writing group
* The warmth of a sweater and slippers as the temperatures drop.
* A new book ready to be opened.

The more I notice the more there is to notice.  

 An Invitation
When have you been surprised lately? I would love to know.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Examen and My Laptop: Tuesday's Reflection

How good it is to return to my garret and see my laptop waiting and willing to return to my writing routine. While I was not quite despondent when it was not available for my use, I recognized once again my dependency. Once I realized, however, that I had to detach for several days, I decided to enter a period of examen about my reactions. 

The examen is the process of asking most often at the end of each day questions about our day. For example: For what am I most grateful? Least grateful? When did I feel most alive today? When did I feel life draining out of me? When was I happiest today? The saddest? What was today's high point? Low point?

The examen is another practice of being awake, of staying present to the movement of God in one's life. The examen is a way to open to all the feelings and experiences in one's life and to embrace one's  strengths and understand the weaknesses. 

I determined to observe myself during these days. Doing that helped me maintain a level of equanimity. 

Here are some of my observations.
* When I realized I had been hacked, I almost immediately felt shame. What did I do wrong? I should have been smarter, more careful etc, etc. I was embarrassed and felt inadequate and helpless, and I wanted the problem to just go away. How quickly I went into that dark corner of shame and self-blame. I wondered how often I limit myself because shame has entered the room.

* Once I made the decision to get help I felt lighter. I am so grateful there are people in the world who can solve these kinds of problems. And do it in a way that doesn't add to my feelings of inadequacy. I willingly surrendered to their care and what a difference that made. A lesson in asking for help.

* I allowed myself to have moments of sadness about losing writing time, but I also am proud of how I adjusted to something out of my control. I made a list (I know this is no surprise to my faithful readers!) of ways to use this time. One day, for example, I got out the bins of fall decorations and fully enjoyed arranging velvet pumpkins and fall/winter pillows and candles. I never once thought about what I could be doing or should be doing if I had my laptop. 

* I spent more time reading, meditating and praying. That is never lost time. 

* One of the laptopless days I attended a workshop led by the English spiritual writer Margaret Silf. How perfect that this event, which had been on my calendar, for a long time should land during a time when I needed to be filled and even distracted. A bonus: instead of heading straight to my desk after the workshop day, I rested and allowed the messages of the day to move deeper into my heart.

* The first day of the laptop's homecoming coincided with a plan to spend the day with my sister. For one brief moment I thought about cancelling or modifying our plans so I could get back to work, but I am proud to say I didn't do that. I was able to pause and think about what is most important and what my spirit most needed. And I needed sister time. 

The week was full of many loving and happy moments, and I was able to open to them and envision the Big Picture. 

An Invitation
What are you noticing about yourself? How does observing yourself help you open your heart? I would love to know. 

Margaret Silf
A simple resource to learn about the examen:
Sleeping with Bread by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Break: Brief I hope!

Dear Wonderful Readers, My laptop was recently hacked and I am still recovering from that issue. The Geek Squad at Best Buy are my knights in shining armor, and all is now secure. However, with all the work on my laptop, including major updates, I am discovering all sorts of issues needing attention, so back to Best Buy I go! Needless to say, I am way behind on many responsibilities and projects, but I am trying to stay calm and use my "found time" in other ways. My hope is to be back on track by the beginning of next week. Watch this space! 

In the meantime, perhaps you would enjoy referring back to earlier posts. 

Isn't technology wonderful? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dragonfly Magic: Tuesday's Reflection

NOTE: I am taking a brief break and will not publish a post on Thursday, September 15, but will be back on Tuesday, September 20th.

I started the week with a glorious morning walk in the neighborhood. I left the house soon after all the kids paraded by to the Catholic school just up the block, but I turned in the opposite direction--towards the river. As I stood at a busy intersection, waiting for my turn to cross, I sent out blessings to all those in cars heading to work. I heard a dog standing at his front door, barking in muffled tones, hoping his master would hear him and let him in. For one second I considered going up the sidewalk and opening the door for him. Probably not a good idea. 

I played my usual game, choosing which houses I could imagine living in. My favorite this morning was a curvy brick house sitting up high. I loved the almost floor to ceiling window, arched at the top. 

