Friday, October 23, 2009

What I learned from my zipper today....

{{Potd/2007-01-14 (en)}}Image via Wikipedia

Recently I bought a merino wool sweater that is both warm and fun, I really love it. However, the reviews on the website from which it was purchased warned about issues with the zippers. People were frustrated that a sweater brand that was supposed to be known for its quality should have sticky zippers. When my sweater arrived I found that the zipper really was quite cluncky.

This morning I slipped the sweater on and luxuriated for a moment in its softness and its warmth, and then attempted to zip it up. I tried to pull it up, nothing. Tried again. Again, nothing. I took the little metal thing that sticks into the bottom completely out, reinserted it, but it still wouldn’t go. I tried this several more times. I’m sure that you get the picture. By this time, my tension was rising. Was a little thing like not being able to get my zipper zipped going to get my whole day off on the wrong foot?

Most of us in my family are easily frustrated by these sorts of snafus. My husband, Mark, is the one that we always turn to when something needs what I call finesse. Maybe it’s a lid that I just can’t get to go on correctly or getting the battery cover off or on some sort of electronic device. I usually wrestle with it for 3 or 4 minutes and then if Mark is around I say, Honey, this needs a little finesse.” He takes the object and you can sort of watch him center. His hands and body seem to relax, his mind is focused. He gives the object his whole focus and voila! The task is accomplished and I often cheer aloud, grateful for his gift.

But, Mark was asleep this morning and the only person to get this zipped up was going to be me. All of the sudden, I became aware of the energy in my body. I was hunched over myself, the muscles in my shoulders bunched, my arm muscles tightened. I had the thought, “Well, if this is the energy that I am transmitting to this zipper, no wonder it is a bit confused.” I took a breath, stood up straight, allowed all of my muscles and bones to settle back in their correct position, slid the zipper into the pull tab, and pulled it up to my neck as smooth as butter. May this be the energy that I bring to all of my tasks this day.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Movie Manners

Sorry - On Australia DayImage by spud murphy via Flic

Last week, my kids and I went to the Bear Tooth Theatre to see Afghan Star, a documentary about the Afghan “equivalent” to American Idol. Contestants compete to be the Afghan Star without ever moving their feet or their bodies. They are only allowed to sing. It created a national outrage when one of the women who was being voted off the show defiantly dances around the stage (no more provocative than what my daughter did in her 4 year old dance recital) and allows her scarf to fall back off her hair.

But, speaking of outrage… Ten minutes, or so, into the movie I heard a cell phone ringing a few rows in front of me. This reminded me that I had neglected to silence my cell phone. I retrieved the phone out of my purse and instead of just opening it, I pushed the on/off button. Well, apparently, the phone was OFF in the first place and so when I pushed the button it went through its whole prolonged start up mode. So then I had to wait for it to turn on so that I could turn it off again. All this time the screen is like a beacon announcing that there is a complete tech simpleton in the 10th row. The lady sitting in the seat right next to me says in an icy tone, “Do you mind shutting that thing off? It’s bothering me.” I said as quickly and quietly and nicely as I could manage, “I’m just trying to make sure that it is shut off.” “You were supposed to shut that off before the movie ever started. They made an announcement.” Her tone was now positively frigid as though she had never had to sit next to such a rude dolt in all of her life.

Then my son started scolding me, “Mom, turn that thing off. It’s shining in everyone’s eyes!” “I’m trying!”, I say as I frantically push buttons. “Just close it. Just do blah, blah, blah.” It seemed to last forever. Finally, darkness settled again. There I sat red faced and humiliated, uncomfortably imagining all of the things the people all around me were thinking about me. I felt like I did in 3rd grade when Mrs. Carbon made me stand in the corner. I can still remember thinking how wrongly I had been accused and punished, but how difficult it was to defend myself while my nose was stuck into a crack in the wall. It was also difficult to explain myself to complete strangers in a darkened theater. Really, I want to say, I’m not a bad person. I actually try really hard to be kind and considerate, even loving. Yeah, in this case, I was a total cell phone bumbler, but I didn’t mean to disrupt your enjoyment. I really only want good things for all of you.

Probably most of the time when people cut us off in traffic, walk past without acknowledging us, or fail us in some other way, they aren’t being mean or purposely rude. They are just unaware, bumbling around a little. This experience helps me to think about being more aware of all of the people around me and how my actions impact them. I also want to be more thoughtful about not reacting negatively, either outwardly or inwardly, when people make their little mistakes. I’m going to try really hard to extend some grace, because next time I blow it, I really would like someone to extend the same to me. Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


These are some of the fabulous dreamboards that girls made at our retreat this weekend. I just loved all of them so much. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Walking in Hope

While today is overcast and gray, a quiet day, the previous two days were golden and blue, full of laughter and energy (at times too much) as four other women and I accompanied 13 girls on the cusp of adolescence to a retreat center in Hope, Alaska. (Wouldn’t that be a great place to live?) Indeed, I return full of hope and excitement for this next generation of young women who are jaw droppingly beautiful, thoughtful, wise and loving. We sang, we danced, we created, we celebrated the beauty of an Alaskan autumn, and we shared. The girls shared their thoughts and stories with us and we older women encouraged them by remembering some of the places that we maybe got a little “caught” by life and the world along the way, the places that kept us from being all that we wanted to be and the things that we told ourselves that we could not do.

