Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story … Patrick Rothfuss
I am the song of Easter,
Many voices add fullness to my tune
My anthem began before the creation of the world
It took shape and form as the earth was birthed
It wandered the wilderness in search of a homeland
It has been the aching of the ages
It became visual with the birth of a baby …
I am the song of the seasons
The praises formed in the heat of summer
The harvest song of a well-lived life
The frozen despair in the dead of winter,
The irrepressible burst of new life in spring.
I am the song of celebration, the song of beauty.
I am the song of despair .. the longing song
How long oh Lord will you hide your face from us?
I am the song of confusion and fear, with notes unclear
I am the song of plenty and the song of want
The lament of pain, the balm of comfort
I am the song of amnesia, words forgotten in the dark
I am the song of light and memory
Sing this in remembrance of me.
I am the voice in the crowd … joining the Hosanna of Palm Sunday …
and I am the same voice in the crowd calling crucify him, crucify him …
I am the song of silent shame
And I am the song of Grace … of Forgiveness
I am the song of strong surrender
The song that hung on the cross.
I am the song of resurrection Power
I am the song of green seeded Hope that overflows
Hope to see loved ones again
I am the song of Rest, abide in me, hear my lullaby
I am the song within your heart
We join in the song, with voices weak or strong …
This is the song of humanity
This is the song of a God who sings over us in the night
This is a song of gratitude, of praise, of sorrow
This is a song unstoppable.
And centuries later I am the receiver of this song
I am the one at the graveside of a son, a daughter
and I can barely whisper …
we do not grieve as those who have no hope
Others help me to sing the tune when I cannot hold it
The spirit sings the resurrection song to aching hearts around the world.
Will you join singing the broken Hallelujah?
This poetry came out of an assignment to portray a character of the traditional Easter story. The hope of Easter is a challenge for many people whose hallelujah has been broken.
She gave you life, and you’re getting her a coffee mug?
Oprah’s Headline next to the rumoured fear that Prince Harry’s wedding would be canceled due to bridal fears. It’s the Mother’s Day weekend and I know this can be a day of mixed emotions. It would be wonderful to share a special coffee mug with my mother, but this will be the first Mother’s Day without her … while it is easier to saintify your mother’s once she’s have passed on; I’m sharing a tribute my daughter sent for the funeral ten weeks ago.
From this granddaughter’s perspective, we need a little more Margaret on this earth…
In MY world—of juggling a hundred commitments to a thousand people in a million places,
We need people who just Show Up and are fully present. Right here, right now, every time.
That’s what my grandma did.
In my world—of dreaming big dreams, traveling to exotic places and achieving amazing feats,
We need people who can delight in the mundane and find joy in the ordinary.
That’s what my grandma did.
In my world—where me-time, introspective self-analysis and often-hasty critique of others consumes heaps of our head space,
We need people who can breathe deep gulps of faith and just get on with it.
That’s what my grandma did.
In my world—where my dreams and my goals and my vacations and house and opinions and achievements and my, my, my, my… are the accepted life-goals of the day,
We need people who graciously shine the spotlight on others and enthusiastically elevate those around them.
That’s what my grandma did.
In my world—where dodging discomfort and avoiding suffering has become a pursuit at all costs,
We need people who grope for gratitude in the darkness and make the hard choice to stick it out for the benefit of others.
That’s what my grandma did.
In my world—of unprecedented affluence and options and any-dream-can-be-your-reality,
We need people who sometimes just pull up their raggedy boots of courage and walk the path in front of them.
That’s what my grandma did.
In my world where finding oneself has become of utmost importance,
We need people who are OK with just being themselves.
That’s who my grandma was.
From this granddaughter’s perspective, we need a little more Margaret on this earth…
Happy Mother’s Day for those of you mothers … if you still have a mother on the planet, I hope you have a chance to talk to her.
Motherhood is a high calling.
If there were a day to strike from the calendar—Feb 27 would be that day for me—a day three of the most beautiful young people on the planet departed, eleven years ago. Every day in the news, I hear of events that would make others wish to erase another day.
As I type, a reminder pops up in the corner of my computer screen- A day to get through. A month ago I typed those words on this day. Now it asks me if I want to close or snooze—could erase be an option?
I find that the dread of a day can be worse than the day itself. As I was writing in my journal the day before, I decided music should be a part of this preparation. “All right, God—you can select the songs.” I put the setting to random. I never know what will play, usually a mixture of spiritual, folk, John Fogarty, Christmas carols, and my foreign language lessons. I had the sneaky suspicion I was trying to put God to the music test, just to see if He was listening.
The first song takes me back to when my now-in-heaven-daughter was thirteen. This was a signature song for her that year. Through the register vents Twyla Paris would sing: God is in control, we will choose to remember and never be shaken, there is no power above or below. Oh-oh-oh God is in control. That is a great start. I could not have picked better.
