Wednesday Prayers: Unexpected Blooms

I have been a merciless plant-slaughterer for a very long time. A couple of years ago, in a last-ditch attempt to have something green in my life, I started buying tiny cacti each time Dave and I went to Longwood Gardens.

This little one was a gift. I've had it about a year and a half, and had no idea that it blooms. But a couple of weeks ago, this funny little alien flower showed up.

The Bible is all about surprises. This is important for me to remember, because I am usually quite certain that I know how things will unfold (bleakly). So this week, I'm praying to notice surprises, to expect surprises, to give up my certainty in favor of watching and waiting.

How about you? Have you gotten any surprises lately? Do you need to start considering them a possibility?


Surgery's scheduled!

My "arrival time" is 1 p.m. It's an outpatient procedure, and the surgery itself is usually pretty short (30 minutes to an hour), but post-op takes a while, so I'm expecting to get home after dark.

Hope everybody's having a good day, and I'll be back... well, later this week, probably.



Hey, y'all.

I'm having surgery for a torn meniscus on Tuesday. Here's the quick info:
  • I won the torn meniscus lottery. Most of the time, they have to be removed (which means a speedy recovery, but higher likelihood of arthritis later on). My tear happens to be in the place where it can be stitched up (maybe-- they never know for sure until they're in there).
  • The surgery's arthroscopic, so no worries about scars marring my sexy knees. (BWAHAHAHA. Knees are very, very silly looking.)
  • Recovery's going to take a while, and hurt like heck.
  • BUT, my timing's perfect. If there's any ideal time to be housebound, it's January-February-March. This way, when my favorite seasons come, I'll be well on my way to being healed.
  • Blogging will either not happen, or will be very, very silly. (Vicoden)
  • Stratoz made my week when he wished me healthy running in 2011. That is *exactly* the prize I'm keeping my eye on.
Today and tomorrow, Dave and I are trying to do a few pre-op errands that will make next week easier. My to-do list includes the practical:
  • Buy more pillows.
  • Make more ice packs.
  • Create a little recuperation station in bedroom: laptop, books, knitting stuff, stationery.
The frivolous:
  • Buy a few pairs of skirts and flats, so that I won't feel scrubby every day in my knee brace and sweats.
  • Clean high heels out of closet, so as not to be taunted by them.
And the peculiar:
  • Try a practice shower with improvised seat.

So that's that! Keep me in your prayers, if you think to. I'm sure I'll tell you (way more than you were hoping) about how it went!


The Beginnings of Christmas

No, not the manger-beginning, just the beginning of our own celebrations.

Dave and I have some hippy tendencies, there's no way around it. In an effort to cut down on waste, I've wrapped his presents in some fat quarters from my stash. I was inspired by furoshiki, but cheated a bit by tying most of the packages with kitchen twine.

Here's his pile of blue-and-green-dotted gifts (side note: I adore dots.):

This cute little box didn't get the twine, and I just had to show you how darling it is:

We've hung the Advent calendar.

I've had this calendar since I was tiny, but last year got the bright idea to put candies in it, in addition to the mouse. Dave has grown very attached to the mouse, and has named him Reynaldo.

Tomorrow we'll hang tiny ornaments on our potted ficus. We'll have Christmas crustaceans for dinner (usually snow crap*, but this year Ina's Roasted Shrimp Cocktail). Dave will bake cookies until it's time to bundle up late in the evening and trundle off to midnight mass.

Christmas Day is so often stressful in our families; all the magic happens on Christmas Eve. It's mass that I always look forward to, and I'm already longing for the candlelight and song.

*Whoops! It's not snow crap-- Dave's an excellent cook. It's snow crab!


Wednesday Prayers: Quick and Dirty

Between my knee (visit to the Ortho guy tomorrow-- which always sounds like "Orkin Guy" in my head, adding to the ickiness) and holiday stress, I'm a snippy, cranky, jerk this month. Worse yet, I know it, so I'm also a guilt-ridden jerk. Pray for my patience, and the patience of those around me.

What've you got this week?


Dolly Always Comes Through

Y'all know I love Dolly, right? This woman is my hero; I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Christmas is kicking my ass this year, but tonight, she had just what I needed.


Wednesday Prayers: Leroy

Once a week, Dave and I go to our local library. He volunteers, mostly re-shelving books and looking for lost ones. I head to the coffee shop, stamps and stationery in hand, and write letters.

While Dave is shelving, he keeps an eye out for books he thinks I'd like. About a year ago, he grabbed Grace Goes to Prison, an excellent book about Marie Hamilton's ministry to inmates in Pennsylvania prisons. Her organization, CentrePeace, runs a secondhand furniture shop, and inmates are trained in restoration. Another ministry through CentrePeace is their PrayerMates program. Inmates are matched up with a "spiritual pen pal," and agree to write and pray for each other regularly. Only first names are used, and all correspondence goes through the CentrePeace office.

I had to sign up. I couldn't write to loved ones every week, and know that I'd refused to correspond with someone who needed a friend.

I've been exchanging letters with Leroy for almost a year now. We don't have a lot in common, but that's OK. He hasn't written about what his days are like, so my prayers for him are often vague. I'm glad to pray for someone outside my circle, though, someone whose circumstances I can't understand. I think maybe this is the beginning of how we learn to love all people.

So this week, like all other weeks, I'm praying for Leroy. That he has peace and safety, that he continues to grow and learn, that he can see hope.

What are you praying for this week? May I join you?


As Long As It Takes

I haven't been moving very quickly the last few weeks (knee injury). I've felt self-conscious about that, but I didn't realize how awkward I felt until a dear friend of mine came to visit this weekend. We went shopping together (I knew of a buy 1, get 2 free boot sale!), and I was acutely aware of holding us back.

Think about that for a minute. It was just shopping. And catching up. With a very old, good, lovely friend. Going slowly isn't really a big deal, under those circumstances.

I don't have a lot of patience or respect for how long it takes me to do things. This is true in literal, tangible ways, but also in developmental ways. I hate to keep people waiting as I unload my cart at the grocery store, and I hate all the ways I'm still (at 31) not the grown-up I want to be.

I started reading about child development a few years ago when I worked at United Way, and was really blown away by the (totally obvious) concept that children are capable of different things at different ages. Age-appropriate expectations were an entirely new idea. It was amazing. I took such pride in being a very short adult as a kid that it never, ever occurred to me that it was OK not to be able to do something yet.

As an adult, it's also OK not to be able to do something yet. If we're still growing (and heaven help us if we're not), there are steps and stages. Hating slow progress doesn't speed it up; it just eats away at self-respect.

And so, yet again, I'm thinking of Mr. Dail: "In due time, Diana Mary, in due time."


Wednesday Prayers: Bear Fruit!!!

I've had the gospel reading for Advent 2 in my head all week, particularly John the Baptist's "You brood of vipers... bear fruit worthy of repentance!"

The Postulant posted a great sermon about how Advent is a penitential season, a time to prepare and make things right (well, right-er, anyway).

But it's the "bear fruit worthy of repentance!" that's sticking with me.

How much do we want to smack people when they're apologizing for the same thing for the billionth time, without any change in the choices they make-- without even any intention of change? (Yes, I know we're called to forgive 70x70 times. Still, I think God's OK with my being angry.) BEAR FRUIT WORTHY OF REPENTANCE!

How frustrated do we get when we keep doing the same damn dumb thing, over and over, instead of hunkering down, asking for God's help, and doing the hard work of making new habits? BEAR FRUIT WORTHY OF REPENTANCE!

I loved this week's sermon (yes, we'll talk soon about how I'm back worshiping with the local Lutherans), because the pastor took sin seriously, in a loving rather than an angry way. I want us to be talking about sin-- not so that we can shuffle around feeling like crap (NOT what I think we're called to do), but so that we can move towards greater freedom and joy, so that we can become more fully who God made us to be.

Because really, that's what sin's about. It's all the sludge that holds us back. It's the plastic imitation of stuff that's much better. We are God's beloved, and God longs for us to have the real thing-- love, freedom, joy, peace.

