Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Preparing for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Tuesday's Reflection

Approaching Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year feels different to
me than in years' past. Most likely that is because I went on a weeklong Civil Rights Tour, mainly in Alabama in Mississippi, this past November. (See my blog posts for November 13, 15, 20, and 27, 2018) I know the day will feel more poignant now that I have visited not only the place where Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, but also Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery where he was pastor and the parsonage there where King and his family lived together for the last time. 

Now that I have been to so many places where people risked their livelihood and their very lives in order to break the barriers of inequality and hatred, this upcoming holiday no longer feels like a commemoration of one man. He inspired many along the way. He made a major difference in the course of history in this country, but he wasn't alone. 

On Martin Luther King, Jr, Day, January 21, 2019, I will think about the courage of others who dared to act and who continue to share their stories as inspiration and as a call to the rest of us to act. 
Here are a few of the people, Civil Rights footsoldiers, who shared their stories with our group in November. 

Jo Ann Bland. After a supper of spaghetti and peach cobbler in the Tabernacle Baptist Church basement, Jo Ann shared her story, beginning with "I am tired of white liberal women." That got our attention! She clarified, saying she is tired of people announcing what they are doing. "Just do it." As the youngest person at age 11 to be jailed in Selma, she has DONE IT, and continues to do it. 

Jo Ann became a freedom fighter when she told her grandmother she wanted to sit at the drug store counter, and her grandmother told her she could do that when she got her freedom. Before that Jo Ann's mother died when she needed a transfusion after giving birth and had to wait for "black blood." She accompanied her grandmother many times to the courthouse in hopes of registering to vote, and she herself has been jailed 13 times. She marched on Bloody Sunday, TurnAround Tuesday and finally completed the Selma to Montgomery march to the Alabama Capitol in 1965. Jo Ann admitted how hard it was, how hard it is, to "meet hate with love." 

Vera Harris and her daughter Dr. Valda Harris Montgomery. The Harris home is located only a few doors away from the parsonage where Dr. King lived with his family. Dr. Montgomery was good friends with the King children and called Dr. King, "Uncle Martin." The Harris home housed 17 freedom riders on the third floor during the bus boycott in Montgomery and along with being fed, they were given sanctuary there. 

Dr. Montgomery shared how hate filled her after King's assassination. "I felt hate for the first time in my life," but she went on to transform that hate into a passion for education and for sharing the stories. How grateful I am she is doing that, for her mother, Mrs. Harris, who joined us on her front porch, saying with a big smile how happy she was we stopped by and wanted to know where we were from, is losing her memory and had no memories to share with us about Dr King or his family or the ways she and her husband had worked in the movement. 

Jeanne Graetz. Sometimes the footsoldiers were white. Jeanne's husband Bob was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, an all black congregation in Montgomery. Jeanne told us how Bob was asked to promise not to start trouble when he started his ministry in Montgomery. "He didn't. He joined." Her job, she modestly told us was to "keep children from being afraid," and that was no small task since they received many threats for their active involvement in the movement. She told a story about a group of white men who parked in front of their house in an attempt to intimidate her, and she stared right back at them until eventually they left. Their church and home were bombed many times and remembering one man who threw a bomb at the house, she said, "I forgave him many times and took it back. I finally got freed from him." 

I could go on, remembering Beverly and Randy McClelland in Philadelphia, Mississippi who fed us lunch, including the best peach cobbler I have ever had, in their cafe and grocery store. They went to a white elementary school and were told they didn't have to work, but just don't cause trouble. Or Waltha Kennie in Marion, Alabama who told us most of the people from Marion who marched in Bloody Sunday have scar tissue from the tear gas. "It is too much to talk about," and yet, she pushed herself to share stories with us.

And I think about Nancy Lee in Gees Bend, Alabama, who is one of the women carrying on the quilting legacy of African American women in that part of the country, dating from the days of sharecropping. We hugged when I told her my name is Nancy Lee, too. To be sure, we have different stories, but that doesn't mean we don't share the same hopes for equality and freedom. 

I hold all these foot soldiers, along with others, in my heart, and while I can never fully know what they have experienced in their lives, I can honor them and do what I can to achieve the goals of the civil rights movement. 

