FYI: Rant ahead…
Peculiar, I think, the lack of (or my perception of the lack of) social media engagement around our son joining the Royal Canadian Air Force. Both B and I are standing back in amazement, actually, as close family members like and love and even repost the announcement and NOT ONE of our friends or vast community of connections SAYS ANYTHING. OK, is this a touchy subject?
And, if our other son continues in his area of passion and follows his heart and intellect right into the RCMP, and we announce that with love and excitement (and yes fear and trembling) will we be met with like SILENCE?
It’s not that we need approval. It’s not that we need much at all. But if these friends of ours, these hundreds of connections of ours, care just a wee tiny bit about us, about our family, and know anything at all about the vast wilderness of parenting that includes directionless kids, confused kids, depressed kids, kids that are kids and yet adults, kids that move away and come back, kids that love you and reject you as they are becoming themselves, then surely they know what a BIG DEAL it is when your kid finds their thing, aside from all the fear and trembling and wondering at what that thing is, and just FOLLOW THEIR HEART into SOMETHING BEYOND THEMSELVES.
You don’t have to sign a petition, agree to a set of statements, promise anything at all. You aren’t saying yes to war, or rumours of war. Really, you aren’t! You are just being a supportive and loving friend to us. To me.
Surely this matters? Do I hear an amen?
Or, is it like everything else these days, everything is polarized, under tension, fraught with fear of taking a stance or offending the easily offended. So much so that even liking something may give someone the idea that this inherently means you are agreeing with a philosophy or a world view or something gigantic, when all you are really doing is LIKING your friend’s happiness, joy, sense of relief that their kid is becoming something new. Right?
I don’t know, maybe, like always, I’m just looking for the meaning beyond the matter. I’m wondering WHY?
And I just do, I do feel, like the rest of you maybe also feel, a twinge of hurt, when others are silent.
My son has signed up, signed on, agreed to some pretty heavy stuff that falls under that heading of the greater good. He’s heading to boot camp in less than 2 weeks. And I’m just processing all this as a mom (seasoned with a big dose of mama bear!!). I’ll be processing it for at least the next 5 years, maybe more, because with his decision we become “Military Family”. So your support matters to me, perhaps more than it should. I’m hearing the silence speak, perhaps where it isn’t saying anything at all. Yet more edges on me that require some honing!
As my grandfather used to say, it’s a great life if you don’t weaken!
July, 2014, I buy several books of poetry in a Belfast booksmith, including “Selected Poems” by Belfast’s son John Hewitt. I pack the book into my luggage and take it with me on the next leg of my journey; a pilgrimage of sorts, a homecoming, and a mysterious gathering of strangers walking and tale telling and music-man healing and Guinness tasting, in Kilkeel and Cultra. The book remains packed for several days.
July 10, 2014, and I cozy in to a little Kilkeel cottage with my fellow pilgrims. I take note of the country walls about us, invisible lines of heft and pull and balance, boulders gathered from the fields and lifted into place, and the walls find their way into my psyche.
Sunday July 13, 2014, we begin a time of silence and solitude, from 1 pm until the following day at 11:30 am. We are asked to choose a slip of paper or two with words ‘that serve.’ I choose a Thomas Merton quote, then find myself seeking out the Hewitt book of poetry and a phrase that sticks;
I am the green branch asking for the flower
John Hewitt, ‘The Green Shoot’
I take a walk, chewing on the words, repeating them over and over in my head. I walk along the county roads, bounded by country walls. Again the walls. I look. I listen. I return after a couple of hours and write;
The walls, always the walls, my eyes drawn equally to the spaces as much as to the weight of boulders. At first I think it is the wind they must build for, a feat of engineering with revelation built in. If they build and leave room enough for the wind to pass through, the walls will stand forever. But the more I look, the less I see of stone and more evidence of green invasion, seed and wayward bits of bracken carried by wind or wild beast finding cracks and crevices rich with possibility to root in, find purchase. And so a transformation takes place in the spaces, created hollow where light and rain and soil collect. The wall does what the wall does…encloses, defines, stands firm with unquestioned ownership. But is is also a catchment for transformative work, where green shoots take root and thrive, become saplings, become trees, where ferns and grasses fill margins, where moss softens hard surfaces and wild vines climb, and poke through. And slowly, the stones, displaced from the field and placed by hand, become unified by green…and then, small creatures build their homes, raise young, trust in the shelter of the green mass that is slowly enveloped by the earth.
