Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Hiatus...


In only 4 more days, I head to East Africa, so I'll be taking a hiatus from this blog in order to keep up with my other blog, lindasreturntoafrica.blogspot.com   I hope you'll consider following my travels, work, learning, and service there. If you have been following these musing of mine, you have some idea of the kind of postings you'll find there, as I travel with and for The Nyanya Project, a non-profit based in Winston-Salem, NC, which works with African grandmothers who are caring for their AIDS-orphaned grandchildren.

As a grandmother myself, I find it difficult to picture my being the sole support of my grands, as much as I adore them. Being with them is wonderful but takes its toll physically in a way being with my children never did...because I was 40 years younger!!! But these incredible women are supporting and caring for 2, 3, 4 or more of their grandchildren as a result of losing their own children to AIDS. They are courageous, strong, determined, and faith-filled, with so much to teach us "haves" about hospitality and welcome and living with little.

Last summer's trip was too brief...I felt like I had barely stuck my toe in the ocean of need in East Africa, like I had had no impact whatever-except perhaps on my own worldview. And so I am returning...with eagerness and excitement and determination of my own. I am so ready to embrace my African friends from last year and to make new ones this summer. I want to listen to their stories and problems and questions...I want to be challenged and stretched and even driven to my knees. For I know from experience that I will once again leave part of myself behind when I come back...and that Africa will become more and more my second home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Truly Living...

Suddenly I find myself surrounded by a crowd of amazingly courageous women… women dealing with life situations which confront and challenge them at the deepest level, at their very core, and doing so with both grit and grace.

There are the forty-somethings, Karen and Kirstin. Karen, diagnosed last year with ALS, is facing the physical deterioration which accompanies her condition in a way that leaves me awe-struck. Her spirit is unflagging, even through the tough times, even as she knows more tough times lie ahead, even as she knows that her precious daughter will grow up without a mom. Today counts for Karen. And Kirstin- known to me only via email and our shared participation in “World in Prayer”, has been dealing with cancer- tenacious, ever-spreading cancer- for the past three years, following every path recommended to her by the considerably skilled medical community in southern California but now has made the decision- with the support of her partner, Andee- to refrain from any further treatment. The courage and grace with which she is facing her death are truly inspiring (check out her blog- barefootandlaughing.blogspot.com)

Then there are the sixty-somethings, Dee and Bridgid. Dee, looking the return of breast cancer squarely in the eye, has chosen to use both allopathic and alternative therapies in her search for healing. And she is planning to go forward with a long-planned trip to Chartres, France, in another week. Her spirit is truly indomitable. Bridgid, recently diagnosed with uterine cancer, has had surgery and has just begun chemotherapy. With her gentle, loving spirit (she is a Sister of Mercy, a therapist, and co-founder of Well of Mercy retreat center), she is dwelling in the cloud of prayers which are uplifting her every step of the way and looking at what lies ahead with a peace-filled heart.

And there are the seventy-somethings, Judy and Bobbie. A long-time friend, Judy has been dealing with uterine cancer for nearly four years. For a time, she had virtually no voice due to a metastatic tumor affecting her larynx, but that, too, has receded with treatment and when I saw her in May, she was looking and feeling healthy and had recently been told by her oncologist that there was no sign of further cancer growth. A year ago, Cousin Bobbie met her diagnosis of advanced breast cancer with aplomb, opting to pursue some allopathic treatment but accompanying it with active, full participation in alternative therapies, including macrobiotic diet, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. And this winter she went skiing with her grandchildren!

The common denominator with all six of these remarkable women- in addition to their indomitable spirits- is, I think, their faith…in the power of prayer, in themselves, in the treatment paths they have chosen, in their Higher Power. And they remind me to take myself and my own problems lightly…to rejoice and relish each day…to give thanks for days of good health and to breathe through days marked by some pain or difficulty.

So to each and all of them- Karen, Kirstin, Dee, Bridgid, Judy, and Bobbie- I say a sincere THANK YOU…for all you are, for the many ways in which you are enriching my life by your incredible example, by the ways in which you are showing me and all who know you- over and over again- how to fully live.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer is a'Cumin' In...