As we shared our thoughts about God, one thing became very apparent. These girls did not have images of a judging or vindictive God. As they talked about what God’s thoughts might be and what God might want for them, they painted a picture of a loving, nurturing and present God. A God that was approachable, not reproaching. I am deeply joyful that the kind of Love that they described will accompany them along each of their unique life journeys.

We ended the retreat with each person being anointed with oil and also anointed with many loving affirmations from each girl in the group. We heard everything from “you are kind”, “you are very funny”, “you always stand up for what you believe in”, “your smile lights up the world”, to “you have great taste in socks”. We return to our schools, work, homes and family with lighter and more loving hearts, grateful for what we can learn from each other when we open our ears and our hearts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You are so Beautiful

This weekend, I am very blessed to journey to wild and rural Alaska with a group of 5th and 6th grade girls from my church. A team of women have come together with a passion for these unique and wondrous creatures who will become our next generation. We want so much for them and recognize that they are faced with challenges that we were not. We are especially concerned that they grow up loving and valuing themselves and accepting the differences they see in each other. We want them to see themselves through God's loving eyes and not through the eyes of a culture obsessed by outward beauty, designer labels, the cult of celebrity, and a constant push toward an ideal of perfection that is unattainable. Please pray that we will have a joyous time celebrating what God has created in each one of us. We are all so beautiful and so are you.

Look deeply today. See the beauty of all of the women in your life and in the world around you. Many of these women are struggling with hatred for themselves, for their bodies. Hold them lovingly in your heart. Tell someone that they are beautiful.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Mission Statement

At a church gathering recently, I was fortunate to meet a real live writer/writing instructor. I am very new to writing and am still quite intimidated by it. Especially the process of starting. For any new venture my usual modus operandi is to get instruction from some credible source which, for me, usually means books. But here was someone in the flesh who said that she would be willing to read some of my writing and give me feedback. I was excited. And terrified. What if she told me that I was terrible and to quit right now before it got any worse? But, I bravely gave her the address to my blog as well as some poems that I had written. I heard back immediately and was greatly encouraged by her instructions which were very "nuts and bolts". She told me I needed to be more "focused and perhaps a bit shorter". (I knew this but needed to hear it.)

She also said this:

To take your work to the next level, begin by asking yourself, “What is my purpose in writing today? What journey, event, development, trend, perspective, set of values and beliefs do I want to explore and explain? Why do I want to do this? For whom?”

If this sounds like a corporate mission statement, you’ve got the idea, Rebecca. I hope you’ll spend some time answering these questions for yourself and then whittle your thoughts down to a sentence or two. Put that sentence at the top of your blog. Then aim every bit of writing you do subsequent so that it advances that mission statement. Any sentence that doesn’t hit the target gets deleted. Yes, really.


It all seems Mission statement? Yuck!

But, I kept coming back to that line, To take your work to the next level, and I knew that she was right. So, I have been working on it, but, a sentence or two!? I'm not focused enough yet. How about two very long, run-on sentences? (And then two or three short ones?) So for now, I think that I have a mission statement and then a whole paragraph explaining my mission statement. Somehow, I don't think that this is what I'm supposed to be going for.

I would love to hear from some of you. Why do you blog? Do you have a mission statement?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Unexpected Gifts

I am new to the blogging world. I have watched from the sidelines for a few months and recently jumped in with both feet. I am surprised and thrilled by what I have found here. I never imagined myself as part of an online community. I wasn't sure that anyone would ever find my site and if they did, I assumed they would read and move on. But to have people who reverently read about my spiritual thoughts and process, no matter how meandering and inward they may be, and then comment in supportive and challenging ways has been a grace-ful gift to me.

There is a bit of a danger here. The connections on the web are nearly unlimited. At every blog that I visit there is this really interesting and tempting list of other blogs trailing along the right hand side and each of them representing another soul on this journey. Some of us look and look in our churches, our workplaces and our various groups to find people that understand, that speak our language. People whose eyes don't glaze over when we talk about things in terms of the transcendent, the mystical, and the contemplative. I have been very blessed to find a few of those people where I live. But here on the blogosphere it seems unlimited! I am like a kid in a candy store. (Well, actually just like me in a candy store. Remember, I love candy.)

What I have discovered in this blogging circle that I have so incredibly become a part of is depth. It wasn't something that I thought that was a part of anything online. It's unexpected. It's a gift. I humbly thank those who read, those who write,and those who leave comments. I express my gratitude at being a part of something that is so deeply real.

However splendid the views....

Life of  Dawn CatchersImage by ☆Mi☺Λmor☆ via Flickr

The heavy is the root of the light.

The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the Master travels all day

without leaving home.

