Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sacred Ground, A Visit to the Jeffers Petroglyphs: Tuesday's Reflection

Below my feet I feel the presence of the great rock. Among the markings, barely visible, I see the outlines of an ancient hand, scratched there tens of thousands of years ago by an unknown traveler. Without thinking, I get down and place my hand against the outline. It fits perfectly.

My hand is warm. The stone is cold. But in the touch something is passed, and I am humbled beyond understanding.
                   Voice in the Stones
                   Life Lessons from the 
                   Native Way
                   Kent Nerburn

Older than Stonehenge. 

Older than the pyramids.

Nestled in the native prairie, grasses swaying to their own music, red rock, Sioux quartzite, emerges like the back of a whale from the ocean. And on the back of these landed leviathans are ancient carvings ranging from 7,000 years old to a mere 250 years old.

Where am I? The Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwestern Minnesota, not far from the South Dakota border.

Our guide asks us to remove our shoes before stepping off the trail bordered by the waving grasses. I remember removing my shoes before entering a mosque in Malaysia and Buddhist temples in Thailand. I always remove my shoes before walking a labyrinth, before doing T'ai Chi, and most of the time as I enter our home. 

Sacred Ground. Sacred Space. A place of worship.

I walk carefully, slowly, knowing deep within that I am now walking where for thousands of years others have walked. 

In reverence. In wonder. In gratitude. 

As our guide points out the pock marked carvings of circles, people, buffalo, thunderbirds, my eyes adjust and I, too, begin to see the abundance of markings. Long-legged people. Crescent shapes. Turtles. Hands. 

 They are everywhere. 

Like Nerburn, I, too, bend to place my own hand in the hand carving. My hand nestles in the indentation. I am holding hands with those who have walked before me. 

To American Indians rock formations emerging from the earth provide a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Much is unknown about why this place, what the specific symbols mean, and who was responsible for these gifts, but one thing seems clear:

            I was tied to the earth, and to all those who have 
            walked upon it, in a way as solid and fundamental 
            as the very rock itself.
                                                  Kent Nerburn

An Invitation
Where have you experienced sacred space? I would love to know. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lull Time: Thursday's Reflection

"A lull can be soothing, tranquilizing, and even restorative. It can be a time to retune and replenish. A lull can suggest a state of peaceful hovering, a prolonged mental daydream, a weightless interval."

When I came across these words in Birds Art Life A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear I recognized myself and what I am currently experiencing. 

A lull. Like a sailboat on a lake when there is no wind. All is calm and no one is panicky about the lack of movement. The shore is not far and the day is young. All is well. This is its own time. A gentle breeze will come eventually. Or the stillness may be replaced by stronger, more propelling, compelling forces. But this is now. 

I don't feel indecisive or stuck or exhausted or depressed. I don't feel uncertain or empty. I don't particularly feel a need for a time-out. I know what that feels like. I am not bored nor am I am wondering what the next big thing might be. Nor am I ignoring the everyday tasks that need to be done, like paying bills or doing the laundry. 

Instead I feel a certain contentment, a certain openness, a willingness to notice what it feels like not to rush from one thing to another. What moves slowly, undemandingly across my mind is "What would you like to do today?" Perhaps that is a summer question, one addressed while dozing in a hammock or in my case choosing the next book to read and do I want to read it sitting in our sanctuary garden, in the snug or my Girlfriend Chair in the garret? A lull leaves room for that level of questions. 

Maclear addresses the fear that a lull can turn into a rut and the muse can disappear. Perhaps, but not today. She adds, "By definition, one does not know whether a lull is interesting or uninteresting, fruitful or unfruitful, until it is over."

I've decided to trust that this time will bring its own benefits. I've decided to honor this lull time for what it is and whatever it turns out to be. 

An Invitation
When have you experienced a lull? What did that feel like? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Jury's Decision: Tuesday's Reflection

The jury delivered its verdict last week on the shooting of Philando Castile by police officer Jeronimo Yanez. Yanez was acquitted on all counts. I wasn't there. I didn't hear all the evidence, but once again our community is in the midst of pain and conflict.

I needed church on Sunday and was grateful I had a place to go where I would hear words of challenge, words of healing, words of compassion, words of confession. 

First, words from Patricia Lull, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

         One jury has spoken. Another jury is still out. That
         second jury weighs our own response as people of faith.

