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. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In my 70th Year: Tuesday's Reflection

Tuesday's Post --A Day Late. A sign of Aging???

I celebrated my 69th birthday this past week, and now I am in my 70th year.

How is that possible? 

Do I feel 69? Do I look 69? (Don't answer that, my ego, says.)

On Friday I attended a monthly writing session conducted by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew at Wisdom Ways. The focus was on questions, and she opened the session with a time for silence. "Notice what questions arise within you."

First, I was bombarded with questions about my work. Will I find an agent? Will I find a publisher? Will my book become a reality? What else do I want to write? 

But then I settled more into the quiet, the space of the moment, and the outer voices and concerns and prompts eased away. 

How do I fully live and love in my elder years? 

In a way this has been my question to myself all along, no matter my age. How do I live in the present moment? How do I live fully regardless of where I live? Oh how I feel? How do I bridge the current transition time without wishing for what was, what might have been? How do I face the unknowns with an open heart? 

One of my birthday presents was Anne Lamott's new book, Hallelujah Anyway, Rediscovering Mercy, and early in the book she quotes Rilke, "I want to unfold. I don't want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie." Lamott uses the phrase "the great unfolding."

That's it, isn't it? To live and love fully, we need to unfold. Unfolded we are open. Unfolded we allow in new energy, new expanse, new vistas. New awareness of where we have been and perhaps, new acceptance of who and where we are on this path.

A dear friend who doesn't turn 69 till the fall emailed me on my birthday encouraging me to be a "fearless leader" in this aging process. I don't know exactly what that means, for like everyone else I am just doing my best to put one foot in front of the other, but what I do know is that this is the time I have--whether it is one more day or many more years. 

This is the time to unfold. 

An Invitation
How do you intend to live fully right now? I would love to know. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wisdom in the Room: Thursday's Reflection

For the last couple days my garret has been in a state of controlled 
chaos. Instead of jumping immediately into my next writing tasks after the pitch conference, I decided it was time to clean my working space. To the casual observer, the garret appeared neat and orderly, but I could feel the dust bunnies under the bookshelves planning an invasion. "Today when she least expects it, let's converge and ooze out onto the open floor space. Let's force a confrontation."

Grabbing my Swiffer, I took the offensive position. I emptied each shelf and dusted over, under, around before returning each stack of books in the correct alphabetical or subject order. The dust bunny brigade was defeated, and I declared the battle won. 

 Of course, temptation hovered throughout this process. How easy it would have been to be seduced by all the spiritual wisdom in the room. 

Books I want to reread.

Books used to plan a retreat or class.

Books by authors I have met or heard speak.

Books that were just what I needed at a specific time in my life.

Books that show my evolution as a spiritual director.

Books that trace my spiritual life.

How easy it would have been to sit with Thomas Merton or Joan Chittister or John O'Donohue or Elizabeth Johnson today. How enticing it would have been to start reading one of the books waiting patiently for me. Books such as A Faithful Farewell, Living Your Last Chapter with Love by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre or Wisdom of the Body, A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women by Christine Valters Painter. 

Almost bewitched, I used my broom to break the spell and returned each stack to their proper place. Marcus Borg next to Joan Borysenko and Phyllis Tickle rubbing covers with Krista Tippett

Frankly, I deserve a medal for my valor. I was not diverted from the  objective. The garret is now clean, and I am ready to return to my day to day hands-on-the- keyboard tasks, for I am surrounded by so much wisdom. 

An Invitation
How aware are you of the wisdom in your room? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pitch Conference: Tuesday's Reflection

"The soul holds expectations lightly and is not attached to the 
outcome. The soul takes her time, embraces the slow ripening of things, and savors what is to be learned from the process."

                       Christine Valters Paintner

These are the words I prayed as I prepared for the Pitch Conference at The Loft this past weekend. 

This conference was an opportunity to meet with literary agents and pitch your book project. Each writer-agent session was only eight minutes, and each writer was paired with three agents during the two-days. The hope is that an agent will ask you to send them more information, including all or part of your manuscript. Along with the speed dating, participants attended panel discussions and workshops and, of course, had informal conversations with other writers. 

The conference was intense, informative, and exhausting. 

Encouraging and helpful.

No, none of the three agents with whom I met asked me to send them a query letter or parts of my book. My book is a spiritual memoir, and none of the agents at the conference represent that genre, although many do represent memoir. Not receiving an invitation for further contact was not a surprise, so why did I feel so encouraged?

Two of the three agents were complimentary of both the content of my pitch and my delivery and all three gave me concrete next steps to take. One of the agents indicated that if spiritual memoir was something she felt she could represent well, she would be interested in my book. That sent me soaring! In my heart and mind that was a positive outcome indeed.