I am the green shoot asking for the flower
I am the green shoot asking
I am the green
This line of this poem in this place for me becomes a prayer as I consider my life and my ask for the flower and a feeling that change is coming through the angst and doubt and struggle I find myself in. I believe in my purpose. I believe I ask God and he hears me. So many of the things I previously held true are dropping away, and yet the truth that I exist and I ask and God hears and gives good gifts remains. This God is close up. This is a new way of being. Can I dare ask this…yes, I can.
I am the green shooting asking for the flower
I chew on this for the entire time of solitude. I write and write and write. I cry. I sleep. I wake and write again. I have other encounters that impact my spirit in a deep way. I return to Kelowna. I live my life differently than before I left. I make difficult decisions. I withdraw from church. I have written of this before. The journey before Northern Ireland, and after.
TODAY: Thursday, May 26, 2016 I recall the line of the poem, almost two years past, and so much since then. The metaphor of the walls still speaks, but I return to this other metaphor of the green shoot and…suddenly I see flowers…maybe not the flower but maybe, just maybe there are more than just one?
How audacious flowers are, how heady and lovely and unnecessarily necessary to the life of the plant, or not? Why else do we green so, why else does the sap flow, if not to some glorious showing of what is happening in us, and the possibility that the flower comes before the fruit. I don’t know what it all means, but I know some things…
My part of messy belonging within the Metro Community, the gift of bearing witness and holding space for the beautiful broken ones on the streets and how they are just like me, has become vital and fragrant to me, like a flower
and like this…
a community awards nomination has been gifted to me, unexpectedly, and with humility and surprise I see it is also a flower, whether I win or not, I am opening to this possibility that who I am is who I am supposed to be
and like this…
that while there is so much I can no longer say for certain, and while some of my theology is deconstructed or rebuilt or may be forever lacking structure, I only need look at the glory of the natural world and all God’s creatures and at this incredible life I get to live, and my heart bursts open like a flower, the fragrance of gratitude
Back to the wall…and I have to wonder what it is about the wall that matters now, aside from the perspective of the green shoot and the flowering, I mean? And why must it mean anything at all, rather it is helpful for me to find meaning. I do think there is something to be considered in this wall, still something in the placement of the stones and the spaces, and still there is something about the shoots rooting in the spaces, finding a nurturing spot to grow and yes, to bloom.
What is the stone wall? I don’t know. Perhaps my core belief in God, or a foundational structure that is required to root in and cling to? Perhaps. Or the idea of inert stony places in our lives coming alive, assimilated into an ecology of plants and creatures and all living things connected when there is room enough to believe it so? I don’t know. I leave that to you to consider.
Many years ago my then very young son Malcolm told me there were messages in the winter trees that God wanted him to hear. What a gift that he knew that then.
And so, I wonder…
I’m not usually one for Christmas lists, I seldom ask for specific gifts. Come Christmas morning I will feel quite uncomfortable with all eyes on me. I feel some pressure for an appropriate joyful, grateful response, and wanting my family to know how much they mean to me apart from what they give, but also how much I appreciate their efforts and love to me in their gifts. I’m not gifty. Perhaps I’m
My grandmother used to say, “just a hanky,” when we asked her what she would like for her birthday or for Christmas. It seemed such a little thing, a hanky, yet I know how you reach a point (or maybe you were always there) where material things don’t mean much.
So, as I was thinking about what I’d really like for Christmas, it’s about the intangibles of relationships and social constructs that are most meaningful to me… the HOW we LIVE with one another. It comes down to the acceptance of who YOU are and who I am, and finding a way of doing life together that brings meaning and joy to both of us. I want for us to KNOW each other, to love each other all the more for knowing how imperfect yet wonderful we are.
So I am going to disclose some personal things to you with the real hope of acceptance and continued relationship. Forgive me if I’ve been less than forthcoming previously.
1. I believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. I am a simple woman, simply trying to follow Jesus and infuse all areas of my life with God’s love. I celebrate Christmas because of what I believe. If you want to hear my story, I have one to share.
2. I live in a constant tension of faith mixed with doubt. I do not have many answers, and I’m becoming more comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” It’s not about convincing, arguing, debating, although there are those who are very good at apologetics, I am not. I believe my life is becoming what it is because of God and me doing life together. It just is, and most days I believe it to be true.
3. I’m uncomfortable with organized Church. I regularly push myself to participate, serve, contribute to my local church, and for a time I feel real belonging, but I often also feel like a square peg in a round hole. I have been, and perhaps always will be, a dweller of margins.