The next song is from the Christmas album given by that same daughter her last Christmas, and Sue Chick sings … Heaven comes down, the hearts of men rise … do we dare take a chance … and the heart longs for more. Then Steve Bell tells me that Into the darkness we must go, gone, gone is the light.
And I notice increased number of age spots on the hand that holds the pen. I sit there thinking this is kind of silly and any moment the Arabic lesson would come through. I was interrupted by a call from the florist for a delivery. But, song after song encouraged me. At song 14, I thought perhaps I should get on with my day. Johnny Reid finishes the set of fifteen with I left my hometown years ago … to let all this love surround me. I would have said, to let all this beauty surround me. And I realize Love and Beauty often feel synonymous. Both are heavenly gifts. I contemplate the power of the words, and the themes of love, loss and suffering … songwriters capture the struggles we have. Music soothes and inspires, it reminds me that I am not in control, I am not alone on the journey, and I must continue. Sauntering in sacredness is an option.
I sent my sister-in-law a thank you for the flowers, she responded with an email about an image she had of new green shoots coming forth. Later that afternoon, I went for a walk … and found a likeness of her vision:
Never before have I seen shoots in February. These green and burgundy shoots brimmed with hope of new life. For this day, I head to the mountains, to contemplate the gifts of the journey … and to sit in the beauty, this is what I left my hometown for.
From John O’Donohue’s book Beauty, a poem by Dietrich Boenhoffer:
The Unfilled Gap
Nothing can fill the gap When we are away from those we love and it would be Wrong to try to find anything
Since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between Us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap.
He does not fill it but keeps it empty, so that our communion With another may be kept alive even at the cost of pain.
“I bring you good news of great joy, that will be for all the people.”
After three days of thick fog, and pondering thoughts of joy, for the third Advent-ure, I realized that England or Vancouver are not ideal places for me to live. Three days of fog was enough to diminish the joy I’d been working on.
Is my Joy up to me? While I believe I have a part to play, surely I cannot be sole source of my joy. What is joy? I combined my ideas with Kay Warren’s and Theopedia’s to define joy as a (positive)state of mind and orientation of the heart,(theopedia) brought about because of the settled assurance that I am not in control of all details of my life (God is); this brings a confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. (Warren)
Joy is hard to find and easy to lose.
What are the big joy snatchers? We each have our own as our individuality plays a part. Over time, I have learned which things trigger me, but oh these thieves are deceptive sneaky little buggers. And then guilt tags along to remind me that I should be more joyful, I should be more grateful. And I want to tell him where to go, but initially his familiar voice lures me into guilt’s downward spiral.
That negative list is easy to focus on. Richard Rohr says that “True joy is harder to hold onto than anger or hatred.” I can attest to that, even shallow joy passes that test.
Stress, which for me includes technology glitches, erodes my joy.
Relationship glitches/misunderstandings between people I care about is another joy thief.
What are my Joy Practices?
Walking is a good antidote for me.
My Mop/Mind of Peace helps me get to where I want to go.
Looking outward and inward to find joy.
This week I had several joy moments, the little moments of daily joy.
Listening to great music with a friend, getting outdoors, and the greatest gift of Joy this past week came through a Christmas drama Friday night.
I had to drive a half hour in barely-could-see-the-lines fog to get to the theatre. Had I not invited two friends along, I would have stayed home. When we found our seats, we wondered if we had carried the fog inside. Machine produced haze created the ambiance. The drama was one of the most creative, artistic re-telling of the Christmas story I’d ever experienced. Moved to tears several times, as the dancers, actors, narrators, and musicians carried me along the backdrop story to show the birth of love and mercy at Christmas. The phenomenal opening and closing scenes included an aerial ring acrobat, a mini Cirque du Soleil style performance. The artist changed from a silver body suit in the opening, to a red one in the finale, while the chorus sang about Unspeakable Joy. Something in my heart shifted.
Simone Weil has said that two things pierce the soul, beauty and affliction. This red dancer was beauty in the midst of suffering. This pictured for me the Joy that comes in both the morning, and the mourning. It comes as the spirit is invited in.
Saturday, as I set out for my walk, the local fog finally lifted, revealing stunning hoarfrost on all the trees. This reminded me of the people walking in darkness metaphor, of seeing a great light. When the fog lifts, joy like the hoarfrost covers everything in its path … even the garbage.
And I am humbly reminded of my fridge magnet –Take my advice, (apparently) I’m not using it 🙂
The work to forget, can be as difficult as the trying to remember.