So this week, I'm praying for God to show me where I'm not bearing fruit, and to prune me where necessary.

What are you praying for this week? How can I pray with you?


Knee Absolution

I did something screwy to my knee in the fall. I babied it (RICE), it got better. Then I went on a REALLY ambitious run, and it made a very bad pain. I babied it (more RICE), it started to get better. I had a party to go to, decided to wear high-heeled boots with my skirt. We're back to babying again.

Since I've been in this cycle since late Sept./early Oct., I'm going to head to the doctor's on Monday, just to make sure there's not anything really wrong. Because I feel incredibly dumb, what I'd really like (in addition to the actual exam) is absolution:

Most merciful Claudia,
I confess that I have been stupid
in speed, incline, and footwear,
by what I have injured,
and by Advil I have left untaken.
I have not stretched with my whole hamstring;
I have not strengthened with my whole quad.
I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.
For the sake of my regular training,
have mercy on me and forgive me;
that I may lace up my sneakers,
and run outside,
before the roads are covered in snow and ice. Amen.


Wednesday Prayers: For Jo(e)

I had a half dozen other posts in my head, but really, this is where my prayers are this week.

Do you have anything else you'd like me to be praying for, friends?


Stratoz's Interview, Part IV:

(Previous installments can be found here, here , and here).

Do You Blog? Are you on facebook or twitter? How do you feel about social networking and church growth?

I do! Right here, in fact. I've blogged since 2005 (THAT'S crazy to think about).

I'm on facebook, not on twitter. Facebook has been a great way to keep in touch with people I enjoy. So many of my loved ones are scattered that it's really a joy to have a glimpse into their daily lives, to chat about the little things that come up. (Twitter is somehow not as appealing.)

I'm not sure about social networking and church growth, but I do think social networking makes sense as a part of church life. (I get so nervous about what we mean when we say "church growth." I worry that it means numbers and membership roles, rather than deepening our relationships with God and one another.) Social networking is how many of us communicate-- it seems foolish for the church to not be present there.


Stratoz's Interview, Part III: Bumper Stickers

(Previous installments can be found here and here).

What is written on the bumper stickers that you have placed on your cars?

I'm very, very cautious about bumper stickers. During the primaries and the general election of '08, I affixed my Obama bumper sticker to a magnet so that it wouldn't be stuck to my trunk for all of time and eternity.

I also have a very small Denison University static decal in my rear window. I'm crazy about my alma mater.

And that's it for bumper stickers. The only other stuff on my car is a lot of dirt!



During the semester of college that I lived at home, my mom and I had a very fun ongoing ice cream deal. Each week that OSU played, I'd buy us ice cream if they won (in celebration), and she'd buy the ice cream if they lost (in consolation). It's a fantastic memory that I have of her.

Dave and I watch one (and only one) football game every year. Actually, it's the only sporting event we watch.

It's not a bowl game.

It's not a playoff game.

It's the OSU/Michigan game.

And it's this afternoon.



Stratoz's Interview, Part II: Radio

My first response to Stratoz's great (and not intended for me!) interview questions is here.

What radio station do you listen to and why?
I listen to WITF (our local NPR station). I particularly love Nina Totenberg's reporting on the Supreme Court, and Kai Ryssdal's Marketplace. I love the full background of a story that I get with NPR's news. NPR's stories are like word problems to me: every single time, I could get the answer to a math question right if it was a word problem. It made sense. I understood what was going on, and what the objective was. Plain old equations, though, with no context-- hopeless. I like putting things in context.

I also listen to WXPN, the NPR station out of Philly (also broadcast here). They play a lot of indie rock, which I love, but which I am not cool enough to find on my own.

When I'm not listening to one of those, I channel surf a lot, stopping on whatever station happens to be playing classic rock that I can belt out.

Wednesday/Thanksgiving Prayers: It's a blessing. And a curse.

For a while, Dave and I watched Monk a lot. It was light and fluffy, but the characters were charming. I mention this because the lead character often said (about all manner of things, but especially about his OCD), "It's a blessing. And a curse."

This seems particularly relevant to me as I begin to pray Thanksgiving prayers. It's an awkward time of year to have a difficult family situation. I sometimes feel embarrassed, a little ashamed, when people talk about their holiday plans, and then ask what we'll be doing. I love our quiet observances, just the two of us. I love them because they're a safe haven, and our extended families aren't consistently safe or nurturing. I wish very much that they were, and it's not just the holidays that are sad. (The myth seems to be that you either love or hate your family. The truth for me is that I adore my family, which makes it a hell of a lot harder to keep a safe distance.)

The curse.

But here's the other side of it: this week, a woman I know asked for prayer-- and she knew it was okay to come to me, because I had talked to her about my own family. She knew I would have compassion (not to mention bountiful prayers to lift on her behalf).

The blessing.

If my struggles mean that I can love someone better, that I can listen to someone with my whole heart, then the blessing is bigger than the curse.

There are many things I'm grateful for (a safe home, a kind husband, good food, good friends), but that blessing is my best prayer of thanksgiving this year.

What's yours?


Stratoz's Interview, Part I: Books

Stratoz posted such great questions for his parish's candidates that I'm going to take a page out of Robin's book and answer them, too. (One at a time, friends. Because I'm not a terribly ambitious blogger. Or, because I want you to have a chance to digest all my wisdom. *snort*)

Please tell me about the last five books you read.

  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: I re-read this recently, and was just as charmed by it as I had been as a kid. I especially noticed this time how often Anne finds "kindred spirits" in unexpected people. It's a beautiful book, and Anne's willingness to use her imagination inspired me.
  2. The Web Designer's Idea Book by Patrick McNeil: I'm putting together a website for my fledgling spiritual direction practice, and this book has been a helpful tool for creating a mental picture of what I want. (The challenge will be making that actually happen.)
  3. barefoot contessa how easy is that? by Ina Garten: I understand that there are people who don't adore Ina Garten, but it doesn't make sense to me. This woman uses butter, cheese, and salt like aliens are going to obliterate the planet tomorrow, and there's no need to age gracefully. I love to eat, and this is some amazing food.
  4. The Practice of Spiritual Direction by Barry & Connolly: I'm going through my old material again (slowly), reminding myself of what I know to be true, and picking up some of what I missed on the first pass. This is a wonderful practical guide.
  5. Talking with Children about Loss by Maria Trozzi with Kathy Massimini: A friend lent this to me after this summer's grief class. I've been reading it in the midst of other things (clearly), so it's slow going, but it's a good book. Trozzi raises some important points about children processing differently than adults. She also spends a good amount of time on non-bereavement loss, which strikes me as important-- I think we often minimize children's feelings.

Those are my books! There have been others-- mainly Victoria Thompson's gaslight mysteries-- but those are the ones I'm still reading or thinking about.


November Mix Tape: Rainy Day Cafe

Back in October, I spent a weekend in New York, catching up with friends and generally making quiet mischief.

The first friend I hung out with was a really fun woman whom I hadn't seen since high school. I happened to mention that she used to make the World's Best Mix Tapes, and she shared something extraordinary: she's part of a Mix Tape Club! Seriously. How fun is that?!?!

When we parted, she offered to send me a mix tape, made just for me, but then a couple of weeks later, she made an even better offer: our own little mail mix-tape club.


So, this month is my first stab at it. Autumn always makes me a little maudlin (but in a lovely way), so I went with that general feeling. The compilation is called "Rainy Day Cafe." (I love those quiet gray afternoons in coffeehouses while listening to yearning music, reading, journaling, letter-writing.)

My cover art:

And my playlist (erm... which I see I sort of cut off in the picture-- WHOOPS!):

Both typed with the help of my ancient Remington Rand Deluxe #5 typewriter. That's what you need when you finish with Nat King Cole.

It really is a lovely, lovely list of songs, so feel free to replicate at home! And feel free to steal the idea-- this was the most fun I've had in ages.