4. I am imperfect. I say stupid things, forget birthdays, don’t return your calls or texts. I talk negative and overly-serious and deep when you want light and fun. I hide from people. I spend too much time on Facebook. I fight with my husband and my try to control my kids. I hate cleaning my house. I’d rather write or read. I’m unfriendly to some of my neighbours, and don’t speak to one. I’ve ignored you. I’ve broken promises. I am horrible at baking, but love getting praise for my cooking. I love getting praise for anything I do, but feel guilty for loving it too much. I want to do things for God, but feel I’m probably doing things for me a lot of the time. I run from conflict. I have strong opinions. I talk too much. There’s more.
5. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression, and I am sensitive to those who have been and how much worse they must feel compared to me. However I wonder sometimes if it would be best for everyone (my family especially) for me to spend a little time in a hospital and get myself somewhat re-tooled. If this is even possible. Often my depression lines up with SADD (several months of cloud and no sunshine in the Okanagan), menopause (sleeplessness, hot flashes, irritability etc.), and a predisposition towards introspection and time alone. I wonder how #1, #2, and #3 line up with this point. I have noticed that being more involved with projects around creative expression and things outside the world of being a stay-at-home manager of my family, helps my mental balance. I have noticed that happiness and joy are two different things.
6. I love to create, and I love to see others find their creative spirit and create. I believe passionately in how much better we all are when we find what we are meant to do, what we were created to do, and then go do it. I love to connect with others and encourage them to be their best. I love to see the ripple effects of love, joy, and healing go out from the heart of each creative spirit into the hearts of others.
7. I want to be part of a bigger picture of creative expression. I am keeping my eyes, ears and heart open to what is next for me as part of the greater creative collective. I am considering how I may pour myself into realizing a new dream around words, writing, giving and growing.
8. I intend to continue to sign “SDG ~ Soli Deo Gloria,” to my work, and attribute thanks to God for what he allows, facilitates and carries out through my one life. I continue to desire and ask for integrity in this.
Thank you for reading this. Thank you for your open heart. This has truly been a gift to me to be able to write to you, share things at Buddy Breathing for a long time now.
I look forward to what life holds for us in 2014 and hope you write and tell me what you are up to, what you are learning.
May you be blessed with a renewed spirit of deep joy and gratitude for who you are, and the gifts you have been so rightly given.
With my love, SDG,
I’ve been otherwise occupied, obvious from the date of my last post. I’m sorry. Not much in the way of blogging, or even new poetry writing. But a rich time of learning the history of epic poetic genius, and growing into new word pursuits presenting to me in my community. Awe-struck by it all.
Here are a few things I recommend to you in my latent absence, or in the intent of a poetic line/seed poem that is rooting itself in my brain, in the commendation of sparrows and lesser things;
1. John Donne ~ Holy Sonnets, specifically Death Be Not Proud.
2. Wit ~ Play by Margaret Edson, screen adaptation, starring Emma Thompson.
3. BBC Documentary on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
4. Take a course, push outside the comforting constraints of current circles, learn.
5. Self-knowledge. Dig in. Unearth. Make adjustments.
6. Forgive. Often.
7. Dive into Life. Abandon yourself. That most often requires slowing down.
That’s all my friends.
…to all who mourn the loss of beautiful and innocent life, I weep with you…
In the face of the tragedy and evil of this past week, I’m choosing to shout out for HOPE, for LOVE. I’m shouting out to a GOD who deeply loves in spite of all the vile and devastating messes we, his creations, leave in our wake. In spite of who I am, imperfect one, least of all of these, one capable of horrible things, I am SHOUTING OUT to God for all my Buddy Breathing buddies ~ because I’m thinking you, like me, might be feeling a little jaded, burnt out, alone, overwhelmed, sad, helpless, angry, and may be in desperate need of a breath of life? And I know I am surrounded by millions of souls who ask the same questions with a profound sense of helplessness. Others, like my friend and fellow blogger Rob Rife are writing, asking, shouting, crying out…
God, please help us.
Who of us doesn’t feel the oxygen sucked deep from within as news reporters tell of another kindergartener placed to rest? When we hear details of unspeakable cruelty, when we put ourselves in their place, when we shake our heads in disbelief… who of us doesn’t clench our fists and scream inside… WHY!?!? WHY!?!? And what I can offer may not be enough for you, but it’s ALL I’ve got.
God, please rescue us.
You see, I don’t believe there is any hope, any gift, any point, outside of God and his love. After all the pain and suffering is over, after the devastation, after all of it, in the end GOD’S LOVE WINS. I cannot fully explain the why. I believe what we see is the result of a force of evil at work in our world, but even more than that I believe in a God who wins out in the end. GOD is STRONGER than any evil.