― Frederick Buechner,
All GARDENING is LANDSCAPE PAINTING. William Kent
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
I was on my annual pilgrimage to The Garden. My brother-in-law says I would get the reward for gardening from the greatest distance. Some people have garden plots on the city’s edge, as opposed to the 14 ½ hours I drive to garden for one week each June. This is not just any garden; it began with two large holes of the heart represented by the two components of the lake, at which point a bridge crosses over to the garden … This is the memorial project dedicated to my son, my daughter, two wonderful young people no longer on the planet … two young people who had spent many summers at the camp this project is now a part of.
This year I had ordered three concrete park benches and a picnic table to replace weather worn wooden/wrought iron benches. This is what I ordered …
I had invited friends to be there for the delivery at 1:30 Tues afternoon.
It had been overcast and intermittent rain for the first two days of the week. I postponed the bench delivery, as it was pouring rain, and I wanted pictures for when they would arrive … besides who was going to sit on the park bench on a rainy day? The next day was set up for better weather. The man I had communicated with, was not in when I called to change the delivery date … but another customer service rep took the message; he said he would first tell the delivery people, and then he would inform Daniel about the change as well. You’re sure? I ask, Yes I will be sure to pass on the information.
So while it was rained, my sister and I went to purchase plants that were to be admired from the new benches. We arrived back at the garden, with the newly purchased plants and with feet that had been in cold, wet runners and socks for the past three hours. My toes were wrinkled, and the hot chicken noodle soup had worn off.
“Look at those tracks, someone has been here” my sister said and pointed to wide mudded ruts ….
And then – “Do you think they dropped them off?”
This is what I got.
This was not what I expected, this was not what I had ordered.
I had not ordered pieces of a picnic table, no where had I read that I was to put this together. It never even entered my head.
I called back to Daniel, the polite young man I had met the day before, I had spoken with him by phone several times from two provinces away. I asked as to why they had come when I had postponed. More importantly these were pieces this was not a picnic table. He was not quite as understanding as I thought he should have been. He asked, How did I think these pieces could be shipped etc … takes up too much space, obviously they can’t be shipped already put together. In my head I wondered how much time I needed to spend at meditation in this prayer garden?
“When I order a dress from a catalogue I do not expect to have to sew it together.”
“I don’t think that is a fair comparison.”
I did and the only one that came to mind at the time … No where had I read that they were unassembled. Mostly it was the disappointment. This did not meet my expectations.
I had thought it would be something else … I thought, that if I ordered a bench, it would arrive looking like the picture, the picnic table would look like a picnic table.
My brother in-law chuckled at the dress concept, and added- when you buy lumber you don’t expect it to come in the form of a house. No, but if the lumber advertised itself as a house, I might?
Some assembly required …
Oh I know that applies to many areas in life, my expectations exceed the horizons.
On a happy note, I called Bob again, my go-to-guy at the camp, (he could probably tell how near the tears were) he thought he could send some help over the next day.
Park bench angels with strong backs … angels that thought this was like Lego for adults.
The picnic table instructions were hard to read, after being drenched in the rain. Did I mention that they were short 6 nuts and bolts, and the steel plates had holes that were off by half an inch? All’s well that ends well, I guess? I had coffee on the bench. I dunno, those lumber people, and God … they seem to promise things I can misconstrue so easily. And at least one of them gets away with it all the time.
If you want to feed your insecurities, stand naked in the pool shower. But if you want to feel okay about yourself, also stand naked in the pool shower. There are many body shapes and sizes … get over yourself. You can also shower with your bathing suit on.
One morning a group of grade one students arrived after my aqua-size class was done. Most of the ladies in the class are in their sixties with real grandma bodies, soft and comfortable for hugs, with a little extra pudding. It is freeing to be among these women who are comfortable with their bodies, and peculiar vein-marked appendages. The six year old girls chattered non-stop while they got their swim suits on … the chatter continued as they marched towards the pool, you have to walk past the showers to get to the pool … as they rounded the corner they went dead silent, their mouths stopped mid-word, they could not take their eyes off the nakeds in the showers. Somehow I think this was not the picture of grandma they envisioned. Each wave of girls repeated the sequence of chatter, silence, eyes wide-open fixated on the marshmallow ladies. The grannies had their own chuckles after the education session.
Some mornings the lanes are labelled … Slow, Medium, FAST. With only four lanes, I tend to choose medium or slow. But, after the triathletes have vacated their fast lane, I choose it, and discreetly nudge the fast sign to the edge of adjoining lane. This morning as I joined in, my lane partner said “I’m not that strong a swimmer, I do some swimming and some jogging back and forth.”
“Whatever works,” I said. She jogged on and I front crawled past her. I wondered why she told me that. After half a lane, I realized, she was apologizing for herself. She was in the lane swim, but not doing the standard strokes.