Yellow Patchwork Quilt

I made a little quilt, y'all!

I've made them before, but this is the first one I've both pieced and quilted. (On others, I've either quilted one big piece of fabric, or I've pieced rag quilts-- which don't get quilted.)

So, hurrah! I just loved this one. It went to a sweet newborn whose parents I adore-- and I assure you, those are the only circumstances under which I would have been willing to let go of it. It turned out so much cuter than I expected (although I'm still swearing that the binding-- satin blanket binding is surely evil in solid form).I tried to show you the whole thing:

but frankly, I'm not so good with the self-timer and the scurrying into place, so I tried again (overexposed, and then badly corrected...sigh):

Still not great. So, in parts, we have the front:

I love how crinkly quilts get when you use cotton batting-- it shrinks a little in the dryer, and the quilted lines really stand out.

And then the fun scrappy back--I scattered tiny squares like confetti. I added a few Heather Ross chickens that weren't on the front, and they made me grin every time I looked at them:

I had a grand time doing it-- it's machine-pieced, but hand-quilted (which seems to be my favorite way of doing things).

So, that's that! Have a lovely cheerful yellow day!


Wednesday Prayers: A Peaceful Night, and a Perfect End

I've been using Phyllis Tickle's version of the Daily Offices for the last few weeks (or, I should say, I've resumed the habit). Compline might be my favorite office. I love that there's confession before slumber-- it relieves me of all the dumbshit things I've done during the day (that I'd otherwise fret about once the lights go out).

I suppose this points to a specific prayer request of you this week: wiser decisions during the day (and less guilt about old stuff).

Can I pray for you this week? Is there anything that will help you rest easier?



I can't get this song out of my head today. Figured I might as well get it stuck in yours, too.


Wednesday Prayers: Don't Watch the Film

I love Inside the Actor's Studio. I love it even when I don't care for an actor's body of work. It's about hearing people's stories.

When Johnny Depp was interviewed, he said that he doesn't watch the films he's in. More specifically, he said that after he's wrapped, "it's none of my business what the filmmaker does with it."

As a spiritual director, I have to really work at remembering that the big picture is not up to me. In fact, it's none of my business. One of the best sessions I ever took part in was while I was training-- my directee used a metaphor to talk about her situation the whole time we were talking. I never knew what her specific struggle was, and I didn't need to. I'm there to ask questions, God's there to lead her deeper into them. What follows isn't any of my business.

Maybe that's true for everything. We do our part, we respond to God's call, and then we forget about the completed film. If we're honest with ourselves, we know we're never going to know the whole story, anyway; we will do good in ways we will never realize, and we'll hurt unknowingly.

So my prayer this week is to be attentive to my role, and let go of the finished picture. What's your prayer this week?


Wednesday Prayers: And for any others you wish to name, either silently or aloud...

This corkboard above the desk in my office is where I keep prayer requests. (Some of you would see your names, or those of your loved ones, typed on tiny pastel squares.) It's just first names, and it's often vague for anonymity's sake. (Confession: there's a little square that just says "Peter in TX." I'm not sure who Peter is, and I only have a hunch about who the prayer-requester might be, but I'm still praying for him.)

I really like having a visual reminder of all the things for which we turn to God. (Perhaps someday I'll remember, "Hey, it's on the board. That means God is carrying it, not me!)

You've all been so lovely and kind this week, I'd like to just turn the prayer requests over to you. Is there something of yours I can add to my board?


Infertility of the Heart

There's a baby boom among my friends, and it's happening to great people. It's so exciting.

It's also excruciating.

We both want kids, have wanted them for years. There's been a laundry list of reasons we haven't had them (including the priest during who told me I'd have to get the bishop's permission before getting pregnant during The Process), but the biggest one I don't talk about much: the fear that maybe there's just a "good parent" gene missing in my family, and my kids wouldn't have a happier childhood than I did.

The phrase I keep using when I think about it is "heart infertility." Physically, people can become parents, but in their hearts, they can't. As a diabetic inherits his inability to produce enough insulin, maybe I've inherited an inability to nurture. I wonder if all the circumstantial reasons we haven't had kids are God's way of protecting me from becoming someone I'd hate.

I talked to a close friend about it, and somehow that made it worse. (At the same time, I'm so grateful she doesn't understand and can't relate.) It's not a logical fear-- of course I know about parenting books and classes. But it's not about knowing what activities to do, or making sure they brush their teeth. It's not even about appropriate discipline. It's a visceral fear that my kids will be the people I'm not able to love, that they'll have a parent who won't see them for themselves and rejoice.

In the midst of all the crying, I've been praying (a lot of it's angry prayers-- it was NOT FUNNY when I sought solace in the hymnal, and opened up to all the arrangements for the Magnificat). Last night, part of the answer was, "You don't inherit love from your parents. You inherit it from Me. Parents can be vessels, but Love originates in Me."

I think that's the right answer, but I don't quite trust it yet. And I'm dreading Advent.


Why Bad Email Gets Me Down

This morning, I opened my inbox to find this forward from someone I like and respect (a former teacher of mine, in fact).

It's OK to have opinions I disagree with. Lots of people I love do. In fact, on one issue or another, surely everyone I love disagrees with something I believe. And I know this woman believes her email is true, she never would have passed it around if she thought it might not be.

But the original creator of that fear-inciting, hate-mongering email? He or she was just deliberately scamming Christians. He was preying on people's ignorance, and he was distracting people of faith from all the things that really need our prayer and attention. That's what makes me crazy. Now, my friend isn't blameless (nor are any of us, myself included, when we don't fact-check), but she's acting out of devotion.

People think they're being faithful, and really they're being led astray. We are like sheep without a shepherd. We ARE sent out like sheep among wolves. We HAVE to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.* So many Christians are fearful of the "other," but too trusting of those who seem like friends.

*My thanks to Mt. 10:16.


Wednesday Prayers: Wearing Purple

I'm wearing a purple cami under my cardigan today, and my blog is wearing a lovely lavender, both for Spirit Day, a day to support LGBT youth.

I try to be honest here on The Kitchen Door (and when I can't, I just plain don't post about the topic), so as crappy as it is, I'm going to go ahead and tell you what a moron I was at 18.

I knew a young man in college who was friends with some of my friends. He and I weren't close, but we were often in the same place at the same time. There were rumors about his being gay, but I thought the respectful thing to do would be to just come out and ask him.

In front of a handful of other people.

I had no idea I was "outing" someone, never even thought about it. While my military background had exposed me to a lot of different cultures, I didn't know anyone who was openly gay. I didn't care either way (my philosophy was that it didn't affect me-- if you're not sleeping with me, I don't care who you sleep with), but I didn't stop to think how much he might care. (In the privacy-invading style of a tiny campus, it never occurred to me that if it didn't affect me, I also didn't need to know.)

The people we were with were all his friends, and he very tactfully dodged the question, but it's something I deeply regret now.

So, today I'm praying for teens in hostile situations, teens in awkward situations, and (like me) teens who need some education.

And I'm so sorry, A. I'd undo it in a heartbeat if I could.

How about you? How are you praying today? How can I pray for you?


Some Thoughts on Being Incarnate

I stumbled across this at Borders a while back, took a picture with the camera in my phone, and then brought it home from the library about a week ago. I recognized the author: someone I loved a million years ago had given me another of her books in high school. Some might think it's unexpected reading material for me. I'm relatively comfortable in my body-- or at least, I really enjoy having a body, which may be unusual in itself. I like stretching and running and playing in waves (all things my body lets me do), and I like fuzzy sweaters and sassy boots (also made possible by being incarnate). But even for me, the subjects of bodies and food are fraught, often feel like landmines.

I think sexuality is the hardest part of body-image-stuff for me. I've always been slim, but I've also been caricature-curvy forever. (My very attractive mother, on the other hand, has the sort of boyish elegant figure that made both Hepburn ladies famous.) I've often felt that being curvy means being presumed promiscuous until proven innocent. I'm fun, and I flirt, and I laugh -- but I've never been anything that comes remotely close to promiscuous.

