My husband walking our daughter down the isle on her wedding day; she was relaxed, happy, beautiful, gracious, full of love and sparkle…blessed.
Our daughter and son-in-law enjoying the reception as the new Mr. and Mrs. Block….blessed.
This was the last prompt of the day and it was another ‘finish the sentence’ type. We were to start with ‘The sunrise opens to a new day but at sunset I am reminded that…’, here is my offering:
Writer’s Group June 25, 2011
“The Pattern Designed For Us”
The sunrise opens to a new day but at sunset I am reminded that I am only human. And although I have power, I do not have ultimate power. I cannot control the things that matter most to me.
I cannot make anyone love me. I cannot change anyone, not even if it’s for their own good. I cannot heal sickness. I cannot go back in time and do or undo anything. And because I am human I live in a body. That body needs to be cared for and rest is graciously built into the pattern God has designed for us.
As the sun sets and the end of the day approaches the beginning of a night of rest beacons me. The older I get the more I anticipate and enjoy this time of the day. Oh, yes there are days when anxiety gets the best of me and I approach the dark with fear. Not the fear of a child who wonders if there are monsters under the bed or lurking in the closet. But the fear of an adult; fear that the much needed rest will instead be filled with the haunting of regret and the restlessness of the nightmares of reality.
But the more I focus on taking care of my own body, soul and spirit the more I enjoy the pattern of activity and rest, the rhythm of work, play and sleep. The beauty of the sky as the sun sets reminds me of the beauty of a life well lived. Not a life of control but surrender to the design of frailty and trust in God’s story.
In Writer’s Group today the first prompt was to finish this sentence:” X marked the spot where….”. This week on facebook there was a link floating around titled “Dear 16 Year Old Me” that reminded me of this true story, which is responded to in our writer’s group as if it’s fiction.
Writer’s Group June 25, 2011
“The Spots of Life”
X marked the spot where he rubbed the alcohol before the tiny injection that numbed the area. I waited on my back trying to breathe slowly to calm myself. The nurse moved instruments around on the side table, the Dr. waited also. Then he picked the metal object I’m sure was a scalpel but I never look at those sort of things.
I stared at the ceiling and chattered nervously as I often do when I’m afraid or nervous. The Dr. leaned over my mid-section and started to push against my skin with a firm touch. I could feel the pressure but not the cold of the metal or the pain of skin being removed.
I don’t remember if he got it all in one motion or went back to cut more but the scar is almost perfectly circular so I’m assuming he got it all in one swipe.
He said he would call with the results of the pathology report in less than a week. Two days later he asked me to come back in as soon as possible so they could remove some of the surrounding skin. I tried not to worry, he said it wasn’t cancer.
When I got in the office he explained that the wording of the report concerned him. “Severely abnormal tissue” was his common language explanation. The brochure and his own words explained that the best guess right now is that these moles might become cancerous but they can’t say for sure.
I’m glad I showed my family Dr. the bright red ring around this dark colored spot on my belly and I’m glad he referred me to a Dermatologist. I had a few months of nervous checking and more moles removed, none were as ‘abnormal’ as that first one, thankfully.
Later that year my brother had a large incision in his back as they removed the melanoma mole his Dr. friend noticed in the locker room one day. We are now all considered ‘High Risk’ and get checked regularly. My fair skinned father has passed down our sensitivity to the sun and our love of the outdoors. Finding the balance between protection and life giving sunlight (along with it’s vitamin D) is now a part of my routine.
along the pathway
past cliff and itchy flora
critter startles her
cozy cabin bed
secure under stormy night
rough seas wave farewell
Bolinas says come
enjoy view a day or two
leave, won’t see you soon
wild sea, cliffs, paths, vines,
two calm hearts, reflective minds,
first Haiku week-end
long seashore walk – look,
explore, move, share, think and dream
best yoga ever
bug bite or sunburn
cause of pain back of my leg?
Please! no poison oak!
