Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sitting: Thursday's Reflection

My "girlfriend" chair in the garret has seen lots of sitting inaction this week. 

This afternoon I go to the dentist for a root canal, and trust me, when I say, that will be a relief. The last few days have been dominated by pain. I did get a prescription for a pain medication, and that has certainly been a big help, but taking it means I can't drive. Bruce has managed our nanny responsibilities, driving the grands to their activities and appointments and has gone to the grocery store for soft foods for me.  

My main activity has been sitting. 

Sitting and Reflecting: I met with writer/teacher Elizabeth Jarrett Andrewat the beginning of the week to discuss next steps for my book. She had amazing insights and suggestions, which will require major revisions, but make lots of sense to me. First, however, she suggested I sit with some of the questions she raised. Sit to see what comes up. 

Sitting and Discerning: I was asked to make a major service commitment. I have learned over the years to sit with important invitations, to consider carefully, prayerfully whether something is a Sacred Yes or a Sacred No--or is there something in-between?

Sitting and Reading: I may be in pain, but not enough to prevent good reading time. I just finished an excellent novel, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson and now I am beginning My Utmost, A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford. I continue to read Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Said Ghobash, which definitely extends my knowledge of Islam, and during morning devotion sitting I started We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren. My favorite line so far is "If you want to know what the Original Artist is like, a smart place to start would be to enjoy the art of creation." 

Sitting and Napping: I am a latecomer to the art of napping, but I seem to be catching on. The "girlfriend" chair is very comfortable and thanks to the medication which causes drowsiness, I have taken numerous naps here the last few days. I surrendered to nap time. 

Sitting and Praying: Praying does not require sitting, but if being active is a challenge, try praying. One name leads to another. One concern or worry or hope leads to another. The intentional time in God's presence is always a gift. 

Sitting with Spiritual Directees: This morning I will meet with two of my directees and I look forward to sitting with them, receiving what sits in their hearts and minds. A privilege, indeed. 

In the past I may have considered these days of sitting to be time lost; time when I wasn't moving forward or accomplishing.  I won't lie and say I haven't struggled with missing some fun family and grandkid time, but mainly I have surrendered. 

This is sitting time. 

An Invitation
What is a current struggle in your life? Where do you feel pain? Could sitting help? I would love to know. 

NOTE: I am taking a break and will not post on Tuesday, July 25 or Thursday, July 27. I will be back in this space on Tuesday, August 1.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Shoes and Other Mistakes: Tuesday's Reflection'

I bought these shoes impulsively. Did I need them? NO! In fact, I have a bag of shoes and other no longer wanted clothing in my closet, which I plan to take to Goodwill.

I didn't have an outfit in my mind when I bought these shoes, but I was attracted to the bright colors and just generally, to their fun look.

These shoes have sat in my closet unworn for a couple months now. I did think about wearing them recently and even put them on. I quickly took them off. They didn't fit right. They didn't look right. In fact, they looked like me ten years or so ago. 

These shoes were a mistake. 

Do you know the feeling? Have you ordered dessert at a restaurant when you are already more than full? Have you sat through a movie or continued reading a book when clearly you didn't like it? 

Have you painted a room and before the brushes were clean, you knew it was the wrong color or have you said to the hairdresser "I want it SHORT," and only when it was too late, did you realize her idea of "short" was not your idea of "short"? Well, it's only paint. It's only hair. 

Correctable mistakes. Just like my shoes. 

I won't waste time agonizing over these shoes, but I admit I do think occasionally about past mistakes I have made in my life. Bigger mistakes. Sins of commission. Sins of omission. 

Some of these mistakes require apologies or acknowledgements. Some of them may need a ritual in order to relegate them soundly to the past. Some of them may need further reflection. Why is it I can't let go of this? How has this mistake influenced my life? What can I learn from this mistake that will enhance my life now? 

I've learned that what plagues me is not the mistake itself, but the way I obsess about the mistake. Sometimes reflection turns into haunting or torment. 

Here's what Hugh Prather says in his The Little Book of Letting Go, a book I often recommend to my spiritual directees. 

             We all nurture and exercise our misery with 
             countless little thoughts throughout the day. Yet, 
             all we need is to be aware of how and when we
             do this, and the door to freedom swings open.