If I did not dislike heat so intensely, summer would surely be my favorite season for the abundance of fresh fruits and veggies available.
Take my breakfast this morning. Actually, you can't take it since it is now happily residing within me, but have you ever seen a lovelier plate? Gluten-free French toast, fresh blueberries and strawberries, and a little organic maple syrup to top things off. Yum! And to make it even more perfect, I ate it while sitting on my lovely screened front porch, listening to the birds and watching my neighborhood awaken.

The past several days have been glorious here in Carolina...temps in the low 80s, low humidity, sunshine, and Carolina blue skies. My kind of weather. We're due to heat up today and over the weekend, back into the 90s, but the gift of the last few days will linger for a time, especially since all of my windows and doors were opened wide to welcome the fresh air. Don't know what it is about having the breeze blowing through the house that feels so wonderfully cleansing and invigorating, but it surely does- at least for me. Reminds me how much I need those cleansing winds of the Spirit to blow out the detritus accumulated in my heart and mind to make me feel new and fresh...to enlighten and lighten my outlook...to open me to challenge and possibility.

So, welcome Summer, with all of your many gifts. Welcome, Spirit, with all of your many gifts. May I keep the doors and windows of my life open, regardless the weather, that I can continue to be renewed and refreshed each day. And you also.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today...and Tomorrow...

Why do we spend so much time worrying about the future, I wonder.
I remember, as a college freshman, spending much of one weekend night discussing- with the wisdom and sagacity available only to college freshmen and women- the question of whether or not we would want to know the future...for example, whether or not we would have children (we were all freshwomen that night), or  whether we would have marriage AND a career (this was 1959 and marriage was a foregone conclusion)...or, more seriously, when we would die. Looking back on the lives of those young women with whom I have remained in contact, the shape of our lives has had little resemblance to what we had imagined that night- and I suspect few of us would really have wanted to know what the future would actually hold.

But the fascination with the future remains strong for we humans, doesn't it? Though we cannot know it, it captivates us...drives our curiosity...and, too often, both immobilizes us with fear and robs us of the beauty and wonder of today...or our attitude toward it does.
How the future affects us, in reality, depends upon our attitude toward it, since, in the words of my favorite nun, "It is at the edge of the future that we walk off the side of a cliff into the arms of God."

Whether we like this truth or not, it is in instability that we most often find the challenge and opportunity of change...for tomorrow may ask of us something we have never before been called to give. Only in our willingness to face the unknown future can we hear the call to beome more fully who we are intended to be. Only in our willingness to face the unknown future can we be brought to full stature, even as we may be tempted to crawl into the comfortable and safe cocoon of what we have aways been.

How we enter the future is the evidence of our faith, our willingness to believe that the God of Love who calls and guides us intends good for us. A challenge? Indeed. For in the midst of hardships, fears, trials, deaths, it is difficult to believe that God will raise us from this valley of shadows to live again. But such is the stuff of faith...and it requires of us the willingness to give our fullest effort to make the future both whole and holy...the willingness to let go of the need to control, to live with uncertainty, to dare to say "YES" to the unknown.

For the God of Surprises awaits us in the future even as S/He is present with us in the now...and it is only in our willingness to step forward- admittedly often with trepidation and trembling- that we will permit the future to shape & make us fully. Holding the future in fond embrace is the way we best celebrate TODAY- what is- and leave tomorrow to God, all at the same time...one of those oxymoronic conundrums which are part of the journey of faith. In the words of Henry Ward Beecher, "You are only sure of today; do not let yourself be cheated out of it."

May your today be lovely, dear ones far & near, and may you be filled with all of the hope & courage & strength you need for every step of the journey. Know, always, that you are loved.
love, linda

another psalm for a new day
I open my heart, Loving, Living God.
I place myself in your hands...
I breathe in the beauty of the rising sun...
I savor the gift of another day
                              of life...                                                             
Wherever this day leads
    let me rest in the assurance
    of your presence with me, in me,
                              under & around me...
Let me taste every moment
    and savor it all.
Hold me in your loving arms and breathe
    into me the blessing of peace...
Remove from my heart all fear, all anxiety
                                    all that keeps me bound
                                    and threatens my freedom
                                                           my growth...
For in you I find refuge...
      in you I find welcome...
      in you I find justice & hope...
      in you I find my fullest self.
                            And it is ENOUGH.