However splendid the views,

she stays serenely in herself.

Lao-Tzu, Tao de Ching

I am an ambivalent traveler. I get very excited about exploring, trying new foods, experiencing another culture and most of all, if language issues don't preclude it, interacting with the locals. But recently I have found that when I travel I feel unmoored, unable to settle, to deeply focus in the same ways that I do in my familiar surroundings. I feel out of place and unattached. I long for connection, even if it is just with a friendly waiter or a helpful person in a shop. I think that Lao-Tzu has some insight for me here. In the midst of movement I may also remain unmoved. While taking in new sights and experiences I can also attend to my inner being by remaining serenely in myself. And the good news is that I don't have to go back to Africa to practice this. This is first practiced in my times of yoga, prayer and meditation. And then at a crowded grocery store, a hectic department store, or when my kids are picking at each other in the car on the way to school. We will be traveling to Mexico in another 10 days or so. I look forward to practicing the serenity that I know lives within as I move in that world. Another pilgrimage to myself?
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Friday, October 9, 2009


A few days ago, Tess over at Anchors and Masts (link to the right) shared her Harvest dreamboard with all of us. Not being quite sure what a dreamboard was, I wandered over to Jamie Ridler Studios to check it out. My own dream board emerged while on pilgrimage yesterday. What I love about the process of visual art is that nothing really needs to be said about it, nothing has to be figured out. I share this dreamboard with you as an expression of my journey. I'm not sure what it says, what it is supposed to mean. I do know that when I look at it, I feel happy and light. May you all have something in your life today that makes you feel the same way.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Candle of LoretoImage by Loci Lenar via Flickr

A perfect day for pilgrimage.

A slow steady rain, the trees outside my window shrouded in mist,

their branches occasionally stirred by an imperceptible wind.

My candle is lit, steam rises from the cup of tea beside it.

It is a quiet day.

May my inward space reflect that outward hush.

There is no where I have to be, no where I have to go.

The only pressing engagement is the one that I have with myself.

To allow enough stillness in myself to let God come to me.

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”

And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:7-8

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sacred Sites

Chartes Cathedral, Notre Dame, Iona, Glendalough. I have several friends, both on the blogosphere and in real life, who are beginning a journey of pilgrimage to these sacred sites. There is certainly a part of me that thrills to the notion of visiting these sites myself some day, but for now, I am called just to contemplate the idea of pilgrimage and how I might experience it without ever leaving home.

I have quoted, many times, the definition of pilgrim that Macrina Weiderkehr wrote in one of her books. She said that to be a pilgrim in this world means living in the tension between who I am and who I really want to be. In this image I am always on the journey, at times being pulled back to old behaviors and thought patterns, but inexplicably and continually drawn forward.

I also recall what Hafiz said about pilgrimage…

I felt the need for

A great pilgrimage.

So I sat still for three days

And God came to me.

And I think, three days!? In this next few weeks of my life there is not opportunity for three days of stillness. But I am very sure that I have 30 minutes and possibly even three hours of stillness that I could schedule for myself. Would God come to me in 30 minutes? In three hours?

The dictionary says that a pilgrim is one who journeys to a sacred place. But does that place need to be a geographical or material place? Or could I possibly journey to a place that is within me? Like an ancient and beautiful cathedral there is a sacred place in me that holds and nurtures my most important relationships. Three of those relationships are calling for my deepest love and attention right now. This is the place to which I will make my pilgrimage. Over these next few weeks as my friends attend to beautiful sights and enlivening energy, I will be turning into myself, sitting still, waiting for God to come to me.

What feels sacred inside you right now? How will you lovingly attend to it?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Still thinking about you...


I went half way around the world to witness

her tattered dress and her ragged nails,

to hold her worn hand in mine.

I inhaled her heat and

lost myself in her fierce gaze,

my safe solidarity withering in her light.

I long to place the sweet taste of hopefulness in her mouth

yet taste the salty tears of vulnerability in my own.

She is so far away and I

am so small.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Challenging Wallpaper

Many of you know that I had the extreme fortune to be able to travel and serve in Malawi this summer. I have barely even begun to process that experience but suffice it to say, it was astonishing. Yes, there is a theme going here if you’ve read my previous two blogs. When I first got back, this is the picture that I put up as the wall paper on my laptop.

Why? Well, it looks like wallpaper. It is beautiful, soothing, easy. It evokes a tropical paradise, but a tropical paradise is not the experience that I had of Africa. Why was I using this picture to remind me of my time there?

A couple of weeks ago, I changed that picture to this one:

I love this little girl, I really do. I don’t know her name, we don’t speak each other’s language, I don’t know the story behind those eyes. But every day she speaks to me and I feel something inside. And if I really look back into her eyes (it is a difficult gaze to meet) a tear rises up in my own.

I have been trying very hard to put words to the experiences that I had in Africa and they all fall flat in the face of what I feel. Perhaps it is not time to say anything yet. I do have one poem that has come that I will share tomorrow. Stay tuned!