He recommends we adopt the following affirmation:

             I will practice noticing just this much today: I alone
             choose what ruins my attitude and complicates my
             life. I live with the decisions I make about everything
             and everyone around me. I move among these decisions.
             ... An overcast day is nothing more than an overcast day 
             until I decide what it withholds from me personally and
            pick what mood it must inflict...I see what I decide 
            and react as I choose.

Out with the shoes. 

An Invitation
What mistakes dominate your thinking and actions? What are you willing to do to let go of those mistakes? 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

This Stage of Life: Thursday's Reflection

What a week. Sobering and sad, but also clarifying and even uplifting. 

This has been a week to confront some of the realities of this stage of life. The Third Chapter. 

First, long time friends spent the night, and we were witnesses to their struggles. The wife in the couple has a degenerative condition, and we could see how much she has changed since the last time we saw her. We saw how her husband has moved into the caretaking role and the toll it is taking on him. The outlook is grim, and we ache for them.

Second, we attended a funeral for a man who died of ALS. He and his wife are members of our congregation. Our faith family.  We felt compelled to be there, to participate in this ritual, to support his wife as she enters a new stage of life. 

Third, we attended a presentation on green cremation by Bradshaw Funeral and Cremation Services and were so impressed by what we learned. Green cremation is a flameless, eco-friendly alternative to traditional cremation. We left the session feeling clear about this choice for ourselves, and now we will take the next step and tend to all those future arrangements while we are healthy and able.  

How often have you heard someone say, "Old age is not for the faint of heart"? That statement carries some truth, I agree, but doesn't go far enough. Old age is a time to strengthen the heart, open the heart, examine the heart, live from the heart. 

             How to make these last days count, God? To
             live them with courage, and without complaint.
             To give and receive small joys. To teach the
             best already learned and to learn a little more.
                                         Avery Brooke

Yes, sobering and sad, but clarifying and uplifting, too. 

An Invitation
What plans have you made for your own funeral? Do you have a health care directive? Have you had these conversations with your loved ones? I would love to know.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer Loves: Tuesday's Reflection

Those of you who read my blog regularly know I am more of a winter person than a summer person. Nonetheless, I love many things about summer, and not just that the next season is fall!

Here are some of the things I love about summer--in no particular order. 

1.  Gladiolas on the porch. One of my favorite summer destinations when we lived in Ohio was Chautauqua. Every porch on Chautauqua's grounds, it seemed, was graced with a big vase of colorful glads. I am continuing the tradition.

2.   Corn on the cob.

3.    Walking out the door without bundling up.

4.    Summer reading lists. (To see mine, read here.)

5.    Open windows.

6.    Our anniversary--our 46th this year.

7.     Outdoor dining.

8.     The sound of the fountain in our "Paris" courtyard garden.

9.      Walking an outdoor labyrinth.

10.    Geraniums in the window boxes.

11.    Going on field trips.

12.    Young girls in summer dresses.

13.     Making pesto from our basil. 

14.     Reading in the garden.

15.     Bruce happily working in the garden. (Notice the division here--I enjoy the benefits of his hard work!)

16.     Riding in the Miata with the top down. 

17.     Time with the grands.

18.     The appearance of flags for the 4th of July.

19.     Concerts in the park.

20.      Farmers' Market. 

21.     Art Fairs

22.     The Guthrie Theatre's summer musical. This year it is "Sunday in the Park with George." We are going tomorrow night. 

An Invitation
What do you love about summer? I would love to know. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Holiday Weekend Activities: Thursday's Reflection

Friends and family sometimes call me "Nancy, the Cruise Director"
because I am often the one who suggests places to go and things to do. This past weekend was no exception. 

Along with entertaining one evening and  spending a lazy and relaxing afternoon with friends at their home, I selected two destinations from my summer list: Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis and a St Croix River cruise. Not only were both interesting and enjoyable, but both felt relevant to the 4th of July holiday.

Lakewood Cemetery
Often called a "haven in the heart of Minneapolis," Lakewood sits above one of Minneapolis's main lakes, where crowds of people were celebrating the 4th of July in traditional ways--boating, swimming, walking and biking around the lake. The bustling ended once we crossed the cemetery's threshold, however. Established in 1871 when the city had only 13,000 residents, Lakewood is now a guidebook of local history. 