         We have so much soul work to do. Can we learn to 
          listen to the frustration of the African-American
          community and hear in it an authentic cry for justice
          at the most profound level? Can we take the hard,
          consistent steps that all of us need to take to regard
          each other across the lines of race and ethnicity and
          class by checking our unnamed assumptions and fears? 
          Can we in the church hold ourselves to working 
          step by step to dismantle the racism that structures
          too much of our communal life?

And then words of confession and forgiveness:

          Gracious God, we thank you for making one
          human family of all the peoples of the earth and
          for creating all the wonderful diversity of cultures.

          Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of 
          fellowship and show us your presence in those 
          who differ most from us. ...

          Forgive those of us who have been silent and
          apathetic in the face of racial intolerance and 
          bigotry, both overt and subtle, public and private.
          Take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our

          Break down the walls that separate us.
          Help us to find the unity that is the fruit of
          righteousness. Enable us to become your
          beloved community. 

          Empower us to speak boldly for justice and truth
          and help us to deal with one another without
          hatred or bitterness, working together with mutual
          forbearance and respect.
          Work through our struggles and confusion to 
           accomplish your purposes. 

An Invitation
I invite you to lift up your prayers for peace and justice. 
I invite you to reach out for peace and justice in some way. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Memory Time: Thursday's Reflection

When you return to a location where you once lived, you are apt to
be flooded with memories. That happened when we were in Madison to attend the 50th wedding anniversary party of dear friends. We lived in Madison for six years prior to moving back to St Paul. 

During that brief visit we went to our favorite bookstore in Spring Green, Arcadia Books. Don't miss it if you are in the area. We had lunch at a favorite restaurant Villa Dolce and enjoyed the pear gorgonzola pizza once again. 

The day after the party we drove to Monches Farm, a favorite nursery and gift shop about an hour away from Madison. 

As we drove down familiar streets and roads, we reminisced about the many things we enjoyed during the years we lived there. I guess this was a memory lane time. 

Since moving back to St Paul, I have tended to think about the Madison years as a transition time between our years in Ohio and the return to where we had raised our family. It can be challenging to be present and live fully when the next big thing is looming, but not quite happening. And part of our life in Madison was consumed by the next step.

But those years were not only about being in-between one place and another. We lived there. We made friends there. Bruce had a demanding and meaningful job there. Our home was often filled with family and friends. We developed a list of "favorites,"and a comfortable loop of life. We created memories. 

How good it was to be reminded that we had lived there, lived as fully as we could. How good it is to be reminded of the gifts in one's life. 

An Invitation
Is there something in your life that can be viewed in more than one way? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Time: Tuesday's Post

 Every Sunday I like to plot the coming week. 

I open my notebook to a new page and write the heading "Week of ..." and then list each day of the new week and what is on the schedule, including our daughter Kate's requests for kid help. 

 As I create my "to do" list for the week, I think about writing I intend to do during the week. My Tuesday and Thursday blog posts, of course, but other writing plans as well. I list any church responsibilities I may have and what home tending and errand running I need to do. Over the course of the week I add other items as they occur to me--listing them under a heading called "add-ons." I am happy when I don't have anything under the "leftovers" category, but that usually is not the case. 

For the most part it is a good routine. I like going to bed on Sunday night having a basic idea of what to expect during the coming days. That generally works well for me and helps me juggle the variety of colorful balls in my life.  

Now that it is summer, however, I need to loosen my grip and let a ball or two drop to the sidelines.  

This week Bruce and I began our summer job as nannies for Peter and Maren. The job is not a difficult one and we welcome this opportunity to be involved in the grands' lives and to help our daughter and son-in-love. But there is a shift. My plans become much more about their plans and needs.  Swim team practice every morning. Maren bikes back and forth, but Pete needs a ride. Maren has three hours of classroom driver's ed for the next two weeks in an outlying suburb. Which days will I be the designated driver? And what about Pete when he isn't at camp? Will he just want to hang out at home or maybe he will want to start working on the wolf scrapbook we have discussed or go to the library? And, of course, there is the friend factor. Who is available for a Nerf Battle? 

Every week will be different. Each day is its own day. I will still think ahead as much as possible, but my mantra will be to let go when the plan changes. It means using the time I have and not regretting the time I don't. I'll move from one segment of the day to another, and the day will unfold. 

I don't promise to stop making lists this summer, but perhaps I can consult them a bit less and enjoy the space that creates in my life. To do that I need to be present to the gifts of this summer, this chapter of my life. And isn't that the ongoing opportunity and  challenge? Isn't that the main "to do" for the rest of my days? Be Present. 

