Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear Santa... oops ... Jesus!

My oldest daughter is 23 years old, a 2009 summa cum laude graduate of an Ivy League school, running a food bank in Brooklyn, New York, and about to be among the great unemployed. Her position is funded through Americorps, and her year of service will be completed in 4 short weeks. While she knows she can always come home... who wants to do that at age 23?!

While her circumstance is certainly not unique in this economy, what is unique is that this is my daughter. Which of course has occasioned more than a few prayers on my part. Recently, I chose to let my meditations center upon this daughter, and I began my usual laundry list of requests:
  1. Please God... help her to find a job
  2. A good job
  3. A meaningful job
  4. A living wage job
  5. And, how great, if it could be located on the west (I like to say, the "correct") coast!
  6. Oh, and of course... help her to find great co-workers
  7. And good friends
  8. And a supportive, healthy community
  9. And... and... and...
Until, pretty soon, I realized it sounded more like I was sitting on Santa's knee than kneeling in the presence of God! The nature of my meditations - however good hearted and well intentioned they were - were just plain wrong.

It is not that there was anything "wrong" with any of these desires of my heart for my child. What was wrong was found in their limitations. I came to recognize (thanks be to God!) that my laundry list could never be complete. In fact, I do not even know the depth, length, height, breadth, width of my own needs... much less anyone else's! Who am I to say which of these desires is most important, which is critical for health and happiness? Who am I to know for my daughter what I may not even know for myself?

So before the meditation bell sounded, I managed to climb down off Santa's lap. And my laundry list transformed into one simple supplication:
Please God... fill her, form her, and let her light shine in all its fullest glory.

As this became my mantra, my anxiety for my daughter was replaced with a vision of her fulfillment - beyond my wildest dreams. I saw the Spirit's light flowing into and freeing up her own light. I saw her beauty and grace being released into the world without hesitation or fear. I experienced re-birth in that moment of meditation.

Apparently, letting go of my agenda is the first step in this journey of birth... whether I am trying to do it for myself, or longing it to be so for someone else. How simple it is, really - but how hard to remember - to get out of the way and let God be God. "Fill her (fill me); Form her (form me); and let her (my) light shine in all its fullest glory."... So long, Santa. Amen.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Empty Nest"

I'm having a trial run this week, getting ready for fall's big changes. Both daughters are away, the younger one visiting her sister in the Big Apple. So I find myself thinking about September, when the nest will be emptying for real. And I'm not sure I am going to like it.

For quite some time now folks have been asking me if I was 'ready' for this life change. What I am realizing today is that there is really no way to prepare for it. Certainly I can make some plans (like asking a friend to go with me to move her into the dorm room so that I don't have to make the trek home all alone!). I can imagine what it will be like to walk by an empty bedroom and wait for the school vacations.

But, until that freshman year begins, the empty nest will only be an abstraction, something anticipated with excitement or with dread. Perhaps the thing to do is breathe. Today, in this moment, to focus on what is present, rather than those who are absent. Present with me right now are the options I have for this day. Present with me is the freedom to schedule my time. Present is my health, my strength, my wonder.

And while this nest may feel a little roomier right now, it is not because it is "empty"... because I am still here. I will be here when school starts. I'll be here when it ends. And perhaps it is time (high time) to pay attention to me. If I can manage to do that (even for today), it might not matter what happens in this nest after all.

"Agility, Part 2"

Some months ago I wrote about wanting to start Agility training with my dog. It seemed like a good way to be active, to channel a little of Reggie's natural exuberance in a positive way, and to help us bond.

Well, we started a "fundamentals of Agility" class in June, and of course Reggie does love it. He loves the jumps and the tunnels and the running the course. He loves the attention, and he especially loves the training treats. What he doesn't seem to love is the practice.

It turns out that Agility is like every other skill in life: it takes practice. It takes patience and determination. It takes persistence and attention to detail, going over one jump at a time, learning one command at a time. For Reggie - and I admit, for me - this is the real challenge of Agility. It seems so much more fun when you go and watch a competition. It seems so effortless and is such pure joy to watch dogs and trainers run through a course together as if they are one. Or as if they had not spent hours, days, months (even years) practicing.

Of course there are thousands of pithy little sayings I could post here...
"practice makes perfect"
"nothing that is worth doing is easy"
"an hour of practice is worth five hours of foot dragging"

But my favorite "practical" saying is this one, from Martha Graham - dancer, choreographer, and wise woman:
"Practice means to perform, over and over again, in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. We learn by practice. Whether that means we learn to dance by practicing dancing, or we learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some arena, an athlete of God."

So the sun is shining, the breeze is gently blowing, and the puppy is whining at my feet. It must be time to practice.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Tonight is the 4th of July, and while our neighborhood celebrates, our puppy is hiding between a table and the couch.  I'm sure Reggie is confused by our apathetic attitude while our house is (in Reggie's mind at least) under siege!  Fireworks are not much fun if you are a dog.

Driving home from a friend's barbeque, I got to thinking about the 4th of July, which we in the US celebrate as "Independence Day".  And yet, historically the 4th was not the day that independence was achieved.  Rather, it is simply the day independence was proclaimed.  The signing of the Declaration of Independence (and its adoption by the Continental Congress) was only the beginning - in some ways, that was the easy part.  Still to come were the bloody battles, the social and economic chaos, the disintegration of whole communities.  