These were written after our walk, my yoga on a deck with ocean views and some lunch and watercolor painting outdoors. It was a wonderful day.
lands edge ocean view
hummingbird unaware drinks
between deck and shrub
only shower waits to clean
him but not for me!
lawn’s tilting table,
painting tools alone can’t make
the masterpiece seen
outdoor shower pole
calls me to undress with you
before sun sets and chills
fake fire flickers
waves crash beyond jagged cliffs
Bolinas last night
Sand Dollar Cafe
Stinson Beach last meal for us
wild week-end over
My husband took me on a little adventure trip to Bolinas, California. I will do a travel blog post about that later. But while we were there I read a little instruction book on how to write Haiku poetry (it was in a kit there in the cabin). I wasn’t really excited about any of the reading materials I had brought with me so I started reading and writing my own Haiku. Of course my husband picked it up more quickly and is really good at it. I on the other hand feel like it’s not quite there for me but I really had fun doing it and I’m going to share what I wrote anyway. I think it gives insight into our weekend getaway. I’m still learning but I hope you enjoy the process with me.
My first Haiku that first morning was this, I’ll call it
‘First Night in Bolinas’
cabin’s cozy bed
lullabied by crashing waves
night’s chill to morn’s view
I don’t have names for the rest of these but you might be able to tell what I was looking at as I wrote these.
lone boat pushes through
vast waters of blue and green
morning stroll or fishing trip?
And this one:
road trip adventure
inside green-house turned cabin
morning coffee – us
It was Memorial Day and my husband was writing about that….so I wrote this:
the same waters hold
sunken ships and teaming life
We hadn’t left the cabin for our walk yet, so I was still hoping for clear skies when I wrote this:
gray green sea with clouds
blue and white cup with coffee
yellow sun please come!
And then I wrote this:
last night wind with sun
today still, cold and cloudy
uncertain day ahead
One more from the morning:
drive through the city,
walk to cabin, outside/in
different kinds of Wild.
“Every room gives us layers of information about our past and present and who we are, our shrines and quirks and hopes and sorrows, our attempts to prove that we exist and are more or less okay…….these rooms are future ruins.” Anne Lamott
There is something about ruins that I’m attracted to. While driving through the countryside of France we stumbled upon very old buildings in varying stages of decay. Some were in the process of being restored, some were left to slowly fall apart. If there was room to stop and catch a photo, we did. If there was a road we could take to get a closer look we took it.
It’s so different here in America. First of all our buildings are just not that old, our country isn’t even that old. Secondly, we have all these safety codes and fear of lawsuits so the minute something starts to decay we tear it down. I think we are missing something important when we do that. Like the way we rush people off to the hospital to die where only a spouse or adult child can see what death really looks like. We keep up the Hollywood facade that there is only life here, only new buildings and future adventures.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to see new construction going up. I look forward to watching the remodel completed and the exterior repainted. But I was fascinated by every structure that had ancient stones still clinging together and curious about the stories held inside. The phrase ‘If these walls could talk’ takes on a whole new meaning for me now. Our family is the only family that has lived in our current house, our previous house has it’s third family living in it now.
A few others from our past may have as many as 10 different family stories hidden in it’s walls. But these places, they could have had generation after generation living in them. I want to know the stories. Even if I got to know someone in one of these remote villages, I’m certain there is too much to know. I’m certain there is no one alive who can even begin to tell the story of most of these places.
I think about my own family and how so many of my Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles have died taking their secrets with them. Only part of the story is retold. I wonder about the rest of it.
These days I scurry about furnishing, arranging (and rearranging), cleaning and decorating this house but someday all this stuff will be sifted through and only a small remnant will be kept by a few who knew us and knows the story behind the objects. I have very few things that used to belong to my Grandparents and many of them hold stories I have already forgotten or never knew.