An Invitation
In what ways will you be present to summer? I would love to know. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Summer Beauty: Thursday's Reflection

"May you breathe in the beauty of summer with its power of transformation." 

"May you seek and find spaces of repose during these summer months.
May these moments refresh and restore the tired places within you."

"May your eyes see the wonders of summer's colors."

"May these colors delight you and entice you into contemplation and joy."

"Blessed are you, summer,
season of long days and short night,
you pour forth light from your golden orb,
energizing the earth and calling forth growth."

An Invitation
What do you experience as summer blessings? I would love to know. 

NOTE: The words are from Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr's book, The Circle of Life, The Heart's Journey Through the Seasons. The garden is by the master gardener at our house, my husband Bruce. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Summer Reading: Tuesday's Reflection

I wonder why I feel the need to create a summer reading list for
myself. I have great freedom to read whenever I want. Still, there is something about anticipating the three months ahead as an optimal reading time. I presume this is a leftover from the school years--both as a student and as a teacher. Whatever---I love thinking about and planning what I will read, almost as much as actually reading. 

Here are my offerings for the 2017 summer reading season.

1. Books by Gail Godwin. I just read her memoir, Publishing, A Writer's Memoir, and now I want to re-read The Odd Woman, and A Mother and Two Daughters, and Father Melancholy's Daughter and others. At one time I owned most of her books, but now off to the library I will go. 
2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. (Just started it--only 125 pages in and so far I am entranced by the language._
3. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. We own such a lovely edition of this classic, and I imagine finding a sheltered place outdoors to re-read it.  
4. Additional Willa Cather books. I am about halfway through her reading her twelve novels, a 2017 goal. The next two are My Mortal Enemy and Death Comes to the Archbishop
5. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. 
6. Delight of Being Ordinary, A Road Trip With the Pope and the Dalai Lama. I came across this book in one of my favorite independent bookstores. I know nothing about it, but I love the cover and the concept intrigues me. 

I own all of the above books, but I also plan to buy three new novels: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, now in paperback; Home Going by Yaa Gyasi; and Anything is Possible by  Elizabeth Street.

I am more inclined to read fiction, but my shelves devoted to nonfiction books I own, but have not yet read are overflowing. I have set the following aside as potential for this summer.
1. I am currently reading a Joan Chittister, Following the Path, The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy, during my morning meditation time, and when I have finished that I will turn to On Living by hospice chaplain Kerry Egan.
2. Grounded, Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass. At some point I read the first few chapters and then it got set aside. I am eager to revisit what I have read and to move forward with the rest. 
3. The Road to Character by David Brooks. I so respect Brooks as a writer for the New York Times and commentator on PBS's News Hour. Our book group selected this for discussion in September. 
4. Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Said Ghobash. I think this will be a good follow-up to the "My Neighbor is Muslim" discussion group at church this spring. 
5. Birds, Art, Life, A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear. "A luminous meditation on creativity, care taking, and the beauty of daily life--the small and significant moments that provide meaning and solace."
6. A Homemade Life, Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg. I think I have read this book before, but something I read recently directed me back to it. Feels delicious in my hands. 

I also have set aside a couple books from my shelves of writing books: Women, Writing and Soul-making by Peggy Tabor Millin and on a more practical level, 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected by Mike Nappa.  

Of course, I reserve the right to divert from my list. Isn't that what summer is all about--following the whim of the moment?

An Invitation
What do you plan to read this summer? I would love to know. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sympathy Cards: Thursday's Reflection

My stash of sympathy cards, get well, and "thinking of you" cards  was totally depleted. How long had it been since I bought a pile to have on hand? Not long, I sigh. 

Sympathy Card #1 
Late Tuesday afternoon my father called to tell me a dear friend of his, a former colleague, had just died. In spite of Harry's many health problems, he had called my father on the East Coast every morning at 9:00. He had done that since my mother died fourteen years ago. Their conversations were brief, but the connection was deep. I am so sorry for Harry's family, but I am also sad for my dad. He will listen for a phone call that can no longer come. 

Sympathy Card #2
A dear friend emailed to say a cousin whom she counted as one of her treasures had died in an accident while biking in Ireland. I didn't know this woman, but had heard my friend talk about her. My friend is one of those people who holds loved ones close and this will leave a hole in her heart. 