An Invitation
What will you do to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ongoing struggle for equality? I would love to know. 

NOTE: Three of us from this civil rights tour will be presenting an adult forum at our church, Gloria Dei, on Sunday, January 20 at 9:30. All are welcome. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hometending and Creativity: Thursday's Reflection

We have restored the house to non-holiday order. As much as I love 
all the Christmas decorations, how good it feels to put them away and discover a bit of space in the house. Arranging new vignettes and filling in shelves in a new way is a form of creativity for me, and I love shopping the house for a new look. 

I often start with the table in the entry way.

And then fill the shelves of the old painted cupboard in the living room. 

I wander from room to room, picking up a book here, a vase there. I test them, turn them, stand back and look. Nope, not quite right, and continue the process. Yes, I know it takes time--time when I could be sitting at my desk writing, but creating a atmosphere that is pleasing and interesting and unique to our home, the ways we live and open ourselves to others in this home is important to me.

Elizabeth Gilbert says, "...creative living is where Big Magic will always abide." 

I suppose I could blame this on my mother, but, instead, I thank her. She liked to create change in her home, too. In fact, I remember her commenting once, and not in complementary way, about a neighbor whose kitchen table had the same centerpiece season after season, year after year. That didn't happen in our house. I loved seeing what was new on the family room mantel or coffee table when I returned home after an absence. 

We moved frequently when I was growing up, and she and my Dad quickly created home for us each time we moved, unpacking boxes even before the moving van had shut its big doors and pulled away from the street. Just because a piece of furniture was in the living room in the previous house didn't mean that's where it would be in the new house. She looked at her possessions with fresh eyes and matched them to each new space. 

I try to do that too.

Unlike my sister, I am not good with my hands. You won't find me at a sewing machine whipping up new curtains, and Bruce is the painter in the family. But I am an arranger. Re-arranger. (In a way that's what I do on the page, too.) I have a good sense of space and color, and our home is my playground. 

Some may say this is a form of distraction, but this process doesn't take away from my writing or teaching time, but instead it feeds it, nurtures it, and along the way, energizes me.

Again, Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear: 

              Go walk the dog, go pick up every bit of trash on the
              street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go 
              bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with
              brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile.
              You might think it's procrastination but--with the
               right intention--it isn't; it's motion. And any motion
               whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will
               always be drawn to motion. 

For now everything has a place and I like the way the house looks and feels, but that may not be true by this time next week. In the meantime, however, I will be at work at my desk, playing with words and ideas. 

An Invitation
Where does your creativity live and thrive? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Word for the Year: Tuesday's Reflection

Happy New Year!

Do you have any new year rituals? 

Along with starting a new journal and diving into closet and drawer cleaning, I listen for a word to guide me in the coming year. My word in 2018 was "devotion," which was a reminder to maintain my morning devotion practice, but also to pay attention to where I devoted my time and energy. In 2017 my word, actually words, was "sacred yes, sacred no," words that continue to challenge me. 

This year's word is:
                Spaciousness or Space

In recent years I have developed a fascination with the prairie. I have always loved being near BIG water, and the prairie inspires some of the same feelings--a feeling of openness and yes, spaciousness. There is room to stretch, to grow, to see beyond. I love the diversity of the prairie, also--how it changes with the seasons and how it supports such a wide range of plant and animal life. And, like water, there is always movement. The wind touches and talks with the grasses and wildflowers, and all I have to do is listen. (NOTE: You may not be able to play this short video, but if you do, you will hear the wind through the grasses.)

Being in the season of my 70's, I feel the need for greater spaciousness in my life. Yes, I want to continue to grow and stretch and to stay open and vibrant, but now I also look to the spaciousness of the prairie in an additional way. 

I need more open space in my life. I need to give myself space for restoration, space for stillness, for renewal of spiritual energy. Space to refuel. To focus. To maintain. To open to the movement of God within the space of my life, the span of my life. 