God, please overcome our pain, our questions, our loss.
The message of Christmas is that Christ came for us. Jesus became a vulnerable little baby, so that 33 years later he would choose to die a horrific death for us, to sacrifice himself and make a way for us to right ourselves with Father God. (the Easter Story is the rest of the Christmas Story).
Emmanuel ~ God with us now, in our time of deepest need.
We each get to choose God, or not. We each get to decide for ourselves if we want his gift of loving friendship. We each get to gather up our big doubts and our little faith and choose to believe that God does love us and he will always love us, no matter what happens in our lives here… no matter what. God offers us a healing HOPE, JOY, PEACE and LOVE, that starts now and goes forever.
God, please touch us and heal us and restore us.
That’s all I’ve got. That and all the questions that remain around the events of this week. That and all the unresolved emotions.
God, please show your goodness to us, we are desperate for HOPE.
As this youtube video suggests, may we see evidence that there are still good people in this world. May we know in a real way that GOD IS GOOD.
Hard pressed on every side, SDG.
Part of me longs for extraordinary… while the other part feels rather comfortable with things just the way they are. But the first part, the one I often censor or squelch or call names, it’s the part that is most alive when I watch movies and read books and listen to people talk. It’s the part of me that holds it’s breath, that makes my heart beat just a little stronger than comfort ever will. That deep part of me has a voice that whispers over and over and over until I have to pay attention. I believe God may be calling my name.
What I’m trying to hear and trying to understand is this… that I need, or my heart might need, a jump start… an experience that would be like strapping on those ER cardiac paddles and yelling ‘CLEAR’ and holding my breath and feeling that whomp in my chest, as something big and electric and jarring and different and nothing near ordinary changes something in me. And how that change will effect my writing… as a witness, writing about things that really matter… all this and more…
I’m a pretty ordinary gal. I’m not much of an adventurer, I’m an artist. I’m not very flexible, resilient, crowd saavy, travel saavy, or extraordinarily brave. At least, I don’t think I am. I speak one language well. So, I’m good with ordinary most days.
And maybe it’s because of my recent birthday, maybe it’s because I just promised my husband that I’m going to live to 100 and I want to make the very most of the next 50 years that I’m thinking I’ve got to bust out and figure it out and get out there in a new way that might change the trajectory of my life… or not. You know what I mean. Talk is… well, just talk.
Last night was girls night out. We went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel… yep, a sweet movie with more than a hint of introspection/perspective on counting our days, measuring our choices, and experiencing a life of joy to the end. Made me wonder if I could be doing things a little differently, a little more focused/purposeful/passionate than I have been so far. I mean, my life in Canada is so… privileged, so…vanilla, so… expected. And it’s not that I can’t do good things at home, can’t impact the world/my world from here, but still it’s awfully safe and sane and sanitized… can you relate? Still I’m not convinced… still not certain if this is real, or my imagination.
When I got home last night I spent a couple of hours online investigating India…and today I’m thinking some more about it… and I’m wondering what will come of all this? What is this all about?
God, what are you trying to tell me?
God, I’m opening my ears, my eyes… to what is
India… far far away, crowded, hot, humid, beautiful architecture and people, deep poverty, intensely spiritual, rich in culture and history,
overwhelming humanity… India.
and I’m paying attention, God,
I was up and out early this morning, and on my drive I turned the radio to CBC. Headlines included the Premiers discussions around the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, and the countdown to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, England. In just 5 hours much of the world will be watching in awe as London unveils what has been held secret for so long.
And, although I’m not an athlete, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement as I listened to some interviews of Londoners who have had this event in their sights for seven years. There’s something about planning, about setting your mind and heart towards the future that catches us all up, grabs our hearts. And issues of commercialism and athlete drugging aside, there’s also something pretty spectacular about the young people that dedicate their lives to being the best they can be. The training, the perseverance, the undivided eyes set on the goal… GOLD. So, we watch, we admire, we are inspired by these ones who embody something most of us can only dream of.
And in the echo of their accomplishment we hear an invitation… to be the best of who we are with the gifts we have been given.