And then there are the get well and "thinking of you" cards I need to send: a friend with pneumonia who was told by her physician this is a "big deal;" another friend who has lost part of herself and her life because of a dementia-like condition, and a spiritual directee who struggles with many health issues, and others. I think about the friend who has rheumatoid arthritis and all those I know who need knee or hip or shoulder surgery. The list seems to grow every day.

The sales clerk at the gift shop where I replenished my stack of sympathy and other cards commented on my choices. "I'm sorry you need so many of these cards." She is a young woman, and I hope her life has been relatively untouched by loss. I responded, "I am 69, and I am beginning to understand both the blessing and the burden of a long life." 

The blessing is the ongoing gift of life, of living, of engaging, growing, of deepening. The burden is carrying loss and suffering and change and saying good bye.

I didn't say all that to the young woman, for she will find out soon enough for herself. We wished each other a good day, and I returned home. 

                        You grieve what you love,
                        You love what you grieve. 
                                            John Katz

An Invitation
What kind of card do you wish someone would send you? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Roaming and Retirement: Tuesday's Reflection

Hey, Downton Abbey fans, remember the Dowager's question,

"What's a weekend?

In our retirement or semi-retirement years we might ask a similar question? What's the difference between a weekday and a weekend? Some of the boundaries around time have loosened. Instead of waiting eagerly for the weekend to appear so we can ____ or _____ (Fill in the blank.), we now have greater flexibility. 

The trick is adapting to that flexibility. 

At the beginning of last week I suggested we go visit some of the nurseries and greenhouses listed in an article in the St Paul Pioneer Press. We had been to most of them in the Twin Cities, but not the ones in the outlying areas. My husband and I love to roam, and I was yearning to get out into the country. Our first thought was to do that on Saturday, but Thursday evening, I posed a novel idea. How about tomorrow? Friday? We had nothing on the schedule, and there was absolutely no reason to wait till the weekend.

A few weeks ago we met friends for brunch on a weekday morning,  which felt slightly decadent and rebellious. And delicious. 

We can do this. We have the luxury of doing this. Let's do it.

The opposite is true, also. My husband works part time at home for Agrace Hospice in Madison, WI. An online position which he can do on his own schedule. That means sometimes he works on a Saturday or Sunday or early, early in the mornings or whenever. Not just Monday through Friday, 9-5. And I can write whenever I want to write. The only clock either of us has to punch is our internal one.

Old habits die hard and acting on this freedom doesn't come naturally. So what's next? Maybe a middle of the day movie on a Tuesday or a dinner party on a Wednesday night. What a concept! 

An Invitation
How has the concept of time changed for you as you have gotten older? I would love to know.

#1  Funkie Gardens, Marine on St Croix, MN
#2  My Sister's Garden, Hudson, WI
#3  Country Sun Farm, Lake Elmo, MN

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Morning Question: Thursday's Reflection

What are the questions that get you up in the morning?

One afternoon this week my Third Chapter Planning Team from church met here in the garret to review our mission, as well as the recent opportunities for continued growth, inspiration, and fellowship we have offered. This group is not short on ideas, and we filled several flip chart pages with goals and themes and ideas and topics for summer and fall programs.  

By the way, if you are 55 or older you  are in the Third Chapter stage of life.

As we considered future programming, we discussed how the Third Chapter is often a time of major change and transition. Those changes frequently involve loss, including loss of one's identity and purpose. One may no longer have a ready answer for what gets you up in the morning. 

I like the way Adam S. McHugh in his book The Listening Life, Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction phrases the question. 

"What are the questions that get you up in the morning?" 

This addresses one's personal mission and purpose. It inspires  curiosity and encourages new growth. 

McHugh doesn't believe we each are limited to one calling in our lifetime, and he certainly doesn't believe when we have achieved the goals or intention of an earlier calling that we are DONE. The Third Chapter, in fact, can be a time to discover a new calling, to explore new questions.

            We listen for the questions that are far reaching, 
            usually just out of reach, God-oriented but not
            necessarily religious, motivated by love, requiring
            faith, and steeped in hope. ... The right questions 
            sweep you up and take you to new places and new 
            people, moving you forward into risk, compelling
            you to keep going when you encounter obstacles.
                                                        pp 199-200

McHugh's response to his own question is, "How do people change?...I am driven to know how it is that we are transformed from one person to another, deeper and deeper into the image of Christ." 

During a recent morning meditation time, I thought about my own get-up-in-the-morning questions. 
          What can I do to encourage self-discovery, self-
           How can I help others deepen their relationship 
           with the Divine, the Sacred, the Holy?
           How can I lead a life of greater openness and
           awareness of the Holy?  