stuck- a psalm
Unstick me, O God.
Pull me from this         
    mire of self-pity and anxiety
    in which I have
             caught myself.
Remove from me
    all fear- about the future
                 about my finances
                 about my health
                     about my children & grandchildren.
Help me to accept & embrace
     all of life,
           no matter what it brings,
     confident that the strength
     to see it through WILL
     be there, as it has always been
                 in the past.
You are my rock, my firm ground...
     under your wings I hide...
     in your arms I find comfort...
     from you I draw my strength
                                      my hope
                              my courage.
Help me to live this day
                      wisely & well. Amen & amen    

Friday, June 3, 2011

June's First Friday

Well, for you North Carolina Lutherans who were looking for me at Synod Assembly yesterday- I FORGOT!!!! It was about 2p.m. when I suddenly thought, "OMG! is Assembly this week?" and realized that indeed it was, it IS, and I wasn't! So...sorry I missed you. The opening worship is always awesome...my favorite thing in the one-day trip which has become de riguer for me since my retirement. I'll probably go online today to check out the Synod site to see if anything exciting is happening. For the rest of you non-Lutherans or non-North Carolinians, ignore the above...it will have absolutely no meaning for you, unless you, too, have had such memory lapses, in which case you will- I hope- empathize with this faux pas extrordinaire.
 
We're actually cooling off a bit here in Carolina- high is to be 85 today (I'll believe it when I see it)...though this morning is quite pleasant. Ate breakfast on the screened porch- a lovely bowl of rice cereal, replete with sliced banana, strawberries, and blueberries, and topped with almond milk. Yum! It was both beautiful and satisfying...a great way to start my day. Now I'm headed back to the basement...cleaning, not punishment- though perhaps it's a bit of both. May your day be fully satisfying, wherever you are. May you find joy and satisfaction in the tasks before you, in the people you encounter. On this first Friday in June, may your food taste especially succulent, and may you be blessed with the wisdom to truly appreciate ALL that befalls you today. Hugs and love...linda

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Limbo...Thoughts On Life, Death & Resurrection

Something i've learned over the years: you can't hurry resurrection. When something or someone dies there must be time for grieving, for simply being in whatever emotional morass occurs, before the hope of rebirth, new life, can begin to emerge... tentatively, uncertainly at first, before its hope & promise can come into full bloom. It is a time to, in the words of T.S. Eliot, "Wait without hope/For hope would be hope for the wrong thing."

For in the space, in the silence, in the often-unwelcome peace is the time for preparation, for entry into newness. Life has changed... nothing will ever be the same...loss begins, begins to heal...takes the first tentative baby steps toward what awaits- that waiting-to-be-birthed unknown. Space, silence, solitude, as the whole world slowly rearranges itself around you...letting yourself be exactly where you are, as you are...making room for what is to come.

The reality is that death stands just outside the boundaries of every present moment...our constant, unseen companion. Nothing is permanent; nothing is secure and forever...not even death. And the many "deaths" which happen in life can open you to- at last- celebrate the gift of newness, change, rebirth, unwanted as it may be in this moment.

For in the change lies the challenge...newness knocking at the door of the heart, seeking entrance...welcome...residence. Change unsettles us, taking us to places we never planned to be. "Change teaches us that life is an exercise of melting into eternity."
-so writes my favorite nun. It frees us from the predictable, as unsettling as that may be.

Death has changed, continues to change the landscape of the present, of the future, opening up the possibiity of seeing things we often miss giving us new eyes & renewed values, and re-shaping priorities. It shrinks worry, troubles, to size...puts them into perspective. We can see clearly now, the darkness of death broken by the light of new life preparing to happen: growth, possibility... resurrection...and nothing will ever be the same again. Alleluia! Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Belated Memorial Day


memorial day
We remember-
those who fought and died
to give this nation birth,
in the face of unremitting odds...
   
those who fought and died
    to keep this nation unified,
    in spite of our differences...

those who fought and died                                     
          on foreign soil to restore peace
          and freedom to the places of
    our long-ago roots, to the world...
    
those who fought and died
    in a police action which
    never really ended...

those who fought and died
    in a tiny southeast Asian
country while a war of words &
ideologies raged on home shores...

those who fought and died
    in the deserts of the Gulf
          for reasons which remain
          unclear & un-clarified...

those who continue to fight and die
          in Iraq and Afghanistan because
          our nation is afraid to face
          its own shortcomings & failings...

We remember-
     or are we choosing to forget?