There are so many reasons not to be comfortable in our bodies.

I'm often embarrassed because I'm thin. In a culture where so many people struggle with their weight, I feel guilty and awkward. (When people ask how I do it, I joke that the women in my family burn extra calories by being really mean. In fact, my mom and I are the only ones who are consistently petite. Rather than a genetic legacy, I think I inherited the Marine perspective that staying fit as we age is expected.)

Though I talk and joke about them, I'm embarrassed about my curves. I was absolutely shamed for growing up, for having an adult body. (It was far more threatening to some people than I understood at the time.) I didn't even have to do anything WITH my curves, just having them was immoral.

When I was in The Process, I could have swapped clothes with any similar-sized 60-year-old, and not had a noticeable change in style. I knew that being young and having a distinctive figure was a liability. Modesty is a must in ministry (a new tongue twister, but true), but my already-confused relationship with my body got worse.

I eat healthy food. I work out regularly. I get enough sleep. For the most part, I like my body. But I don't know how to have a body around other people. These lovely, confident women in all shapes who wear what they want? Amazing to me. I haven't passed self-consciousness yet.

And so, I read Geneen Roth's book, because I thought she might have something to say.

She does. And it's fabulous.

I really want to tell you all about it, but I'm afraid you won't read it if I do. Also, because I think you'll argue with me, and I think she makes her case better than I would. Go read it. Trust me.


Wednesday Prayers: Rainbows

Our friend Stratoz pointed us to a little science on Saturday: "Rainbows are somewhat rare is that you will only see them when there is rain in front of you and somewhat in the distance, and the sun is behind you and fairly low on the horizon."

I thought about that when I saw this rainbow today.

And then I thought about Noah, and the bit from Genesis 9 about the rainbow: "I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh."

For there to have been a rainbow, it must have still been raining.

Now, I know I'm applying science to a story that many of us don't take literally. (Some do, and I think maybe you can stay with me on this either way.)

God made a promise while it was still raining to never again wipe everyone out. I imagine I would have had a conversation like this:

God: The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Me: Dude, it's still raining. Are you kidding? This looks a lot like flood conditions to me.

Which makes me think of the beginning of the 11th chaper of Hebrews: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

I've always thought of "things not seen" as those things which are invisible, maybe unprovable, things it might be reasonable to be agnostic about. But when someone tells you not to worry about floods anymore (while it's still raining), you DO have evidence that leads to one conclusion-- and God is saying to believe something else.

I think there's something to pray about there, but I'm not sure what it is for me yet. Maybe it's a starting point for one of you, too.


Wednesday Prayers: Crisis

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once (in)famously said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

It pissed off lots of people. Not me. And not just because I think he's dead sexy admire his work. I agree with his point. Every crisis can be a catalyst. A crisis is something we didn't want, something painful, something overwhelming-- but it's also a potential turning point. Where we (I) get stuck is in wanting to go back to pre-crisis. Not possible. Never possible. Crisis changes us. Even if our actions don't change, our insides do. Crisis gives us a choice between changing, and living a lie.

But we didn't want the change.

We might not have wanted the tide to come in, either, but clearly there's a lot that's beyond our control.

Family members die, marriages come unraveled, jobs end, sickness comes. We cannot go back to where we were before. The best we can hope for is to grow in ways that we wouldn't have if we could have stayed in that comfortable place.

I am in the midst of a couple quiet crises. I can't control the outcomes, but I can grow in my responses. This week, I'd like your prayers-- not that the crises be taken away, but that I choose to become more fully who God created me to be in the midst of them. That I choose (and learn) integrity and truth. That I seek God above easy familiarity. That I work with as God to create something new.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart--
oh let them take me now.
Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God-- spend them however you want.
--Rainer Maria Rilke
How about you? Would you like me to offer prayer through your own crisis?


The Mirror of the Sea

We didn't make it to the beach this summer (what a pampered thing to be disappointed about!). I took some fun trips, but as usual, visiting people won out over visiting places.

I miss the beach-- having spent several (non-consecutive) years growing up in Oceanside, CA, it's one of the things that holds a sense of home for me. I like the beach best alone-- time to contemplate the vastness, the power of the crashing waves, the ambivalent steely color of the water. I like the ocean on gray days, and on stormy days best, strong and fearless and intense-- not children-with-little-red-buckets days. I don't like it passive.
maggie and millie and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

millie befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles :and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

for whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea.
-e. e. cummings



I switched things around in blogger so that I sign off as Di, instead of Mrs. M. When I started this blog (a million years ago), I needed it to be anonymous. Since that's no longer the case, it's nicer to be called by my name. If I drop in at your place to comment, don't be alarmed-- I'm still me!

Running with Van

This morning, I loaded my iPod up with today's pray-as-you-go, and the first dozen songs of Van Morrison's Greatest Hits, Vol. 3. That man speaks to my soul-- gravelly lover and awe-struck prophet, all in one package.

As I got to my halfway point, Too Long in Exile started. Just exactly what I needed.
Too long in exile
Too long not singing my song
(And how can you keep from adoring a man who references Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde?)

Not-Quite-Wednesday Prayers: Failure

Margaret Mead once responded to a reporter's question about her divorces by saying, "I don't consider my marriages as failures. It's idiotic to assume that because a marriage ends, it's failed."

Bishop Laura gave a reminder recently that the humane view is to recognize that mistakes are learning opportunities.

These two are not identical ideas, but both add up to the same thing: we're mislabeling a lot of things as failures. Perhaps, as I think about it, the only real failure is to keep making the same mistake, the same foolish choice.

I think there's a mental habit to assume that the end of anything is a failure. If we leave a job or a career anywhere but on the top of it (even the WRONG career for us)... failure. If we leave a relationship (despite our being responsible for only half of it)... failure.

No one would say to an alcoholic, "You just haven't tried hard enough to be a moderate, responsible drinker! Don't give up!" But we do that all the time with other decisions that are damaging to people's physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Part of our discernment as people of faith is deciding not just what to take up, but what to release.
God of all wisdom, help me to let go of the things I cannot keep, the things that keep me from being the daughter you call me to be. Show me how to recognize those obstacles that may not be readily apparent, to separate the wheat from the chaff in my own life. Keep me concerned with your views of failure and success, and no one else's; equip me with the quiet strength to keep my eyes on You.
Do you need to let go of a fear of failure, or celebrate a disguised success? Let me know, and I'll gladly wrap your prayers into mine.


Follow-Up to "No"

My friend Anne reminds me that this clarity about boundaries and respect comes from reading Gavin de Becker's excellent books, The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift. Both books talk a lot about trusting your instincts, and being watchful of controlling people. I HIGHLY recommend them. The second book is specifically about keeping kids safe, and I think all parents should read it.

My friend Lillian reminds me that I am A BIG BOOB, and should have pointed out that if you think I'm talking about you here, I'm not. (Well, she didn't say that, because she's not the tactless ass I am, but she did bring my attention to it.) I was clear with this woman at the time that things weren't right. Keeping my feelings bottled up is (sadly) not one of my character flaws. The only new part is figuring out that friends don't try to control friends.

Wednesday Prayers: Affection

My prayer this week is one of gratitude. Over the last couple of weeks, I've gotten to spend time with people who make me smile, and that's one of my very favorite things to do. (You may not have guessed that, as I sometimes sound like a total misanthrope.) It's been good to see people I love, and to get to know others better.

AND I'm getting less wimpy about the phone. With practice, patience, and prayer (yours, maybe?), I might become sweet and friendly again, after all.

On the other hand, maybe not.

How's your people-stuff? Going swimmingly, or needing a lifeguard? Let me know, and I'll pray for your relationships, too.


No Means No

I have an old acquaintance, a friend from long ago, with whom I've felt uncomfortable for years. I knew the incidents that caused my discomfort, but I didn't know why they mattered. I held the relationship in a weird limbo where I dreaded being around her, but I felt unreasonable about that, so I continued to spend time with her.

