“Look for the Helpers”

I have not posted anything in response to the Boston Marathon because I have needed to sit with my feelings about it for a while. I have felt denial, (I ignored the link in my news feed at first), shock when I turned on the tv midday and then sadness as the extent of the horror became known. Finally I decided I needed to sit with my grief. I haven’t tried to rationalize it, and I haven’t tried to push it away. I haven’t tried to feast on the public grief and outrage either. I have listened for the real bits of news that are emerging and made a huge effort not to get hooked by all the public speculation and fear mongering that always follows such a publically tragic event.

It’s normal for us to look for meaning in a seemingly senseless act. But we are so quick, sometimes way to quick, to look for meaning in the face of tragedy. We want to ask why, when someone sets off a bomb in a crowd at what should be a joyful shared public moment. We want to know who would do such a senseless, horrible thing, and we want to know why they would do something like that. Is it a terrorist attack from an enemy of our country? Is it a mentally ill person seeking some kind of deranged recognition? What, why, who? We want to know because it might help us make some sense of our dismay, and our grief. It might help us comprehend the death of innocent people, and the injury of so many others. So many lives have been torn apart in the middle of what should have been a moment of joy and triumph.

The one thing that I have heard (and seen on Facebook) that has brought me the most comfort and made the most sense to me, in the middle of a senseless situation, is the quote from my beloved childhood hero, Mr. Rogers: “look for the helpers”. When something bad happens there are always people who rush in to help, look for them.

This is where we can find meaning, and for me that means this is where we can find God. In the faces of those who walk into the danger to help someone else, and in the faces of those who grieve, God is there. In the tears of those whose hearts are broken for another’s pain and in the tender touch of a stranger seeking to offer comfort and assistance, God is there. That means something, even when nothing else makes sense.

Snow Day

Snow Day

I come from a family of planners, those of you who know us well, or are part of the family, either by birth or marriage are either rolling your eyes or snorting at the understatement of the year that I just laid out there for all of you. I come from a family of planners. When we gather, we like to know AHEAD OF TIME, where we are all going to sleep, what we will eat for all of our meals, a general outline of our time together, and the various activities in which we may, or may not participate. Most of us don’t do well when the plan changes at the last minute. It throws us off and makes us irritable until we readjust. Sometimes we can all go with the flow, but having a good overall structure to shore us up really makes us feel better.
Last fall things did not go according to plan and my father spent months in the hospital and in recovery from a serious illness. We learned, in this in between time, to roll together through the ups and big downs that came our way. People brought us food, and we helped each other through the time, with our lists, and the shared memory of what a plan looked like, but mostly relying on each other to take turns remembering the details of daily life that needed to be taken care of until the crisis passed.
Maybe it’s because we are so used to planning together that we were able to move into a looser form of sharing our common life, maybe it was the crisis, and our deep, deep love for one another that helped us get through, and maybe it’s because we didn’t know when we woke up each morning what the day would bring, but we were mostly able to let go of the big plan and go with whatever each day brought us.
Now that I am out of crisis mode, my planning gene is kicking back in. As I move into a phase of my life with more external demands on my time, after a phase when my plan was to have no plan for my day to day life, I am falling back into my need for more structured time. I need to know what I am doing for the week, which office will I be in, where is my computer, and where are my yoga clothes, when will I have lunch with so and so, how will I get to work, walk or take the car? What will my sweet husband and I have for meals, where did I leave the milk? Some of the plan is filled in, the rest is by the seat of my pants.
Just as I am getting into what might loosely be called a routine, and I have managed to figure out how to plan my new life: we have entered into a stormy Colorado spring. My best laid plans are often tossed out the window. I have had three days derailed by snow. The first one, I had company, and we made the best of it, and ended up forging ahead with the master plan of the day, the second snow day I spent languishing, unmoored, on the couch mostly. The third snow day, I let go of the meetings, the lunch date and my class, and made a new plan: soup and grilled cheese with my sweetie, and whatever else we got done.
Maybe this is spiritual growth, and I am learning to live more deeply into “being present”, and perhaps I am just getting more nimble with my ability to plan, either way, I am learning to lean more into the now, and less into the “what if”?

Easter Haiku

Easter Haiku

Love conquering over death
Tomb appears empty

Green plastic grass nest
Milk chocolate foil covered eggs
Heirloom cut glass bowl

Granny’s crocheted lace
Hollow chocolate bunnies
Gran’s pink tablecloth

Laughter, chop, dancing
Marinating lamb kabobs
Quinoa tabouleh

Roasted potatos
Chosen family gathered
Berries, lemon fluff

Laughter, eating, full
Jesus Christ is risen today
Love echoes through time

Holy Week Pilgrimage

Holy Week Pilgrimage

It is Holy Week and despite the winter-y weather, Easter is rapidly approaching. Like so much of life, there is great suffering to remember before the celebration. In church this last Sunday I was reminded by the preacher of one of my favorite intrepid travelers, Egeria. I wanted to share this diary with you for your Holy Week reflections.