I am aware that I need to wrap myself in space between projects or big tasks or events. I am no longer as able to jump from one big thing to the next big thing. A writing friend said she thinks of surrounding herself with a moat when she needs to either prepare for or recover from something major in her life, even when the event itself is pleasurable and welcome. Although the moat imagery feels a bit restrictive and confining to me, I appreciate how it is a symbol of self-protection, self-care for my friend. Self-designated retreat and reflection time. 

Imagining myself standing in a prairie, I breathe. I unfold, and become present to the whispers of the Divine. The compelling calls of sacred yes, sacred no become clearer, less complicated. And in creating intentional spaciousness for myself, I believe I can be a more spacious presence to others.  

The days between Christmas and New Year's were spacious prairie days for me. The excitement and richness of Christmas and family time had become part of memory, and the pull into new year intentions and organization had not yet moved onto a To Do list. Instead, I spent lots of time reading in the snug, wrapped in a shawl. I had saved the new Louise Penny book just for that time and read it slowly, savoring it. I slept until my body, rather than my phone alarm, told me it was time to get up, and I went to bed when I no longer registered what was on the page in front of me. 

And now here we are in the new year and already what were blank squares on the calendar are filling with tasks, yes, but also delicious opportunities and interactions. I am overflowing with ideas for the coming months. How easy it would be to ignore my word of the year, to fill the available spaces. So how do I transform spaciousness from a concept to a spiritual practice? 

I am not exactly sure (that's why it is a practice!), but here are some thoughts.
1. Maintain my morning meditation time. There is always room for that, even when I don't think there is. I know from past history that when I bypass this morning time, there is less time in the day for everything that presses on the day. How that works I don't know, but it does.
2.  Stop and breathe deeply and slowly or do a couple T'ai Chi moves when I finish one task, even if it is just making the grocery list, before starting the next task. That pause gives me time to listen to my heart. 
3.  Create blocks of spacious time on my calendar. The advice of many writers is to make writing appointments with yourself and put them on the calendar. I have not had much luck with that in the past, but perhaps instead I need to mark the calendar with blank spaces. Give space priority and authority. 
4.   Pay attention to how spaciousness feels. The last few months I have tried to leave my garret at 4:00 --turn off the lights, leave the laptop behind--and move to the snug for some feet up reading time before I fix dinner. That feels spacious to me, as does quiet conversation with a friend or walking in the neighborhood, when there aren't icy sidewalks.  I feel a sense of the spacious, also, during stretches of writing time; time when I can fully immerse myself in the writing.  
5. Develop a closer relationship with "sacred yes/sacred no." Take my time to weigh when to exercise "yes" or when to adopt "no". 

This morning I read the following in a chapter about Mary in Jesus Approaches by Elizabeth M. Kelly: 
                  You are creating the space inside you for a
                   a child to grow, but don't actually meet the
                   child until he is born. It requires real faith--
                   that this child is growing and developing
                   and you continue to nourish your body as 
                   best you can, so that it remains a hospitable
                   place for the child...Giving Christ the room to
                   grow in us is actually quiet and hidden, but it
                   doesn't mean that nothing is happening. Even
                   when it is quiet and seemingly empty, it is
                   often those times that the Lord is working and
                   growing in you the most.

In spaciousness I meet what is growing within. 

An Invitation
Have you discovered a word beckoning to you for this year? I would love to know

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sitting With Mary: Thursday's Reflection

I continue to journey with Mary.

Part of my meditation time these Advent mornings is to page through the book Holiness and the Feminine Spirit, The Art of Janet McKenzie, edited by Susan Perry, (Read about the artist and see images of her work here.) On these pages I journey with Mary, but perhaps not the Mary usually depicted in art through the ages: the serene, calm, radiant, and, of course, white Mary. 

Instead the Mary McKenzie depicts and the Mary I am coming to know has more grit. She sweats as she labors. She has big, strong hands that hold her son firmly. She stares with eyes that seem to say, "Here I am. Here we are. Don't mess with me." Yes, there is love there, too. The kind of "Mama Bear Love" all mothers understand. 

The Mary who sits with me doesn't look like me. But still I recognize her. I know her. In all her different colors and ethnicities. 