Once she asked for a difficult favor, another time for details of my personal life. Both times I said no but eventually gave in, afraid I wasn't being a "good friend." I wish I'd realized then that "if you were really my friend" is an awful lot like "if you really loved me." I never would have bought that kind of line from a date. But from a friend? I didn't recognize it. If a man had ignored my limits the way she did, I would have known immediately that something was Very Wrong. Instead, two male friends withing the past year were both instantly respectful when I indicated that a topic was off-limits. It's easy to see the difference between being disrespectful and leaving a door open-- even when the latter is done clumsily, it's simple to distinguish. One says, "I need you to change your mind," and the other says, "I'll be here if you ever change your mind." When someone ignores "No," it means that what they want from you is more important than what you want for you. Period. Their want trumps you.

I've always thought that I am "less nice" because she is soft-spoken, introverted, and non-confrontational, and I am extroverted and .... direct. (That may be a euphemism. I don't always think Dr. House is too blunt). But I still had a nagging gut feeling that I didn't want to be around her. (Full disclosure: there are plenty of times when I really am not nice; I am blunt, impatient, irritable.) Saying no to someone who appears weaker is particularly difficult to me. Holding my own line begins to feel like battery. For years, I felt guilty. Now, I'm beginning to recognize manipulation. (Maybe this is why I've had Sondheim's Red Riding Hood on the brain lately, as she learned from the Wolf that "Nice is different than Good.")

This is a particularly hard, slow lesson for people who were abused as children. There's no frame of reference for our "No" having any meaning-- not consistently, at any rate. And since objecting often leads to more abuse ("no" being somehow heard as "more"), its meaning becomes confused. Since the people we love are the people we aren't allowed to resist, it seems normal when our limits are ignored. It can take years to unlearn this-- for the lucky people who unlearn it at all.

"Loving our neighbor" is not the same as "our neighbor has to be our friend." I want the best for this woman. I want her to be as healthy, happy, and whole as possible. But that does not mean she is my friend.

I am so, so grateful to be learning that my "No" means no as much as anyone else's. It might be basic to a lot of people, but it's a miracle for me.


(Day After)Wednesday Prayers: Teachability

The reading on Tuesday's Pray-as-You-Go meditation was from 1 Corinthians-- the bit about how awful it was that they were suing each other, and wouldn't or couldn't resolve their problems within the community of believers. How might we settle our differences? One way is for each of us to be willing to consider the possibility that we're wrong. The same humility that allows us to be wrong also keeps us kind to others when we're right. My initial thoughts brought about this week's prayer.
God, show me how to be teachable. Help me to be secure enough in Your love to let go of the shame of imperfection. Remind me to see mistakes as invitations to let You show me a better way. Keep my tone with others gentle, so that it's easier for them to be open, too. Heal me from the fear and hurt of those who punished rather than taught. Grant me this freedom that I may share it with others.
What's your prayer this week? Are you wrestling with a dispute, or enjoying a time of peace? Let me know, and I'll hold you in God's light.


A New System + a WONDERFUL Artist I've discovered

I have fun new system, and I'm so pleased with myself that I thought I'd share it with you.

I think a lot of you know about the pray-as-you-go podcasts, put out by Jesuit Media Initiatives (you also know I'm falling for the Jesuits). For those of you who don't, they're short daily meditations that manage the rare feat of being brief but not superficial. Just in the last week or two I discovered YogaJournal's video podcasts (I've used their audio classes, but that can be tricky for me).

And THEN I thought... wait! I could make a mini-playlist that combined the two, and use pray-as-you-go for my meditation during corpse pose (the relaxation at the end of a yoga session)!

I'm disproportionately pleased with myself.

Also, in a fit of playlist fervor, I also made playlists for each of my runs this week, starting each of them off with that day's pray-as-you-go.

AND the rest of my playlist is Sara Groves. I keep meaning to tell you guys about her. I stumbled onto her on Pandora (and thank you, Ms. Kresge, for reminding me that yes, Virigina, Pandora does Christian rock, too). I bought the "Tell Me What You Know" album a couple of weeks ago, and I LOVE IT.

This song was the one that grabbed me first:


The Honour of Your Presense is Requested

Growing up in (mostly) evangelical churches (also Catholic ones-- have we talked about what a mutt I am?), I was taught that there was nothing too big or small to pray for, nothing God might not do. Anything could happen when you prayed. I prayed over all kinds of things. Later, I was taught by an Episcopal priest that either God loves us, or God is omnipotent, but there's too much suffering in the world for both to be true. I tried to receive and share God's love, but I stopped asking for help in tough situations.

I've gone back to praying about everything. First of all: WOW, does that feel better.

But I've wondered-- what can God really do? I believe in free will, I don't think that God overrides our decisions and turns us into little robots. What I've landed on, instead, is that God is continually offering invitations. God doesn't control, but God invites, and those invitations are powerful. I've thought in terms of God's invitations to me for years now (what else is spiritual direction about?!), but somehow I hadn't taken that next logical step of finding hope in God's invitations to everyone.

A loved one has suffered from mental illness for many years. She will not, or cannot, see how her behavior, her rage and her recklessness, affects her family. I don't believe that God will magically cure the illness overnight, but when I believe that God is offering invitations to her (and will not stop offering them), I finally have hope that there might be healing.

A couple does not know how to love their son, and in fact might not know what love is at all. The invitations keep coming, though.

I believe God works like a loving parent who stands across the room, arms open wide, waiting for a child's first steps. I don't believe God forces us, shoves us, holds puppet strings. Our job, then, is to listen for the invitations, accept them as they come, and rest in the confidence that others are being invited, too.


Wednesday Prayers: Using the Scraps

Last weekend, I spent a wonderful day with a handful of people whom I enjoy very much... and realized how crabby I've become. As an antidote to that, I decided to return to an old practice-- using a rosary by letting each bead be a person I'm holding in prayer. I noticed early on that I was praying for healing for a lot of them. There is so much to be released from, to let go of, so many discarded scraps that could pile up. But lest we believe that we have wasted years, lives even, I prayed that God use the scraps in ways that we can see. I know I need that-- when I think of struggles in marriage, struggles in family, struggles in vocation, I need to believe that God can make something good out of my messes. I need it badly.

So, if you're so inclined, you can pray for me to let go of my scraps and let God do something with them. How can I pray for you, when your bead comes around during my prayer time?

(This photo is from Film in the Fridge, which is my very, very favorite quilt eye candy.
She makes beautiful stuff.)


Wednesday Prayers: Rest

I haven't been sleeping well for the last couple of weeks, so when it came time for Wednesday Prayers, all I could think of was Compline.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness.
-BCP, p. 133

Are you tired, too? Or feeling energized? Either way, leave a note in the comments, and I'll keep you in my prayers this week.


Wednesday Prayers (Erm... belatedly): While We're Working On Our Stuff

Loving God, you made us uniquely, deliberately forming each of us with care. You are the painter, sculptor, and composer of our selves. You imagined and brought into being our bodies, voices, and spirits. You knit us in the womb, and know the number of hairs on our heads.

Let us remember that we are your beloved children, demonstrating your divine craftsmanship. Teach us reverence for your work in us. Let us rejoice in ourselves as we do in all of your creation.


Wednesday Prayers: Friendship

I'm thinking a lot about friendship lately-- what it is and isn't, and the truth that not everyone has to be my friend. (And not everyone who says they are uses the same definition I do!) I'll be writing more about that later, I'm sure.

In the meantime, I figured we might as well pray over friendships.
May the God of love who is the source of all our affection for each other formed here on earth take our friendships into divine keeping, that they may continue and increase throughout life and beyond it, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
-William Temple
(edited for gender)

Is there anything else I can be praying about for you this week? Or do you have a friendship that needs a little extra prayer?

And just as a bonus-- I just love this old hymn. It's been a favorite since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.