How many times hadn’t I felt out of place when I started at the pool? People would lap me again and again. When I swam alone, I didn’t care, but when there were two or three other swimmers in the lane, I felt the need to apologize each time my arm or leg bumped into another swimmer. So sorry to have been in your space. I stopped at the end of the lane, lifted my goggles from my eyes. I was not in this for their sakes, I was here for myself. We all had a right to be there, and as I stopped comparing myself to others the more buoyant I became.
One stroke of pool luck … I have found a solution for my increasing facial wrinkle count. This morning as I struggled to get a swim cap on – yes, I wear a swim cap to keep my ear plugs in, and the water out of my ears, as I pulled this girdle like cap on my head, I could feel my scalp sucking upwards … then I smiled as I noticed my skin pulled tight, a face lift without surgery. Hmmm, I wonder if my navy swim cap goes with my little black dress?
For the Beauty of the earth, Ever ancient, ever new …
It’s International Earth Day … and I recall an answer I have given to people:
There are many things in my life that I would not have chosen, but there is still much beauty in this world.
The most universal gift is the beauty all around us. In my travels I have never come to a place bereft of beauty. Even though garbage littered, the dusty less than desirable path on the way to my grandchildren’s school in N Africa … it had been named the secret garden. After a spatter of rain, it burst forth with yellow blossoms … Dump turned flower garden! The eyes of children opened mine to see beauty in the midst of ugly.
Everyone has stuff, something that could be better … a deviation not chosen, and the heart grows weary with constant struggle. John O’Donohue, an Irish poet/theologian has written about beauty:
Much of the stress and emptiness that haunts us can be traced back to our lack of attention to beauty. Internally, the mind becomes coarse and dull if it remains unvisited by images and thoughts which hold the radiance of beauty. … Beauty offers us an invitation to order, coherence and unity.
Although my home province Manitoba claims the prairie crocus as its provincial flower, I saw very few wild ones there … but here in Alberta, perhaps with more uncultivated soil, they are more prevalent. I have been admiring them since Easter Monday … they are my current heroes. While snow lingers they push through dead grasses and debris of winter to breathe hope into the soul. The fragile flower displays an inner strength adding its blue lavender beauty to the landscape, the first delights of spring. Other wild flowers soon follow suit.
To behold beauty dignifies your life; it heals you and calls you out beyond the smallness of your own self-limitations to experience new horizons. To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged. John O’Donohue
Earth rises above the lunar horizon against the backdrop of deep space on Dec. 24, 1968. the image, snapped by astronaut Bill Anders during the first manned mission to the moon, evokes both a sense of solitude and intimacy. From livescience.
Beauty The Invisible Embrace, by John O’Donohue, HarperCollins, 2005
From an email sent to a friend:
If you are reading this now … I hit Send
If you aren’t reading this, you won’t even know this conversation almost took place.
I am chuckling as I started this email four hours ago ….
Sometimes I feel incredibly young at heart, sometimes I feel like the vulnerable little girl, wanting to be accepted, sometimes I feel as though I could be a hundred years old.
And I fear I might hit send, and regret it … or hit delete and regret that even more ….. Well, it’s coming your way.
It seems whenever I meet up with someone new, I have to play the little “how much do I want them to know about me?” game. This is the mental jockeying done with new encounters. Will they be a small part of my life, a work connection, a friendship, deep, superficial?? The mental assessments happen very quickly. In a recent conversation, I realized I said something that would lead to revealing more of myself than I might have wanted … I said, “they contacted me after having read my book.” As the words tumbled from my mouth, it registered in my head that in all the conversations we’d had, I never mentioned my book. The reluctant author in me, does not want patronized sympathy in place of genuine friendship.My grief story is generally not the first thing I share with others. And yet, I have had the most meaningful connections with people, because of the willingness to be vulnerable. But the little voices in my head warn me, as I verge near the precipice of letting someone in on the painful parts of my story, that when I let my guard down I risk getting hurt. Stephen Russell has said that “being vulnerable is being open for wounding … being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.” (I can’t say that I am in complete agreement with him—my greatest asset?)
Now I know I don’t want to be, or need to be a jellyfish, exposed to everything, self-protection is needed for survival, but I also know that I want to be willing to risk. I’m still working on the risk plunge, but I am further in that direction in the wanting of it, of trusting my instincts of when to risk. I have not yet succeeded, but I’m taking great aim towards this thing. And then when I get hurt, as inevitably still happens … recovery time is lessened.
I try to keep a soft shell around my heart, it allows for more expansion.
Madeleine l’Engle said: When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability … To be alive is to be vulnerable.
I also used to think, I would have the answers as I got older … instead I see the number of questions increase.
(Jocelyn has published a book on grief; Who is Talking Out of My Head – Grief as an out of Body Experience, available at DWFriesen Press, and through Amazon)