Gifts for today,
311. how a pedestrian walk-way can be a wildlife corridor for a neighbourhood white tailed deer
313. heart-felt greetings and farewells at airports
314. another sunny summer day, projected high of 29 C
315. Tim Hortons drive through server calling me ‘sweetie’… twice
316. Tim Hortons coffee ~ double, double
317. a peaceful porch invitation to pause and consider the naming of gifts once again
318. lime green pool float glowing in sunlight
319. bumble bees blessing Spirea blossoms
320. a bowl full of beach combed seashells
321. plans for blueberry pancakes with the kids
322. anticipating pageantry and excitement of Olympic Opening Ceremonies in just 5 hours
323. that feeling of being in a sweet sweet place, like The Flying Scotsman, Erik Liddell, winner of the men’s 400 metres at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, who said this “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
- Olympic torch design secrets revealed (capitalfm.co.ke)
- London set for Olympic opening ceremony (bigpondnews.com)
- Olympic torch relay inspires a new generation (examiner.com)
- Olympic torch heads towards Stratford stadium (independent.co.uk)
- A sneak peak at the London 2012 opening ceremony (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Years ago I began to see. At birth, my physical eyes opened. At the age of 40, my spiritual eyelids lifted to reveal new and meaning filled sights. And, another (almost) ten years later, I recognize that the second sight that comes with the spirit focused eyes must be intentional, often requiring of me a tuning up, a dusting off, a wiping of my glasses to ensure that I am seeing as best I can. God has things to reveal to me… even when I forget (see this post) or when I’m distracted or simply focusing on myself way too much.
Ten years ago or so I often saw things as I walked my dog and talked to God along the way. I was reminded of those wonderfully intimate times this morning as I drove to meet a circle of women who are becoming very important in my life and spiritual development. I saw things along the way today… and they revealed a deeper sight that I will share with you. May it bring you peace. God often brings peace in the midst.
I saw… a soldier dressed in his fatigues walking a very happy dog with tail back and forth and tongue lolling and face turned up to his master with an obvious ‘smile’ to share (those of you with dogs know this canine ability to smile). The dog was so full of joy at the walking with the one he loved that I almost didn’t see the obvious, that this pup had three legs, not four. At some point the fourth leg was removed due to an accident or disease and the dog carried on in a way that appeared to be without any real impact on his ability to enjoy the life he’d been given.
and I saw… a man waiting at a traffic light, a man whom I’ve noticed for years now, pocket protector in his short sleeved dress shirt, comb-over hair almost all grey, dress pants, and in one hand his black briefcase… very much the ‘Death of a Salesman‘ image here. And his body, his 60-something body, had conformed to the weight of whatever was in the briefcase, turning in, shoulders dropped forward, arms almost lengthened by the pull of the case. He was heading… somewhere… no smile, no joy, yes purpose, but no outer signs of pleasure. Compared to the dog.
And here’s what I think I’m going to take from these images that linger in my mind, I’m going to take what I saw and own the truth that speaks. How we each have a choice to carry or to leave behind that which is diseased, that which weighs us down, that which we do not have to carry. And with that another choice, to leave the burden behind and embrace the joy of the moment, the gift of what remains rather than what could have been, might have been, and maybe still is. The dog made adjustments to how it walked to enable him to bounce on three feet. The man, burdened for years, his body also made adjustments, but in a way that left an impression of sad emptiness and pursuit of something just beyond his reach. Yes, I’m reading much into this, but I believe there really is something to it… a revelation of truth in the ordinary.
Thought I’d just lay it out there for you. To do with as you wish.
Journeying and watching, sometimes spirit sight,
For those who have just joined me in this experience of seeing gifts in every moment, along the way, as we wait, as we struggle suddenly overcome with blind eyes, I thought it might be helpful to share what began with a single step. It was a book. Ann Voskamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts” that I picked up one day at Chapters, and then a confirmed thought process, a prompting, a nudging of the spirit, and then the journey beginning and spreading out before me this eucharisteo, this thankfulness for what is set before me when I have eyes to see.
So please consider how the naming of life’s gifts might be something worthy of time and space in each of our lives, and might carry within it the potential to change us from beggars into those overwhelmed by a feast of grace. Here is the blog post where it all began for me… my naming one thousand gifts. That was my start, and although I can’t always document each gift as it happens, I’ve chosen to name many of the gifts here on this blog as a reminder… mostly to me. I hope you join me… and if you do, please let me know… share your list. You are most welcome to do that.
And, if you have the opportunity to pick up and read Ann’s extraordinary book, please do it!
So my list continues:
263. a long journey with a new friend
264. finding your tribe
265. expressing what is risky and beautiful
266. healing through creative expression of a thought, or two, or three
267. fog over sea, first light
268. the long call of a fog horn for safe passage
269. being on the water
270. historic buildings and used book stores
271. a phonecall home, the sound of voices you love
273. a bench of your own in a quiet place
275. listening and learning
276. new ideas
277. new people
278. the sense of place unique to every place
279 – 294. gifts captured in photographs