These rooms, filled with all this stuff and all those memories are just future ruins. So many of the things I stress about don’t seem to matter at this moment. The only things that will survive the next couple of generations will be their stories (if they are told or written down) and the ripple affect of the choices we make in relationships.
Our children will relate to their spouses (if they have them) and their children (if they have them) in reaction and response to how we have related to them. Yesterday I wrote about a story my Grandmother told me from her childhood. Putting aside how accurate her memory of those events may or may not have been, I’m aware of how her choices (to get married at 14, toughen up and refuse to cry in front of her husband when he hurt her to spite her father) and how they have affected me through my mother and all my Aunts and Uncles (and their children). The stories are so intertwined, such a tangled beautiful mess.
It’s really strange but thinking of all of this in the context of what will be left standing in two or three hundred years from now, really helps me relax a little. I just do not have the kind of power it takes to make that all work out well. I can’t even make this years Thanksgiving weekend turn out well, what makes me think I can affect the lives of future generations in profound ways?!
These two words ‘Future Ruins’ both haunt me and free me. I want to remember them and live out the story while I exist.
Poem about wearing purple and red hats when we are old.
(Notes: We’ve no money for butter. Practice a little now so that when I am old people won’t be surprised.)
I’ve been practicing ‘being old’ for a long time. Even when I was in my mid teen years I was practicing being old. I loved to listen to Elevator Music. Not all the time but often enough that my best friend Debbie (who now calls herself Deb) shrugged and scoffed when she got in my car….’change the radio station, not that Elevator crap again.’
By 19 I was spending most evenings sitting with a stack of magazines clipping recipes and eating the appropriate snack with my mother (popcorn by the fire in winter, ice-cream with the breeze coming in the back window in the summer).
As a newly married woman I still behaved like an older woman. I wanted to picnic in the shade rather than hike to see a waterfall. Unfortunately I tamed the man I married who would have rather hiked than lounge and now he is 50+ pounds heavier reflecting our ‘old’ lifestyle.
I’ve been several years without hair color now. You have no idea how excited I was when I found a book entitled ‘Going Gray’. There really is something so freeing about not covering, hiding or pretending to be any younger than I really am.
There are several areas of my life that are only now open to the possibility of aging appropriately. This last year has been a battleground for me with the concept of productivity. But I am learning to live, breath and experience this life of love more spontaneously as I have stepped off of the treadmill of busy-ness. It’s a daily struggle. Every new pleasure I allow myself sparks a new vision of how this could turn into a job or a ministry. I can’t help but think of the other women that would love to experience the art classes, writers groups, girlfriend getaways to the beach, silent retreats, and walks in the neighborhood ending with a glass of wine on the back patio. Some days I don’t get a single chore done, unless you count feeding myself a chore.
I like getting old. I’ve been preparing for it my whole life. I’m glad I practiced these wonderous old lady practices gradually. It might have been a shock otherwise.
Prompt: Close your eyes, look at the whole of your life, think of moments you could see God’s hand at work.
Second Chapter of Acts was playing on my cd player. Not the chapter from the Bible, the singing group from the 70’s. Hymns sung by two women and a man in beautiful harmony, albeit very outdated. That’s the funny thing about Hymns though, they never really seem to be outdated.
I was home alone and cleaning the house so I turned the music up loud enough to hear from every corner of it’s 2400 square feet. I was sometimes singing along and sometimes focused on what I was doing and then all of a sudden I heard myself singing aloud familiar words but it seemed like I had never heard them before. “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great Thou art….”. I paused and looked out the second story window and saw the squirrel hole near the top of one of the large oak trees on our property there in suburban Austin, TX. Two young squirrels were scurring in and out in what appeared to be a game of hide and seek. The sky was light blue with a few fluffy clouds drifting by, the clouds always seemed to be going somewhere in Texas. And then I listened again to the words of that chorus in the context of the verses but more importantly in the context of my life.