First, we stopped at my mother's gravesite. While this is not where I go to remember or be with her, I did bring pink roses, her favorite. I told her I miss her and love her and think about her every day. 

Then, using a brochure for a self-guided tour, we drove the cemetery's curvy roads, locating monuments for George Beckett who helped establish what became the University of Minnesota Medical School and was an early Minneapolis mayor; Charles Loring who developed the extensive Minneapolis park system; Maggie Menzel who at nineteen was the first person buried at Lakewood; Dr Robert S. Brown, the first black physician to practice in Minneapolis; Clara Hampson Ueland, a champion of the women's suffrage movement and founder of the Minnesota League of Women voters; and many more.

Also buried at Lakewood are two of my heroes: Paul Wellstone and Hubert H. Humphrey. Wellstone, who died in a plane crash in northern Minnesota in 2002 was a U.S. Senator devoted to liberal causes. Humphrey was mayor of Minneapolis, U. S. Senator and Vice President of the United States. I remember standing on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol on a cold January night with thousands of other mourners, waiting to view his coffin.  

Humphrey was called "the happy warrior." Carved on his monument is the following:

              I have engaged my life; its disappointments 
              outweighed by the pleasures. I have loved my
              country in a way that some people consider
              sentimental and out of style, and I remain an
              optimist, with joy, without apology, about this
              country and about the American experiment in

Both of these men were giants in the life of our country, and the phrase "rolling over in their graves" seems to fit when I wonder how they might react to the current political situation. But I also know both men were fighters and believers. Standing by their monuments lifted my heart just a bit, as did the doe and her two fawns perfectly at home in the quiet of the Lakewood grounds. 

St Croix River
The St Croix or "holy cross" is a tributary of the Mississippi River, and the lower end of the river forms the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. We enjoyed an 80 minute paddleboat cruise passing by many kayakers, canoers, hikers, swimmers, picnickers.  

The captain of the "Princess" told us about a famous log jam and about Scandinavian immigrants who disembarked here to begin a new life and about the cliff formations. He didn't say much about the first people who lived there, but I imagined them standing on top of the cliffs or walking through the thick forests. 

I relaxed in the warmth and the gentle breeze and the rhythm of the calm water. I gave thanks for God's creation and for the privilege of enjoying it. I prayed we would be mindful of all we have and not take it for granted. This is "greatness," I thought, and not some false notion of what America needs to be great again. 

Both locations are filled with stories. Gifts and losses. Dreams fulfilled and not. 

Both are sacred. 

An invitation
Have you discovered any sacred places recently. I would love to know. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

4th of July, 2017: Tuesday's Reflection

Over the weekend my husband and I sat in our back yard with two good friends. Bruce's gardens looked cottage perfect, the weather was summer perfect, and life seemed quite perfect, too. 

Our conversation turned to the proposed health care bill and other topics like "white privilege" and "male privilege," and obviously not all is perfect. In fact, not much more than the weather and the garden. 

So how does one celebrate the 4th of July this year? 

We have hung our flag outside the door, as we always do. We have added smaller flags to window boxes and large flower pots and our Uncle Sam vase looks happy, full of daisies and lavender and small flags. The house is festive. Now if I could only feel that way. 

What does it mean to be patriotic these days? 

"Make America Great Again" feels hollow and scary, and my definition of "great" may not be how others define it. We prayed in church Sunday that our president and other elected leaders would act with "wisdom, honor, and integrity," but with each passing day I doubt that can be, will be the case. 

I remembered a prayer for leaders written by John O'Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us, A Book of Blessings, and after praying this prayer the last couple mornings, I realized this is a prayer for me, too. For the way I live each day. I need to live and act with "wisdom, honor and integrity." Here's an excerpt:

                 May you have the grace and wisdom
                 To act kindly, learning
                 To distinguish between what is
                 Personal and what is not.

                 May you be hospitable to criticism.

                 May you never put yourself at the center of things.

                 May you act not from arrogance but out of service.

                 May you work on yourself,
                 Building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May it be so. 

An Invitation
As part of your 4th of July celebration, I encourage you to lift a prayer for our President and other leaders and for yourself as a citizen of this country and, in fact, a citizen of the world. What is your prayer? I would love to know.