Below is a link to the online diary of Egeria, or Ethiria, a 4th century Christian woman who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was there for Holy Week. Her descriptions of 4th century Jerusalem are evocative and vivid. We can thank her and her writing for much of our Christian practice around the world this week.


Wishing you a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter.

Clearing the clutter

Clearing the clutter

I am amazed at how effective a regular spiritual practice really is. I have been really working hard on my yoga teacher training for almost six weeks now, and I notice my hips, while still cranky, are getting looser, and I am getting muscle definition in my arms -(look out Michelle Obama!)and I discovered a muscle in my abdomen last week that I never knew was there. I am inching closer to being able to do a head stand. These are the pleasant physical side affects of an intentional yoga and meditation practice.

What I was unprepared for, although I had been warned of them, were the emotional side affects of a deeper, more intentional practice. There are definite emotional side effects when one embarks on a journey of heart opening and hip opening. I spent almost every day the last two weeks crying. All of the grief I had processed and left unprocessed has been working its way out.

I have also been exploring a practice of prayer with art. Engaging in a creative process of meditation with scripture or sacred writing and responding with collage, drawing, poems, etc…. This combined with the yoga and meditation, has cracked me open, leaving me stronger and more vulnerable at the same time.

I think so much has come up because I am ready for it to come up, and because I have been working at a superficial level on some of this emotional clutter for a long time. But it turns out that I have been continuing to hold on to fear, hurt, and anger that I wasn’t even aware of, and the practice of opening my heart, and opening my mind to my breath and the possibility of something sacred and holy being inside has begun to clear a way to seeing it. I can see glimmers of my strength, and the sacredness reflected in myself and in others. It’s beautiful, and while there is a bit more clutter to clear before I can fully revel in it, I am thrilled to that it is there.

I know that clearing my emotional clutter is a life long process , and I am so relieved that I have found some helpful clearing tools.

Practicing “Yes”!

Never in a million years did I think that I would be steering a snowmobile, let alone enjoying the heck out of it! Snowmobiles are loud, smelly, dangerous machines. Only inconsiderate trail hogs ride them… right? Until I met my husband this is what I thought. I have learned so much from the sweet sweet man I married. So many of my preconceived ideas about people and things have been blown wide open. So, I find myself always being delighted by a discovery of a new part of myself, just recently, I found the part of myself that likes to speed across snowy landscapes on a loud, smelly, totally exciting snowmobile.

I went snowmobiling because it is so important to my husband, he loves being out in a field or on a hill, running free. He is one of the kindest, most considerate people I have ever met, so I had to re-think my idea of the whole snowmobile crowd.

Like any activity involving other human beings, there ARE the inconsiderate trail hogs among the snowmobile crowd, but I learned on Sunday that there is actually quite a bit of trail etiquette. There are ways that trail riders tell each other how many are in a group and like with any moving vehicle, there are “rules of the road”. Who knew?!

I’ll admit, my first few minutes on the snowmobile behind my sweetie were much as I suspected, loud, smelly, scary. I couldn’t see much, my helmet kept bumping into his helmet… I was afraid I would flip off the back, so I was tense and grabby. There was no way I was going to enjoy this. But then, we weren’t going up hill any more and I wasn’t about to fly off the back, and we went over some bumps, and I actually felt a giggle bubble up….

We entered a field, stopped, and my father in law said I should take a turn on the smaller sled (insider lingo for snowmobile….). My first thought was “no way”!, my usual response when feeling nervous or unprepared in a new situation, and then I thought, this is something I don’t want to regret because I didn’t try.

Too much of my life has been “no”, because I am afraid, or anxious. Afraid of looking stupid, anxious I won’t be able to do something well the first time I try.

It’s true, one should not take a snowmobile lightly, they are large, powerful, dangerous machines. But I was in a wide open field, with two men I totally trust, who are not foolish daredevils. They would not let me be unsafe. I had a helmet… So I said ok, and asked, how does this work? It is very simple: squeezing the lever on the right handle makes the sled go forward, and squeezing the lever on the left handle makes the sled stop . Before I knew it, I was inching, and then zooming, (I never quite got to tearing…) across the snow. I was exhilarated. Yes, it was the snowmobile itself that thrilled me, AND it was because I had stepped firmly out into territory that was totally alien and WAY beyond where I had been previously comfortable.

I had decided that staying “safe” and not risking embarrassment was not the course of action that I wanted for myself. I stretched in a new direction and it was marvelous. I doubt I’ll be tearing up the snow every weekend, but I would like to try again, and I am thinking that there are so many things I need to try without worrying about feeling embarrassed or afraid.

Karaoke anyone?

Relinquishing Control, Lenten Meditation

Relinquishing Control, Lenten Meditation

Here is a link to a Lenten Meditation that I did for the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado.

Following the link below will also connect you to other thoughtful meditations from the season.