A few doors down I spotted a plaque tucked in a garden near a driveway citing that house as listed on the National Registry of Historic Properties. The stone house was large, elegant, stately, but not imposing, and I wonder about its story. 

A block away from our house I called my Dad for our morning check-in, always relieved to hear him answer my call with "Hello, dear." And then I was home. I admired the row of box Bruce planted over the weekend, part of his vision for gardening the front yard. The squirrels are delighted with this project --easy places to hide nuts for later feasting. 

I walked up our sidewalk and my eyes were drawn to something on the riser of the lowest step. A dragonfly, a massive body supporting outspread wings almost devoid of color. I got down on my knees to look at it, and even as I write this I wonder if it is still there. 

According to Native American teachings dragonfly teaches us about illusion, challenging us to remember that things are never completely as they seem. Dragonfly urges us to breakdown the illusions you may have about what restricts your actions or ideas. 

At the same time dragonfly offers messages of wisdom and enlightenment, of transformation and a call to the light. Ted Andrews in his book Animal-Speak says that part of dragonfly medicine is that with maturity our own true colors come forth. Does this mean that we drop our illusions and are more willing to live in our own essence? 

I wonder what illusions I carry with me. I wonder in what ways I hide my true essence, causing others only to see what I wish them to see. We all do this to some extent, I think, but I also know we are each called to be who God created us to be. We just don't always know who or what that person is. 

Dragonfly has landed on my step today, and he reminds me to allow my own light to shine forth.

An Invitation
What illusions color your life? Isn't it time you live from your essence? I would love to know about dragonfly lessons in your life. 

Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews
Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Morning Meditation: Thursday's Reflection

I wasn't prepared for the 6:00 alarm. The dark, the rain, the
snuggled in feeling each conspired to keep me in bed, but the activities of a full day urged me to get up. Normally, after making the bed and going up the stairs to the garret for my morning meditation time, I am awake. Not this morning. 

I push myself up the stairs and move my basket of current devotion materials next to me, just as I do each morning, but then I just sit there. My eyes closed. I could easily return to sleep. 

I wrestle with myself a bit. 
"Go ahead. Close your eyes for a few more minutes. What would that hurt?"
"Nope, you are up. Get on with the day. You know you will be glad you did."

Joyce Rupp and Mark Nepo, the authors of my current devotional materials, await my morning routine self, and I turn to today's prayer in Rupp's Fragments of Your Ancient Name. 
              I am the loom full of promise.
              You are the divine weaver.
              The colorful threads you merge
              Consist of my life's components…

This feels right, true, and I try to think for a moment about all the components of my life, but I am distracted, unfocused. I open Mark Nepo's The One Life We're Given and read a chapter, "Our Spirit Path." Even though it is a short chapter, I don't seem to be able to immerse myself in the message. I like the title, I tell myself, and know there is much in those words that could lead into deep reflection. But not this morning. Still, I underline these lines:
          How do you come alive and help keep the world
          together? How do you receive the flow of life that
          draws you to its center?…we're born with a dormant
          set of gifts that we need to inhabit in order to help each
          other become complete.

My gifts feels especially dormant this morning. I open my journal to write, as I do every morning, and the pen hovers over the page. I wait for what needs to be written, but today there is nothing. Finally, I open the small journal where I keep my ongoing prayer list. No day passes without adding some new name or issue to the list. Each day I lift up all the names, but not today.

Today I sit with one name--one family, actually. The family of Jacob Wetterling whose remains were found recently, his killer confessing where he had buried the 11 year old boy in 1989 when he was abducted. This is a story Minnesotans have lived with all these years, and I suspect there are few in the state today who do not ache with and for all those who love Jacob and have missed him all these years. At the press conference on Tuesday, Jacob's mother Patty said,
            He taught us how to live, how to love, how to be
            fair, how to be kind. He speaks to the world that he
            knew, that we all believe in. It is a world worth
            fighting for, His legacy will go on."

I may be tired this morning and unfocused. I may not feel ready for the activities of the day. I may not receive all that is available to me today, but all I really need to remember is to live, love, be fair and kind. 