I worked diligently to prepare for this conference. I read lots of material about pitches and incorporated suggestions into my pitch. I attended a pitch practice session with an editor, which was incredibly helpful. My writing group  made strong suggestions, too. I memorized my 4 minute pitch and practiced it carefully, in order to be at ease and conversational. 

All those things were important, but even more important was entering the time and space with a light and open heart, rather than a tight grip. My goal was to detach from a specific outcome and instead, welcome this opportunity to grow. 

One more note: Towards the end of the conference another writer asked me how my agent meetings had gone, and I told her how encouraged I was. She assumed that meant the agents requested material from me, and I explained briefly why I was encouraged. She then attempted to reassure me and offered suggestions of what I should do, including not to be discouraged. Clearly, she didn't believe me. 

At first, I doubted myself. Maybe I shouldn't feel so positive about my agent interactions. Maybe I am naive. Maybe I am covering up disappointment. Nope. I know what I feel. I know what happened in my pitch sessions. 

I know there is room for more than one positive outcome. 

Thanks to all of you, by the way, who have been so supportive of this step on my writing pilgrimage. I took your support with me. 

And now it is back to work. 

An Invitation
Are you currently holding on tightly to some expectation or outcome? I would love to know.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Time to Leave the Garret: Thursday's Reflection

I spent the winter in my office garret.

No, I wasn't being punished, although on difficult writing days, I wondered. I set  goals for myself and that meant tucking up in the garret for hours every day. Even weekends.

My day in the garret began with morning meditation and prayer time, followed by reading the paper and other emails online. 

Then after a shower and getting dressed I returned to work at my desk. Some days I met with spiritual direction clients or did errands or even occasionally left to do something fun, something nongoal oriented, like meeting a friend for lunch. But many days I pretended a gate at the bottom of the stairs was locked, and I couldn't get out till it was time to fix dinner. 

Since Bruce's desk is in the lower level, we sometimes texted each other with a question, but for the most part we only met briefly during the day in the kitchen. And then I climbed the stairs back up to the garret.

Well, it is time to leave the garret. 

I have basically met my winter goals, which culminate tomorrow when I attend the pitch conference. At the conference I will meet with three agents and in each eight minute session I will pitch my book. I am not attached to the outcome and know the chances of an agent showing interest is not likely, but the experience will be a great learning experience, and besides this was one of my goals. 

While I still have a great deal to do to "finish" my book and to find an agent or publisher, I know it is time to balance garret time with other aspects of my life. 

And so what will I do when I leave the garret? 

I have avoided making that list, but, of course, it is percolating in my head. Instead, I am going to take some time off the rest of this month. I am going to see what attracts me, where I feel like spending time and energy and with whom. I know I will continue to work on my book, but shorter writing projects appeal, too. I know I want to resume daily walking--outside, instead of up and down the garret stairs. I know I will participate in a variety of church and community opportunities, and I know I will connect with family and friends. But I also look forward to sitting in the side garden, which we call "Paris," and read. Here I go making a list!!!! 

For now leaving the garret is enough. 

An Invitation
What do you need to leave? A place? A task? An obligation? An attitude? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Rain: Tuesday's Post

Yesterday a light rain broke through the grey. I sat at my desk in the garret and the light tapping on the roof accompanied the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. A soothing sound, but unfortunately, the shower only lasted a few minutes. 

I realize other parts of the country would appreciate some dryer days, but after our snowless winter, we need the rain. We need the refreshing. Our lawns are waiting for an excuse to turn green, and the tulips and daffodils are eager to make an appearance. They apparently need to be coaxed into further action, greater revelation. 

I found my own version of refreshment and followed the invitation of spring as I washed bedding and replaced winter quilts and blankets with a brighter, lighter, happier look. I ironed the duvet cover and the antique white coverlet and even the white airy curtains to replace the cozy grey velvet ones. I wrestled the duvet into its cover, wondering why these covers don't open flat with buttons on one complete side. I was in and out of the laundry room and up and down the stairs frequently, accomplishing one step of the total task at a time. 

So often I can't see I have accomplished anything by the end of the day. When I spend the day writing, I may end up with less than I started--tossing paragraphs or even chapters aside. If I meet with a client, I pray our time together makes a difference, but I don't always know. If I bake, we eat it. When I make phone calls to my government officials, who knows if it makes a difference, a real difference. 

But today I can look in the bedroom and say, "Ah, look at what I did today." 

Today I can look out my window and know that the spring rain, when it comes, will make a difference. 

An Invitation
What do you do when you need to be refreshed? I would love to know.