I had become increasingly aware of my soul. The deepest part of me. The weekly counseling sessions, sometimes with my husband but often without him, were training me to examine what was going on inside me. Unfortunately most of what I found was quite discouraging. I found excruciating pain that I had tried to tell myself was just ‘the way life is’. Damage done by those who had vowed to love me, inadvertent harm by those who really did want to give me the best they had but found themselves unable to follow through. And the hardest to face; the self-inflicted wounds of a stubborn woman desperate to remain independent.
This counselor was the last attempt to make sense of my failed Christian experience. I couldn’t deny there was a God and it made sense that He sent His Son and left His written Word but it didn’t ‘work’ for me. I had failed to figure it out or obey the guidelines well enough to have that abundant life it professed to provide. I was just starting to have some hope that it wasn’t Christianity that had failed me but that I had really falsely understood the message. Months of facing all the ugly, negative truth were leading me to seeing how great the need really was to find and experience God. I was listening and singing along to the old Hymns cd largely to try to reinforce what I hoped was true but not sure I experienced.
That’s when those words hit me like a ton of bricks. ‘Then sings my SOUL….’ Not my voice, not my mind, not my heart even. My soul. The tears started to pour from my eyes. My soul had indeed been singing out to me, so faintly at times I didn’t hear it but my soul was trying to tell me but more importantly Him….How great Thou art. I couldn’t deny it, I couldn’t run from it. Maybe it’s true that all those years ago the prayers of a nine year old little girl opened the door to the Spirit of God and He was there deep inside all along. Maybe that explains the conviction and torment as I tried to go my own way. The people who crossed my path at just the right time to remind be there is hope, there is reason to persevere.
This moment alone in my house, on my knees picking up toys, eyes turned toward the sky was a turning point. He is there deep inside whispering through my groans, reminding me of His goodness and His presence, proclaiming His greatness. The moments are rare but they are little tastes of the banquet to come when I no longer have to walk by faith but will have full sight of the One who loves me and will never let me go.
(Prompt ‘The Bridge Poem’ from Teaching with Fire’)
(Notes: Seeing, touching, both sides Sick of filling in all those gaps, Sick of ______, Being useful)
Why is it so important for me to useful? The ever-present demand in my soul to have a purpose compels me to find a way to live. Ever searching, ever wondering…is this enough? I’ll be 50 years old this June and I’m still wondering what I will be when I grow up.
There have been simpler times. Not easy but simple. I chose to be a Mother, I didn’t have any career aspirations or marketable skills I had to abandon to pour myself into that role so for many years ‘Mother’ was at the center of my identity. The only questions surrounding that stage of life had to do with balance. I understood the basic concept of adjusting the mask that drops from the airplane ceiling with oxygen flowing through it on my own face before trying to help anyone around me, so I took care of myself fairly well most of the time. But it was hard to venture out into the area of pleasure. As the children became more self-sufficient and I had more disposable time to decide how to use every day, the struggle grew. Do I do what I think I’m supposed to do or do what I want? Do I even know what I really want? So much of what I think I want stems from that damn compulsion to feel purposeful, to be useful.
Everywhere I turn there are people happy to tell me how I can best be useful to them or to the universe. Part of me wants to have someone answer this question for me and of course part of me wants to be free to decide myself. There’s the rub. I am free, in fact responsible to answer the question. No one else really knows. Those who have true integrity admit they are wrestling with the question for themselves, how could they possibly answer if for me.
Is it possible that what my soul deeply wants is to love? Not so much by being useful, for that so often leads to manipulating or ‘helping’ others do what I think they should do. If all the law and the prophets are wrapped up in Loving God and loving others is there a way to live that out without pressure? By faith I believe my deepest heart, now a heart of flesh not stone…made first in the Image of God but hardened through sin and then remade to be gradually conformed into the Image of Christ. If love is to guide me I’m sure there will be times of usefulness, but if usefulness is the goal it’s possible to live that out without love at all. I should know, I nearly killed my marriage and destroyed my son with that kind of goal.