Perhaps it would be more realistic, more historically accurate, for us to call this 4th of July our "Revolution Day".  Because when you think about it, that is really what we are choosing to mark and remember.  Revolution Day -- I like the sound of that, especially in this year of Re-Birth.  Because it helps me remember to mark and to celebrate every vision, every dream, every goal I can proclaim.  I do not have to wait until it is all achieved - until every dream is fulfilled, every goal is complete, every vision is fully grown.  Indeed, it just may be the celebrations themselves which help to create the reality.  

Where would this nation have ended up (as colonists, perhaps?) without the Declaration of Independence?  Where would any of us be without our own proclamations of faith, or our own declarations of hope?  They may be only the beginning.  There may be battles yet to fight, tough times to weather, chaos or fear to overcome.  Yet we have begun - independence is possible - when we mark, remember, and celebrate our own "Revolution Days".  So I say, pass the sparklers!  It's a good day for revolution! 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Following a Thread

The loose thread appeared to be something I could easily pull off my jacket.  It seemed to be an isolated flaw, and one which could be removed without disturbing the rest of the garment.  So, I grasped it between two fingers and gave a little tug... and then watched as the hem neatly unravelled in my hands!

Obviously there was nothing "isolated" about that thread.  Like so many of the issues of our lives, that loose thread was entwined around other, more stable threads and caught up in the overall weave of the jacket in ways I could not see at first glance.  Pulling the one thread actually impacted several others in a way that brought about the unravelling I had so wanted to avoid.

For me, it was a good lesson and an excellent metaphor.  There are times when I have felt myself unravelling.  There are times when I am caught in the grip of emotions which are entwined around one another.  And I cannot always recognize those threads - much less follow them - on a conscious level.  Just last night I was frustrated about three months of child support not yet paid, and college tuition due in less than a month.  I was fearful and more than a little angry about emails gone unanswered and promises not kept.  And I found myself unravelling.

This morning light dawned ... and I realized that I had been pulling a thread of grief which was entwined around the threads of anger, fear, and righteous indignation.  I have been a single mother for 15 years.  Those 15 years have lulled me into thinking the wounds of rejection, the pain of loss are healed and gone.  But the truth is that those threads are still a part of the tapestry of my life.  No wonder the level of my unrest kept rising; no wonder my anger rose to rage, when I inadvertently began to pull at the threads of pain.  

I do not like to unravel, even a bit.  And I do not do it very often.  Yet I am learning to welcome the fraying when it comes.  Because it always gives me a chance to follow the threads and to see where they lead.  It gives me an opportunity for healing and a chance for hope.  When a garment - or a life - unravels, you have a chance to re-weave it (maybe even to re-birth it!) into something stronger, more beautiful, and new.  

So I wonder where the next thread will finally lead?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Golf Balls??

I do not believe in coincidences...at least not until they have been thoroughly examined and investigated. I try to live each day fully present to the presence of God in the present moment. Which means, I try to pay attention when I am surprised by anything seemingly coincidental.

Recently, my attention has been drawn to golf balls. I know, it seems odd, but I am trying to figure out what in the world Spirit is trying to tell me through golf balls! About a week ago I was on the beautiful beach at Florence, Oregon, playing with the puppy. While Reggie fixated on chasing the tennis ball (over and over and over), I walked along the water's edge, enjoying the sand and the sun. When I came upon a golf ball gently rolling in the surf, I picked it up so it would not end up in some poor seagull's throat.

After about an hour we left the beach and headed inland to Reggie's first "agility" training class. Before we got to the instructor's home, we stopped for another romp - this time in a middle school's baseball field. Once again Reggie raced around "herding" the ball I threw for him, leaping to catch it in his mouth or pouncing on it in the grass. Once again, I walked the field and was surprised to find (you guessed it) a golf ball lying in the grass. I pocketed it along with the one from the beach, and didn't think anything more about it.

Until the next day when I again took Reggie and the "chuck-it" out to run off some of his innate over-the-top energy. And again, I discovered a golf ball lying smack dab in my path!

So what could this mean? What is the message for me? I think it is probably too late for me to join the pro circuit, even if I had ever mastered the game. My mom might tell me the message is an encouragement to take it up again, maybe even to receive the gift of her old clubs. My friend suggested maybe it was a clue to my next husband (you know, find the golfer, and go after him!) But really...

I think the message is much more subtle than any of these suggestions. When I think about golfing, I think of the frustration I used to feel because I was not able to do it right all the time. Those one or two good shots were hopelessly lost in the multitude of poor ones. I remember the dismay that came with knowing my head should stay down and my swing should be relaxed and my knees should be bent... and the reality that time and again my head would bob up, my swing would be stiff and my knees as straight as sticks.

Going down this memory lane, I'm thinking to take those found golf balls and give them away - quickly. And yet maybe it is possible to play the game (of golf, or even of life) without the frustration. Because maybe I could let go of my expectations that I should "do it right" all the time. Maybe I could learn to pay closer attention to the one or two good shots - the successes I enjoy, no matter how minor - and cease to give the limelight to my mis-steps or mistakes. Maybe I could learn that just "knowing" is not the same as "doing", and I could become more patient with myself in the process of growing into wisdom, head/heart/body/and spirit.

Well, what do you know! Golf balls, it turns out, can be a pretty effective communications tool after all.