I read the essays that accompany the paintings--essays by wise women like Joan Chittister, Diana Butler Bass, Paula D'Arcy, Ann Patchett, Barbara Lundblad, Joyce Rupp and many others, and I feel as if we are women gathering at the well. We share the news of the day. We share our worries and wonderings and the ways we hope to make a difference, to create a better world for our children. We dream about the gifts our children will bring into the world. We give strength to one another. 

Sometimes we are midwives for each other. 

McKenzie's painting "Mary with the Midwives" fills in the Gospels' blank spaces. At that time in history and in that place midwives would have been alerted to an impending birth and would have hurried to assist the about-to-be mother during her labor and delivery. Mary would not have been the only woman in the stable, although centuries of nativity art would like us to believe that only men were present.

We women know better. The midwives were there. 

I think about the midwives in my life. Women who have made a difference as I have made decisions about what is next or how to best use my skills. Women who have influenced me, encouraged me, sat with me when I have needed comfort. Circles of women. Women, one by one. Women who are there when they are most needed. 

The women in my writing group are midwives for me. Like Mary's midwives, they urge me to push, to breathe, to dig deeper, to not give up. They cheer when I dare to share my latest chapter. They respond to my efforts with praise, but also with questions, with gentle prodding. They support my yearnings. "You can do this. You are doing this." They listen to my cries, "This is too hard. I don't think I want to do this anymore." They encourage me to be more myself on the page. They groan with me and rejoice with me. And I am so grateful.

We are midwives for each other, and therefore, the birthing continues. Just as Mary's midwives did, we help each other be  bearers of God. 

            We are all meant to be mothers of God, 
            for God is always needing to be born.  
                                     Meister Eckhart

An Invitation
 What is being born through you now and who are your midwives? 

NOTE: This is my last post for 2018. I will return on January 8. 
May you feel richly blessed on these holy days. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Favorite Books of 2018: Tuesday's Reflection

It's that time of year. The time of year when lists of "favorites" for the year are posted, and today it is my turn to shine a light on my favorite books of the year. 

I have read 98 books so far this year (58, fiction and 40, nonfiction), and I assume by the time the cheering begins for 2019, I will have read two more for an even 100. Oh, and I am actually saving the new Louise Penny mystery for the transition days from Christmas to New Years. Anyway, here goes.

My top favorites are:
* Two Meg Wolitzer titles--The Wife and The Female Persuasion. The movie The Wife with Glenn Close is based on the Wolitzer book. I liked both very much. 
* An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
* Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather (2nd time)
* There, There by Tommy Orange

Other Fiction Favorites in no particular order:
* Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
* The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
* Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (for the second time)
* The Odd Woman by Gail Godwin
* The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
* The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood
* The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah
* To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear
* Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
* The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
* The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
* Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
* Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
* Paris by the Book by Liam Callahan
* A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
* Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
* The first 5 in the mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. 3more to go. 
* Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
* The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
* Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
* Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce
* Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
* Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

In this list I normally separate books of a spiritual nature from other nonfiction, but this year several of my favorites are not so easy to classify. Thus, an integrated list. 
My top favorites are:
* Becoming by Michelle Obama. This may be my favorite nonfiction book of 2018. Read it!!!
* Parting the Waters, America in the King Years, 1954-1963 by Taylor Branch. An investment book, for it is long and detailed, but fascinating and so well-written. Now it is on to volume 2!
* Almost Everything, Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott
* The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl
* Living an Examined Life, Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey by James Hollis
* Grateful, The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass
* On the Brink of Everything, Grace, Gravity and Getting Older by Parker Palmer

