Looking for light

Haven’t felt much like writing. In a year of transformation, energy comes and goes. Truth, turns into a masterful thief, stealing illusions that have become important parts of the  life we lead. We believe that those we love will always be there, even as we  know that this is one more illusion. Facing the knowing levels life. We stop, hoping for a new beginning, making room in a broken heart…someday.

Loss is a patient teacher.  It moves in. As it settles down for the long haul we learn self reliance. Pain is confirmation of a relationship to another. The gentle ways in which one life transforms because of the love of another. Love shares the beauty in wheat fields.

Grief teaches us that we have loved deeply. It is confirmation that loss is love with no place to go. Loss of another calls us as witness. We become more aware of  our ability to engage in caring for more than our own life. It reminds us that someone who  seemingly just showed us one day changed us in immeasurably lovely ways, giving us tools to change our own wild life. In mourning we may not see it, but light still shines.

 

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Side by side

In my garden there are a couple of echinacea plants. This flower is native to my location and there are so many reasons that I love this plant.

  1. It blooms for much of the summer.
  2. I’ve not seen deer eat them, so they endure and live peacefully with most of the local flora and fauna.
  3. Although the flowers on this plant are purple, the species itself has a diversity of colors. I am partial to the purple flowers but all are quite lovely.
  4. The plant itself is hardy and the echinacea in ,y garden have survived some harsh winter temperatures, going down to below zero (f).
  5. The plant seems to have some medicinal properties, although there are those who would dispute that.

What I appreciate about this particular plant is that if you look very closely at the bottom right corner of the picture you will see a flower that seems to be growing apart from the others. The stem of the plant extends horizontally at ground level and the flower is healthy and blooming. It appears a bit less purple, but is part of the whole plant none-the -less.

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Why is it that some of us are supported when we ‘bloom where we are planted,” as the saying goes? Why do some children seem to be the stereotypical black sheep? Why are black sheep shunned? What allows for acceptance? What does it take foster a climate of love, peace, inquiry and a willingness to accept and celebrate our differences?

Why do some resist new and different ideas? What frightens us about being different? Is it that explanation of survival of the fittest? Is it that early humans had to agree and support each other, dependent on one another for their existence? Do we fear ‘the other’ because he may be smarter, more creative, or stronger than we are? Might her ability to endure backbreaking labor be better than ours?  If so, what do those who cultivate their gifts and use them for benefit have to teach us? Why are we often afraid to acknowledge the lessons?

Does the curiosity of one eager mind diminish my own capacity? Perhaps all are needed for survival, because each person has her own singular gift to share. Rather than celebrate only commonalities, we might be better off to embrace and cherish the diversity of each person, knowing that all contributions to the well-being of humankind are needed.

Are we born to be obedient? What convictions, if any do we hold sacred?  When do we break with authority and when do we hold fast to it?

It might not seem relevant to ponder the idea of conformity and obedience with my little plant. I just can’t help but wonder how nature, in this instance at any rate seems to share to effortlessly support the totality of the plant and yet as humans too often we struggle to accept those we name as outliers.

 

 

 

Finding Hope

The earrings shown below were a gift to me about 15 years ago. Working as a hospital chaplain, I wore them often. In my mind they were the physical reality of what I hoped I was able to help patients (re)discover.

In a hospital there are a lot of stressed out people. Overworked staff, anxious families, people in crisis and/or pain. I wanted to be the embodiment of a merciful higher power when I went into a room.

At first, going into a room reminded me of trying to sell something to a stranger. Or it felt like what I  most probably naively imagine an investment counselor. I imagined my nervous self that first year of my clinical pastoral education (a seminary requirement; for the curious see here.)   https://www.acpe.edu/   as trying to sell someone on God, or perhaps the comfort of a higher power that had a plan for us. I fell in love with chaplaincy and stayed.  Patients were inspirational, their families were too. The stories I heard startled me, piqued my curiosity, amazed me, turned me toward God in a way that I had not experienced.  I learned that sometimes the best comfort I brought was hope. Hope that things would get better. Hope in the form of a temporary respite from pain, sometimes in the form of hearing and affirming a person. Sometimes in helping someone work a crossword puzzle. Sometimes in just being silent when words weren’t enough.

Sometimes it was in just holding a hand and understanding that this was comfort enough. Being present, showing up, offering to hold a cup to lips that were parched. Holding a hand while a patient was being wheeled to surgery.  Sitting with nervous families as they waited for test results.  Sometimes sitting with families and offering a prayer around a dying person as we shared our thanks for the work they had done, the love they shared, sobbing and often times laughing as we held their spirit close to us with each rattling death breath.

These earrings became an extension of my desire to bring hope to those I served. Until one day, several years after I left hospital work and served in another place as a pastoral counselor. Until I came home one evening and realized that one had gone missing. This was in 2010. I couldn’t bear to part with the remaining one. Hanging on a wooden earring rack, I took it off every now and then to polish the tarnish away.

Three weeks ago while at the counseling office I opened the drawer of the desk I use one day a week. Shutting the drawer for a moment out of surprise I gasped and opened it again. It was still there. Not a dream. Hope when I needed it most. Hope because I had almost lost all of mine. 2016 has repeatedly kicked who I am, what I do, and what I believe to the curb. Rearranging my life and tossing out things I did not know were trash.  Making way for whatever wonderful new thing is coming.

I hear it again and again. Loss and pain, overwhelming and staggering. Not only in my life, but on the news, in the lives of my clients.  There seems to be this repeating theme of a cosmic garage sale that is not making much sense.

I’d all but given up on hope and then there it was. Staring at me. Daring me to pick it up. My own glass slipper come home. Inviting me to bring hope to others. Encouraging me to hold on to it a bit, too.

If you are wandering on a path without much hope please find some here. Wherever life is bleak, take time for the comfort of a friend to cheer you When you least expect it, something good may show up along the way. Life is movement. Beloved families are made and changed every day. If you are lost, you are not alone. There are many of us on the same path, wandering at times seemingly without direction. If you are in need of hope, I hope it finds you. Maybe when you need it most it will show up.

 

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