An invitation
What is your prayer today? I would love to know. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Labor Day: Tuesday's Reflection

All night long it seemed I was trying to order the day ahead. A
restless night after so many in a row of sleeping well. These nights of unrest happen sometimes. Perhaps it was the rain and early in the morning thunder and lightning, but probably not. Just one of those nights.

Bruce got up before 5:00 to get dressed for his last day of working at the State Fair. He has been a ticket taker –something different to do in his semi-retirement—and has thoroughly enjoyed the fair fun and atmosphere. I decided to turn on the light and read. I could have come up to the garret for morning devotions or to write this post or even to do what I hope is the last edit on a chapter for my memoir before I set it aside “at rest” and then start a new chapter. I know those tasks were on my mind during the restless night, along with thinking about painting the inside of the funky closet in the first floor bathroom, a task that has been on my list all summer long. Here it is Labor Day and I have still not done that task.

It was dark and cool and raining outside, and I wondered what stopped me from indulging in a time out for myself. Our houseguests were sleeping in the lower level guest room, and I certainly didn't want to wake them with any kitchen noise as I prepared breakfast or padded around on the first floor. 

And on my bedside table was the new Louise Penny book, A Dead Reckoning. Her most recent book in the mystery series set in Quebec. Over the past couple days I had been reading it, choosing times when I could read undisturbed for a good chunk of time, wanting to savor it. Evenings I sat in the snuggery, our name for our small front room just large enough for two reading chairs, and read. One day I sat at the table in the side garden, private and cool, and had my solitary lunch and read, allotting myself only a certain amount of time before returning to my desk. I read slowly, sometimes reading a paragraph or sentence more than once, not wanting to miss any detail, fully immersing myself into setting and the plot and fully being with the characters I love, but also wanting to slow down my own pace. Don't rush, I told myself. 

I know Bruce is eager to read it, too, but he is gone all day and tired when he gets home and is not reading much right now. Therefore, I don't feel pressured. Still, too soon I approached the end, and I was ambivalent, for once I read the last page I would have to wait a year or more for the next in the series. But I was also eager to know how it all turned out.

The only way to know the ending is to keep reading. To keep turning the pages.

I wasn't disappointed.

And the day is still ahead of me.

An Invitation

What is ahead of you today? I would love to know.  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Words in Print: Thursday's Reflection

You can find me in Barnes and Noble today. All of them or at least most of them. And you might be able to find me other places, too. Just go to the magazine section, and there I am. 

I am there in the form of an essay I wrote called "The Comfort of

Shawls" in the latest issue of Bella Grace, Life's A Beautiful Journey.
Bella Grace

I have had other articles published in various publications, but for some reason this one pleases me the most. Or maybe I have simply forgotten the moment of delight when I know something I have written has been accepted or the surge of pleasure when I see the piece in print. It would be nice if there were a third wave of happiness when a big check comes in the mail, paying me for my work, but BIG checks and being a writer are not normally synonymous. Oh well.

Why am I so pleased this time? Well, for one thing Bella Grace is a luscious-looking quarterly publication. It feels good in your hands and the photography entices you to see beauty all around you. Even more than that the essays, none of them long, whisper connection between your inner voice and your outer movement in the world.  I am thrilled to be included in this issue. 

Here's what I notice about myself, however, and this surprises me. I love knowing that what I write is read by others, and I am honored when you tell me what I have written resonates with you, but more and more what nurtures me is the writing itself --the writing and the time in stillness uncovering what needs to be written and finding the most authentic way to express myself. 

Writing is my way to wake up, to stay awake. Writing is one of the ways I pray.  

In "The Comfort of Shawls," I write, "It seems to me that in order to know comfort, we are called to comfort others, to share our shawls with one another, to wrap our shawl of warmth, concern, and comfort around someone else, and to be present to another's need." In a way that is my mission statement as a writer. 

Therefore, today I write this post, and I work on a chapter in my spiritual memoir, and I note other ideas for essays to submit to Bella Grace and other publications. 

An Invitation
Of course, I hope you will purchase your own copy of Bella Grace and maybe buy a copy as a gift. As periodicals go, it is not inexpensive ($20), but I know you will find pleasure and comfort in its offerings over time. I would love to know what you think. Plus, I would love to know what you do to wake up, to stay awake.