Other Nonfiction Favorites in no particular order:
* She Read To Us In The Late Afternoons, A Life in Novels by Kathleen Hill
* Pilgrimage of a Soul, Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heurtz
* Dying, A Memoir by Cory Taylor 
* Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope for the Future by Margaret Wheatley
* The Heart of Centering Prayer, Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice by Cynthia Bourgeault
* Everything Happens for a Reason And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler
* The Wisdom of the Body, A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women by Christine Valters Paintner
* The Butterfly Hours, Transforming Memories into Memoir by Patty Dann
* The Breath of the Soul, Reflections on Prayer by Joan Chittister
* The Art of Spiritual Writing  and The Soul Tells a Story, Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life. Both titles are by Vinita Hampton Wright
* The Way of Silence, Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life by David Steindl-Rast
* Educated, A Memoir by Tara Westover
* The Great Spiritual Migration, How the World's Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian by Brian McLaren
* Tell Me More, Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan
* The Bright Hour, A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs
* The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson
* No Time to Spare, Thinking About What Matters by Ursula Le Guin
* The End of Old Age, Living a Longer, More Purposeful Life by Marc Agronin
* I'd Rather Be Reading, The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel
* Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home, A Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
* Celtic Treasure, Daily Scriptures and Prayer by J. Philip Newell (the 2nd time)
* Bittersweet, Thoughts on Change, Grace, and learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist. 

Well, that should keep you going!

At this time of the year I think about my reading plans for the coming year as well. I will refrain from saying reading GOALS, for I know one book leads to another, and I am more than willing to take detours and discover surprises along the way. But here are some thoughts:
* I've noticed I don't remember the content of a book I've read--even when I have truly enjoyed and appreciated it--the way I have in the past. Therefore, I am going to try and jot a few summary notes about each book I read along with listing the title and author. 
* I have used the library much more this year than in the past. It is such a nerdy rush when an email arrives in my Inbox, saying a book I have requested has arrived. However, that does mean that other books in my stack are placed on a personal hold, so I can meet the library's due date. 
* I intend to read the remaining three Willa Cather titles. 
* Since our return from the civil rights tour we took in November, we have been building a library of books on that topic. I think the one I will read next is The Warmth of Other Suns, The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson.
* I am aware of how many books are sitting in piles or on shelves in our house that I have not yet read, my To Be Read (TBR) piles. Tempted by new titles, I am like a crow attracted to the shining object next to the sidewalk. I make no apology for my book addiction, but this year I hope to focus more on my TBR piles.  

What am I reading right now? As I ride the exercycle I am reading My Life With Bob, Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books (Bob), Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. I just started reading a book from the library, Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter, which feels like the perfect light book to read as the clock ticks toward Christmas. And during my meditation time I am rereading Holiness and The Feminine Spirit, The Art of Janet McKenzie, edited by Susan Perry plus chapters about Mary in a variety of other books. 

I thank Anne Bogel for the following words; words that could be on my tombstone. 

        "Reading isn't just a hobby or a pastime; 
        it's a lifestyle." 


An Invitation
I would love to know your favorites of 2018. 

NOTE: I will post again on Thursday, December 20, but then I am going to take a break for a couple weeks. I plan to return on Tuesday, January 8. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

My Advent Companion, Mary: Thursday's Reflection

I did what I always do when I have a new direction for my meditation/prayer time or when I am preparing a class or talk or retreat or when I am diving into a writing topic: I gather resources, beginning with my personal library. 

When I randomly selected the Mary card (Read here.) as my Advent companion, I eagerly stacked books near my Girlfriend Chair, which is where I sit in the mornings. I was prepared to study Mary, but, of course, that isn't really what is happening. 

Instead, I am sitting with Mary and listening to what she has to say to me. Sometimes we just sit and breathe. She's pregnant and near her delivery date, so her breath is sometimes heavy and labored. She sits with her hand on the curved mound, patting the babe she has not yet met, but feeling the movement, the tapping and kicking. I remember those days, even though they were so long ago and my children have been adults for many years. 

Sometimes, however, I read to Mary. I read what others have written about her or what she might have said. 

                   Not to one
                   but to many you have called:
                   on the dancing wind
                   from the deepest forest
                   from the highest places
                   from the edge of darkness
                   from the depth of fear
                   and become
                   the bearer of God.
                                      Jan Richardson 
                                     Night Visions, Searching the Shadows of 
                                     Advent and Christmas, p. 7

And then we chat.

I exclaim, "The bearer of God? The bearer of God!!"

She tells me she was amazed at that notion, too, but she was assured all would be well. She had been chosen and without having any satisfactory answers, she finally agreed, "Let it be so." 