The Essence of a Home

Yesterday, Mr. M got word (in what struck me as an exasperatingly vague way) that we won't be heading south to a job in the city of our incredibly beloved surrogate father/grandfather. We're both a little heartbroken. It was amazing that Mr. M got on the short list, and we got our hopes up. It was his Dream Job, and we love this octogenarian so much, and the combination made the "no" just stink on ice.

And so, we're going to be in limbo a while longer, a more indefinite limbo, without any idea of what might be next. (Yes, I know that's true for everyone-- both tragedies and joys jump out from behind the bushes all the time.) We will certainly be fine, but today is a time for mourning. Premature cheerfulness helps no one (and encouragement towards the same might get you socked in the eye).

This morning, it struck me that most of my sadness comes from not being able to make our next home. This place has always felt like temporary housing-- first because we thought I'd be heading off for seminary, but eventually because... well, have you ever just not belonged somewhere? I'm damn adaptable (heaven knows I've had enough practice), but I've never stopped feeling like the new kid in school here. (My theory is that's what happens when most people in an area have roots that go back generations.) I remember talking to my spiritual director a few months ago about how we carry a sense of "home" with us when we're accepting of who God made us to be. It's true. But I'm still yearning for a little cocoon.

We're feeling a bit like orphans, and I badly want to make us a little cozy sweet nest. (Maybe less orphans than runaways, I can't decide. Either way, it's relatively recent, basically unbloggable, and horribly sad.)

This afternoon, I thought about what makes a "home" to me. Mostly, it's hospitality. A place feels like a home to me when there are extra plates set at the table, fluffed pillows on the guest bed, laughter in the living room.

Well, I can get that going again, right? That can happen in transition.

But my heart still hurts. And I still hate our butt-ugly couch.


Wednesday Prayers: Evolving Vocation

There's a common thread in my prayers lately: an awful lot of those on my list are at pivotal vocational points:
  • Leaving (or not) an academic career for the unknown.
  • Losing a job, but committing more deeply to art.
  • Defending a dissertation!
  • Nurturing a spiritual direction practice in a new place, pastoring and bishop-ing, staying focused while committed and open to what might come.
  • Looking ahead to the mystery of ordained ministry.
  • Considering a new direction after a beloved institution... becomes a different environment.
  • Waiting, and waiting, and waiting... to hear if the Dream Job is going to come through.
  • Looking ahead into choppy chunks of time, trying to find a consistent call (and a balance with motherhood!).
At this moment, I am very happy with the freedom of my loosely definitely vocation. Partly because I'm not sure we can define vocation in advance (I've talked about that before). The combined effects of each day's steps-- both bold and tentative-- create each unique vocation. Even something like priesthood-- there's Kate's priesthood, and Jane's, and Stephen's, and they're all different ministries. There are commonalities, but they are not the same priesthood. No two mothers, no two wives, teachers, physicists, even! have the same approach, the same results. Rather than molding ourselves to fit a tidy vocation, we can watch our own evolve, one piece at a time. (Mind, sometimes it does look a bit like Johnny Cash's Cadillac in his "One Piece at a Time!") I'll admit that this is a particularly scary way of doing things. And I may sound like a moron at my class reunion. People like to hear linear plans.

These wonderful people on my list-- they're all doing neat things. They're asking good questions, and it's cool to watch.

All freedom seems to require courage initially. If the only way to get rid of fear is to walk straight through it (and I believe that's the case), then surely the path to our own specific call is going to take some bravery.

But take heart, dear ones! The Lord is with us! And, thank heavens, is patient with us-- "For God knows how we were made; God remembers that we are dust." (Ps.103:14)

Did you see yourself in my list? I might be praying for you. If you didn't, leave a note in the comments, and I will!


Prayer for a Meet-Up

Holy God,
Please open my heart to her,
And her heart to me,
That your love may pass between us.


Perspective (but just a little bit)

A couple of people have just behaved like hateful assholes to someone I adore. Cruel, selfish, putting him down because it's their only possible defense of their own bad behavior.

I have been fantasizing about all the mean things I could say to them. I've been so furious that my arms tingle, my head aches, and my jaw hurts from clenching my teeth.

I suspect this may be how God feels when we all, when I myself, mistreat people. Well, maybe not the name-calling and the visions of boiling oil, but definitely the anger. It's a thought that dilutes fury with humility.

But I still don't think I should talk to them right now...


Summer Academy, Last Day!

Sorry for the delay on this one-- I was tuckered out yesterday!

My thoughts from our last Spiritual Autobiography workshop:
  • Ageism in terms of faith drives me totally out of my gourd. I'm really sad to hear the disrespect with which people speak about their younger selves. Mind, I'm guilty of the same damn thing.
  • I have a bizarre liberal liturgical evangelical theology. It's a crazy quilt theology, but I absolutely believe that God is active in our lives.
  • I feel really angry when Christians make disparaging remarks about other denominations. Seriously? Why do we need to do this? It's clearer than ever that I feel called to an ecumenical ministry. Whatever that looks like. *sigh*
  • Clearly, I was cranky during class discussion, and not paying so much attention to the writing.
  • I notice that it's not uncommon for me to learn something, not appreciate it immediately, but find more value in it later. I suspect that will be the last with the Spiritual Autobiography class. On the other hand, the instructor said that he's going to rewrite the course description, because the part that I was interested in is the part he doesn't do!
Last grief class:
  • We talked about the importance of "continuing bonds with the deceased, moving from a relationship of presence to a relationship of memory." This makes a LOT of sense to me, and somehow seems like a kinder, more whole way to be. The old way of erasing someone from our lives seems to erase part of our lives. (I guess that's redundant, but maybe still needs to be said.)
  • One of my favorite suggestions: when someone grieving asks, "Why?!" consider that it may be a protest, rather than a question.
  • We learned things about child development this week that help explain why sometimes I'm slow to warm up to people (and maybe workshops).
I think that's it, folks.


Summer Academy Writing Assignment

I thought about including this with my bullets, but decided it deserved a whole separate post.

This assignment began with a 10 minute timed writing on "a time that we failed."

After we'd done that, we whittled our story into 40 words.

Then 30.

Then 15.

Here's mine:

Denison letterhead:
Semester home, earn return.
Amazing people expect me!
Learned other people fail, too.

I'm not sure it's powerful for other people, but I loved doing it. Try it when you've got a free 20 minutes.

Summer Academy, Day 4

  • It's not taking classes that's wearing me out, nor the fact that I'm not getting home until 9:30. No, it's the fact that I'm so wound up I'm not falling asleep until midnight.
  • My new buddy (?) and I agreed after yesterday's autobiography class: we're bored with ourselves. Tired of writing and talking about ourselves. It felt tedious on Thursday.
  • I'd love to break up these classes with... volleyball? Marco Polo in a pool? Something where I can laugh and not think at all.
  • I'm noticing about myself that I'm interested in conversation (out loud, in letters, even blog ones), but the one-way stories of writing... this I may not love quite as much.
  • Hell is other people. When I'm being irritable, I'm a terrible snob about writing.
  • Which is funny, because I'm not Tolstoy myself.
  • We talked about gender differences in grief (with the understanding that they're not a rule, just sometimes the way things go). The most helpful thing I got out of this was that when men experience a loss, it may be more useful to ask, "What are the problems you're anticipating now?" rather than "how are you feeling?" This makes a lot of sense to me. I like that it's a way to start to have a conversation. By dealing with the practical rather than the emotional, we can still reach out.
  • I LOVED that Prof. Frank was very clear: the things that may complicate grieving might also be the things holding a person together. Let people grieve the way they need to. Whether you think it's the "right way" or not really doesn't matter.
  • Also: Grief is more spiral than linear. I'm certainly noticing this in my relationship with my mother. Some days I'm fine, some I'm not, and the triggers and uncertainties vary.
  • It's not unusual around month 5 or 6 (this varies, of course), for the grievers pain to peak back up to the level it was at the very beginning. Maybe that's when it sinks in that things are not going back to "normal."
I want you to know how much I've loved sharing this week with you. I'm KICKING MYSELF for not doing the same thing with the Medicine/Spirituality conference in April (though I did a lot of writing on paper, so I may go back and see if there's anything worth sharing from that). It's meant a lot to me to have your perspectives, they've enriched my understanding.