Living answers to these questions excite me, motivate me, and lead to all sorts of possibilities.          

For much of our adult life, we have probably taken for granted the reason we get up in the morning, and we may even have wished we could extend the night and not have so many demanding reasons to get out of bed. This Third Chapter stage is the time to allow a new question or the reframing of a previous question to enter your life. Perhaps your question is, "What is my new question?" or "Who am I now?" Now that's exciting! 

An Invitation
What are the questions that get you up in the morning? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rain and Reading: Tuesday's Reflection

Rain and more rain. And cold. 

Once I realized my plan to meander in the country, visiting a number of nurseries, was not the best idea, I moved into my default activity: reading. 

I interspersed reading time with some cleaning, baking muffins, writing a letter, and even doing some work at my desk, but the hours were deliciously book-filled.

May I recommend:
1.     Exit West a novel by Mohsin Hamid.  Set in an unnamed war torn city the story focuses on a young couple who decide to flee. They hear whispers about a mysterious door (Think C.S. Lewis's Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.) that can lead to a new life. The first door is not the final door, however, and this book, which is an amazing combination of metaphor, fantasy, and reality, illuminated the courage and resilience needed to be an immigrant today. Excellent!

2.     Hourglass, Time Memory, Marriage, a memoir by Dani Shapiro. I am a huge fan of her earlier book, Still Writing, The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. How much room do I have for quotes from this earlier book, which, I think, I need to read again? 

           We are part of a great tapestry of those who have
           preceded us. And so we must ask ourselves: Are 
           we feeling with our minds? Thinking with out hearts?
           Making every empathic leap we can? Are we witnesses
           to the world around us? Are we climbing on the 
           shoulders of those who paved the way for us? Are
           we using every last bit of ourselves, living these lives
           of ours, spending it spending it all, every single day?

The new book is about how marriage is transformed over time, and all of us who are or who have been married understand that premise. The book, never sappy, becomes a love letter, but not without misspelled moments or words mistakenly left out. She explores a question we all wonder about our spouses now and then, "Do I know you?" and life goes on. 

3.     The Professor's House, Willa Cather's seventh novel and perhaps my favorite. I am reading all of her novels in the order in which they were written and could hardly wait to get to this one, which I loved when I read it the first time many years ago. Perhaps I love it because of the professor's attachment to his third floor study, even after his wife moves into a new house. As in all of her books, politically incorrect references are sometimes made, but reflective of her time. Read on, anyway. This is the line that sticks with me in this study of emotional dislocation and renewal:
                The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no 
                matter how close it has been to one's own.

The next Cather book is My Mortal Enemy.

4.     The Listening Life, Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh. This is my book of choice right now during my morning meditation time. My favorite chapters so far are "Listening to God" and "Listening to Others," but there is also an excellent section about the seasons in "Listening to Creation." My prayer is that this book will help me evolve into a better listener. McHugh reminds us:

                 When we listen to people, we are embracing
                 them as whole, not fractions, even if they offer
                 only a small part of themselves to us. That small
                 part is attached to big parts, big memories, big
                 stories, big feelings, big losses, and big dreams.

5.      On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I have never read one of King's bestselling novels and more than likely I won't read any in the future, but I value his passion for writing, reading, life. 

I ended the weekend satisfied and restored and with fewer books on my ever-growing stack. 

A Side Note
A few weeks ago on the radio program "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me," they suggested the best second line for any book is "And then the murders began." For example, the first line in The Professor's House is "The moving was over and done." Now add, "And then the murders began." Try it with a favorite book or one you are currently reading.  A fun twist! 

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. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Daffodils from a Friend: Thursday's Post

A friend brought me these daffodils Sunday morning. 

Our front door was open, and I saw her coming up our walk. She was holding a bouquet of daffodils tightly in her hand, and she was beaming. Her smile was as sunny as the yellow of the flowers, but seeing her made me want to cry. 

My friend has a progressive degenerative neurological disease, and each time we see her, we notice changes in her behavior and abilities. 

Her husband and family and friends are adapting their lives to meet her needs, and along the way there are many losses. The outlook is daunting, but for her there are daffodils growing in her yard. 

           Begin doing what you want to do now.
           We are not living in eternity.
           We have only this moment, sparkling like a star 
            in our hand---and melting like a snowflake.
                                           Francis Bacon, Sr. 

An Invitation
What is it you want and need to do before the daffodils are gone? I would love to know.