"Or did I say, 'let it be me' or 'let it be done'? I'm not sure. I don't think it really matters. 

"No, I suppose not, but the bearer of God? Really?"

"Really. I agreed to be the bearer of God, but the question now, Nancy, is how will you be the bearer of God?"

It is my turn to sigh heavily, deeply. That is the question, isn't it? And one I sometimes struggle to answer. 

I tend to be overwhelmed by all the possibilities, the opportunities, which become muddled by all I think I have to do or want to do or am in the middle of doing. I feel pregnant, almost overfull, with ideas and insights and choices right now. 

Ah, this is the perfect time to stop and breathe. To clear the space. To pause. How can I be the bearer of God today, right now, here and now? 

I am reminded of the Hasidic saying, "Every time we walk down the street, we are preceded by hosts of angels singing, 'Make way, make way for the image of God.'"

We are each invited to be the image of God, the bearer of God. In fact, we each ARE the image of God, the bearer of God. We do that in our interactions, our reactions, our actions. We do that in the way we choose to move through the day and in the way we lift our hearts in prayer and our hands in service. 

"It's quite simple isn't it, Mary?" 

Mary nods in that serene, accepting way she has. "Let it be so."

An Invitation
How do you live as the bearer of God? I would love to know. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Threads of A Life: Tuesday's Reflection

Is it just the Christmas season that makes me more more present to the various threads of my life? Is it my age that encourages me to connect one part of my life with another?

In recent days my feet have been in both the past and the present. And thus, my heart, as well.

Saturday we drove to Northfield, MN, to buy Christmas presents at a favorite bookstore, Contents. St Olaf College, where Bruce and I both went to school, is located there, and we always enjoy a trip down memory lane when we head in that direction. In fact, we had been there the week before for the annual Christmas Festival, which never fails to open us to the nostalgia of our undergraduate years and at the same time leads us into the Advent season. 

After making our book purchases, we headed up to the campus, which was much quieter than the week before. Students were studying for finals and few old alums were present. Our goal was to see the memorial to James Reeb, a graduate in 1950 who had gone on to become a Unitarian minister. His brutal murder, when he went to Selma, Alabama, in March, 1965 to become involved in the Civil Rights Movement, was the impetus for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Martin Luther King, Jr, gave the eulogy at Reeb's funeral service. 

We had seen pictures of Reeb in a couple of the museums we visited on the Civil Rights Tour in November and going to this memorial felt like a piece of the pilgrimage.

The past and the present blended together, for the memorial is in the library on campus and as an English major that is where most of my classes were held. I studied often, sometimes with Bruce, in the reference room, which is now designated one of the QUIET study areas. 

Once home, Advent music in the background, I made the first batch of cherry walnut bread, a Christmas tradition for many years. I thought about many I have delivered bread to in the past and also created a mental list of who might receive loaves this year. And how many batches that will require. I mixed past and present as I creamed the butter and chopped the cherries.

Then Sunday I presented an adult forum at church, "The Body's Address: Spiritual and Practice and the Body," and as part of the session I taught some introductory T'ai Chi moves. During our Ohio years, I was part of a weekly T'ai Chi group and also practiced it daily on my own and later taught classes myself. I felt the presence of those years Sunday morning as I lifted my arms, opening to receive from heaven and as I returned to mountain space, my feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Body memory, as well as heart and mind. 

Later we returned to church for the Service of Lessons and Carols, and I rested in the beauty of the music and the words, giving thanks for the ways I have been enriched along the way and for the gifts of these precious present days. 

                       Blessing the Way

                       With every step
                       you take,
                       this blessing rises up
                       to meet you.

                       It has been waiting
                       long ages for you.

                       Look close 
                       and you can see
                       the layers of it,

                       how it has been fashioned
                       by those who walked
                       this road before you....

                       Look closer
                       and you will see
                       this blessing 
                       is not finished,

                       that you are how
                       this blessing means
                       to be a voice
                       within the wilderness

                       and a welcome
                       for the way. 
                                      from Circle of Grace,
                                      A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
                                      Jan Richardson

An Invitation
In what ways are you meeting past and present in your life? I would love to know.