Summer Academy, Day 3

Cats and kittens, I am WIPED. I only had Grief and Loss on Wednesday (no Autobiography), and somehow that one class was more exhausting than both.
  • We're reading Viorst's Necessary Losses, which is about the losses that occur at each developmental stage, from birth to death. When I started reading it last week (before the class met), I was overwhelmed. HOLY CRAP. I did NOT get to experience those losses well, at the time. It's given words to grief I've been trying to process over the last year. A friend said to me this morning, "it's a miracle you can make attachments!" She's right. Understanding better helps me to be more patient with myself, also illuminates the path ahead. One step at a time, anyway.
  • We talked about "disenfranchised grief," some of which comes from avoidable losses. Even when something is our choice, there's often a loss that needs to be grieved, and lots of time people do not respect this. Quitting a job, initiating a divorce, retirement, ending a relationship are all examples of this.
  • We were reminded that, because everyone grieves in their own way, we will make mistakes when we are with grievers. We can learn from them.
  • I'm exhausted, and I'm feeling tender, but I'm also feeling held. I talked to one of the women I love most in the world this morning, and was just enormously grateful to be loved back.


Summer Academy, Day 2

Thoughts from Day 2:

  • I made a new friend! Maybe. At least a new running buddy, I think.
  • One week of classes is not enough. It feels so good to be studying, to be engaged with other people who share my loves.
  • It's amazing to be in two classes where a primary purpose is to share our stories. I love these opportunities to turn my flat first impressions of people into something much richer. I hear people's stories, and my heart expands to make room for them.
  • Unfortunately, I'm so excited that I have to keep telling myself, "shutup, shutup, shutup, shutup!" to keep from babbling. I'm the verbal equivalent of an incontinent puppy.
  • I love the writing class (as a group of people), but I don't love the practice, I think. I've got a regular routine of praying via journal first thing in the morning, and my non-prayer "morning pages" feel... a little lonely, honestly. If I'm going to be honest on paper, I need the comfort of bringing that honest to God.
  • I'm FASCINATED by the grief class. (NOT, I want to be clear, in a carnival sideshow sort of way, but as something relevant to everyone, and as something I'm dealing with right now.) I kept thinking, everyone should learn these things! And then I realized, not everyone is going to learn the intricacies of loss and grief. We can't expect everyone to study this. We need people with understanding to accompany us, instead. Friends, I think this is something we're going to come back to. There's something going on here.
I had to come back and add to that last point: when I say "people with understanding," I don't mean people who have it all figured out or who will tell us what to do. I mean people who can listen, who can be with us, who can respect where we are.


Summer Academy, Day 1

There's SO MUCH to process after my first day of Lancaster Theological Seminary's summer academy. It's my second session there-- I went the summer of '07, and the contrasts between then and now are striking. Not in the program, but in me.

Because there's so very much to process, and because in the past that's gotten in the way of my sharing anything at all, we're going with bullet points this week. (I spent a week in Ohio in August, and another in April, and both of them were profound times of formation. I still want to write about them.)

Here we go:
  • I'm taking a workshop on Spiritual Autobiography, and a class on Living with Loss/Grieving.
  • There are TWO people that I know and enjoy in my classes! It's a small world of ministry in Lancaster County, and I'm so happy to run into these two.
  • Intensive writing and paying attention to loss is going to make for an emotional week, I think. I've packed a handkerchief in my bag.
  • There is some serious grace being doled out to me. One of the two people I've run into is a warm, kind pastor of a UCC church that I worshiped with briefly after resigning the process. There's no other way to say it: I've been scared of ordained ministers since I resigned. In light of that, his gentleness and encouragement have been a real blessing. Especially since I didn't join his congregation.
  • I really love being in class, talking about the things that matter most to me. The grief class is a great blend of cerebral and personal.
  • I think I'm an anomaly: apparently, most people feel more comfortable writing in plain, cheap notebooks. I love pretty journals, lovely pens. I'm not intimidated by them, I find them inviting. I like nice tools--even for the messy stuff.
  • I may be more comfortable writing than most.
  • Our Loss/Grief prof: "Certain events in our lives have not been dignified with recognition." Well, how powerful is that?! I thought of some right away, truths that we didn't want to dignify, but they were still important. This got me thinking about liturgy, which I've always loved. I've been a bit rigid about liturgy (in fairness, some of this is because I think it's so important), and when I thought about it as commemoration of events, I could see the possibility of more flexibility. I remember learning that a Church of the Brethren pastor and spiritual director held a service of blessing and release to a directee who'd been called to Episcopal priesthood (she'd worshipped in both denominations). Wouldn't it be great to honor those who discern calls out of things?
  • "What we grieve tells us what we love." Well, absolutely. But think about it. Because there are a lot of layers in that one.
  • Losses and gains are interrelated, but only the griever has a right to name any gifts that might come through grief.
That's it for now, friends, but that's a lot!


Wednesday Prayers: Timelines

Isn't she lovely? I took this picture this morning. I like a rose that decides to bloom when the temperature shoots into the triple-digits.

I quit my day job almost exactly a year ago, and in the months since then, the timeline-based vocational expectations I had have been blown apart. I've grown more in this year without business plans, checklists, and rubrics than I would have believed possible. This is the first time in my life that I've taken things as they've come-- a conference here, a class there. It's been peaceful and expansive (hopefully not in the tedious sense), all at the same time. I've been open to leadings, and they've been much better formation than the times I've had to contort myself to try to fit.

And since I've been able to practice and learn from this vocationally, one would think it would be simple and natural to take that same flexibility and apply it to other parts of my life.

AHAHAHAHAHAHA! *wipes eyes*

So, this week my prayer is to apply the same patience to my personal life that I have to my vocational one.

How about you? Are you praying to tread more lightly, or do you need help plunging ahead? Maybe some of both? Let me know, and I'll pray for you, too!



A few years ago, Mr. M and I switched to canvas shopping bags. I LOVE them-- partly because they feel more ecologically responsible, but also because they're much more comfortable for me to carry (and you'd laugh at the lengths I go to in order to only take one trip into the house with groceries). I always remember to grab the bag o' bags for the weekly grocery shopping, but sometimes I have to run a quick errand and have left the bags at home. More often than not I tell the clerk that I don't want a bag, but that's not always convenient.

SO, since we didn't have enough bags to leave a couple extra in the car, I headed to my local fabric store. One day of sewing + 2 yards of upholstery-weight fabric ($7 on clearance!), and we now have four new totes! And they're cute! And I didn't use a pattern at all, just winged it! Very exciting. So, two in each car, and I'm ready to... well, head to the bookstore tomorrow (because I have to pick up my reading for Lancaster Theological Seminary's Summer Academy).


Independence Day

Altar Ego made a great little list of things she loves about our country, and I liked it so much I decided to do the same.

In random order:
  1. Peach Pie
  2. The Bill of Rights
  3. Pork BBQ Sandwiches
  4. Cowboys, and their Boots
  5. The OSU/Michigan Game
  6. Washington, DC
  7. Rahm Emanuel
  8. Springsteen
  9. The USMC Silent Drill Team
  10. National Public Radio



At the eleventh hour, then news has come: Mr. M isn't being laid off. Budgets are being cut instead of staff.



Wednesday Prayers: Simple Pleasures Edition

This week, we've been wondering if Mr. M will still have a job by Friday. In the midst of worries about layoffs, Mr. M took a little walk into the woods behind his office... and found BERRIES.

Whenever I imagine it, an old Peanuts strip comes to mind. Anyone remember the one where Snoopy kicks his bowl in a fit of pique, but then can't get it because he's afraid of the neighbor cat? In the last panel, his cheeks are stuffed with berries, and that's EXACTLY what I think has been going on. I have good reason to think it, too-- when berries are ripe on our favorite rail trail, I can count on running alone for long, vine-filled stretches. Because Mr. M is snacking.


Still, it's a nice thing to have humor (and woods, and berries) in the middle of uncertainty, and I'm praising God today for the sweet surprises.

How about you? Are you lifting up sweetness or carrying something saltier? How can I pray with you?


A Little Glimpse

The good news: this is the lovely view on one of my regular runs.
The bad new? The run starts and ends at the bottom of the hill


Wednesday Prayers: Potluck Edition

These odds and ends are in my prayers this week:
  • Mr. M might have fractured his hand. He's getting an x-ray now. He whacked the bejesus out of it a couple weeks ago, and finally went to the doctor today.
  • An article in our local paper let us know that Mr. M's employer plans to cut a number of jobs. Of the kind of employee that Mr. M is. They'll decide at the end of June. For the fiscal year starting July 1.
  • One the other hand, there was a beautiful heron hanging out by a local pond yesterday, saw it twice. Felt very grateful for the privilege of watching it get dinner.
  • I'm taking one major unbloggable situation and, at least for this week, shutting out all outside information, and just praying about it. It's been incredibly helpful. Among other things, I'm knowing God in ways that never occurred to me.
Despite some pretty big stressors, I'm doing really well. I'm grateful for all the prayers, and I'm feeling a good bit of peace. Thanks, friends.

And you? What's your motley casserole of prayers this week?


Gratitude for Fear

About a week ago, I wrote about not letting fear run the house. I didn't elaborate on something, and it's too glaring an omission to let go.

While sometimes our fear is disproportionate to the situation (and perhaps would be better called anxiety), there is holy fear that takes care of us. There is fear that is a Great Big Neon Sign and we would do well to respect it. One of the best things I've ever read on this is Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear, and I can't recommend it highly enough. A great point de Becker makes is that we shouldn't dismiss our intuition as irrational. Usually, our intuition is an understanding of facts and clues that didn't consciously register-- but they're still concrete evidence.

The tricky thing about real fear (as opposed to anxiety, insecurity, etc.) is that the only way to know for sure whether we're right is to ignore it. We won't get a postcard in the mail saying, "Congratulations! That dark alley really was unsafe! Good job!" We will, however, have confirmation that our intuition was right when we meet the shady character in the alley we decided to risk going down.

A lovely Navy chaplain once asked my mother, "if you thought of your gut feeling as the Holy Spirit's guidance, would you be more likely to listen to it?"

This is a really difficult subject for me right now, because my fear is saying one thing, and my sense of obligation is saying another. My fear is shouting about one course of action, and if I take it I'll lose something I've hoped for. Though that does make me think of missionary martyr Jim Elliot again-- "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."


Blessings From My Morning Run

  • Getting up and going. Any day I manage to crate the dog and go for a run, especially by myself, is awesome.
  • An honest-to-goodness bluebird. Definitely not a bluejay. Gorgeous.
  • The gentleman who doffed his cap when he said good morning. I was completely charmed.
  • Everyone I passed said good morning.
  • Including the team of cyclists. Adorable.
  • The calico cat sleeping in a window.
  • The ginger cat in another window.
  • Jerron Niemann's "Lover, Lover" running through my head, keeping my pace.


Obedience School

Last night, I was talking to a wonderful man who hasn't been able to make some of the changes in his life that he really wants to. His fear has been getting in the way. As he talked about his situation, I began to imagine his fear as a big, clumsy dog galloping through his home. The dog wasn't mean, or bad, it just needed its master to set some limits. In fact, it wants limits-- it will be less anxious if it knows where it's allowed to go, and what the rules are. The dog, Fear, needs discipline and consistency. Have you ever watched The Dog Whisperer? I saw one episode, and knew right away the dog is never the problem: that poor Cesar Milan has to train PEOPLE!

I pictured the man as a child, when the dog was as big as he was. The dog was overwhelming then! It could push him over! And none of the adults in the house handled his Fear. The man's an adult now, and he can handle Fear, but it's only just starting to occur to him that he's bigger than the puppy now.

Then I thought about the dog I haven't trained properly. I think it's a spoiled Chihauhau. It yaps an awful lot, and tends to get riled up and nip my ankles. I need to learn to ignore it when it's acting up, but I also need to learn to praise it when it's doing it's job. Because it's a good dog. It loves me, and watches out for me. It just needs to be corrected when it's over-vigilant. Sometimes, it needs to stop pacing (and I need to crate it).

What kind of dog is your fear? How do you need to train it?


Wednesday Prayers: For Courage

I'm struggling with an unbloggable situation, and as I've been holding a few friends in the Light, I realize we're all sharing one common need: courage. A specific kind of loving courage. One that lets us take care of ourselves.

Some of us have been discouraged from doing that. Some of us have been taught to take care of others, even when the other can't or doesn't care for us. Sometimes the "other" that acts against us is another person, and sometimes it's the nagging voice of shame, telling us we're less than we really are.

Loving God, who gathers us as a hen gathers her brood:
May your nurturing teach us who we are,
May your gentleness show us our value,
May your constancy give us strength,
And may your affection and guidance bring us peace in the midst of conflict.

Is there anything for which you need courage this week? Are there any prayers I can lift for you?


Considering a Decision

Loving God of Justice and of Mercy;

Show us when to shake the dust from our feet in Your Name, turning our backs on hypocrisy and oppression, shame and abuse,
And when to stay, invited to be transformed through your limitless healing.

Show us how to love those who answer both calls, to respect their obedience to you.

Give us the integrity to act and speak at all times only as you bid us, not as we, led by ego and insecurity, might do.

And in the midst of discernments, teach us to love both the shaming and the shamed, the abuser and the abused, knowing that each of us is both.


Wednesday Prayers: Keeping Body and Spirit Together

No, this isn't about food (though many of you know I'm usually an excellent eater). Nope, in my prayers today I'm thinking about our tendency to try to divorce our bodies from our spirits-- nurturing one, while denying the other. It's not a separation that works for me.

Mr. M and I have recently started lifting weights together. We'd talked about it for a while, and both finally got up the nerve to join the big burly guys at our gym. (Ever notice how much gender segregation there is at your fitness club? Men by the free weights, women on the cardio machines?)

I've run for a while, and practiced yoga for a while, but lifting is giving me a new perspective on what the body that God created for me can do. It's interesting to discover which parts started out stronger (my calves), and which ones are only beginning to develop strength (my biceps). We could easily make a metaphor about exercising spiritual gifts and practices, and taking inventory of the places we're called to grow, but I want to leave that alone today. I want to pay attention to the way our bodies are uniquely precious. I believe it's holy to celebrate them, use them, thank God for them, and listen to them. They do tell us things about our spirit (why do my arms tingle when I'm overwhelmed?!), but they can be speak for themselves, too.

Some of us have felt (I know I have) like only one part of our bodies defined us (he's bald, her nose is crooked, they have bellies). That's so rarely a positive experience-- even when the attribute is being praised! If we don't want one part of our body to define the whole to the exclusion of the rest, it doesn't seem that we should let our spirits define our selves to the exclusion of our bodies. I believe in wholeness.

So this week, my prayer is gratitude for physicality. I've got a cranky iliotibial band and a hamstring that I have to keep an eye on, but I'm so glad to run, to laugh with giggles that shake all of me, to pet the cats, to hold my friends. I'm glad to have a face that I can scrunch up in concentration, cold toes to slide under my husband, knees to kneel during confession. Thanks be to the God of our bodies.

I'll be giving thanks for your whole selves this week, too. Your fingers that tap keyboards, your hands that garden and sauder and stir stew, your feet that jazzercise, your arms that lift babies, your feet that drive cars, your ears that hear birds, your vocal cords that vibrate, your hearts that swish oxygen through you. I'll be happy to offer thanksgiving or supplication for anything else, too, if you let me know what you need!