All posts by Mary Herbert

About Mary Herbert

I am a gentle listener, a woman of few words. My journey through life has been a spiritual one, as well as a physical one. My daughter, Katie, and I thought it would be interesting to combine some of our giftings/talents in a blog and see what happens. Let us know what you think!

Waiting

It can be difficult.  Waiting for a minute, for the other shoe to drop, for a phone call, for the light to change, for morning to come, for a day.  For the train to pass, test results, lab results, waiting for a week.  For your ship to come in, for weather to change, for snow to melt, for fields to dry, for healing to come, for strength to return, waiting for a month.  For it to rain, for construction to finish, for the mail to come, for fields to ripen, for a healing regime to finish, waiting for nine months.  For nine months, through morning sickness, through body changes, and through emotional changes.  Through nine months of hope, from not seeing but seeing changes, to seeing.

Waiting can be difficult, can feel like darkness, but it is not empty.  It can feel lonely, and maybe that is the most difficult part of waiting….the sense of being alone.  Believing that there is no-one who has felt like this before, that there is no-one who understands the situation, that the decisions that must be made are yours alone to make.    

As we near the middle of Advent, the second week, I think of Mary and wonder what her waiting felt like, was filled with.  Certainly she had an angel’s words to carry her through what could have been anxious moments.  But, it was a person who helped her to wait.  She turned toward her relative, Elizabeth.  A person who was also receiving a gift of new life.  Someone who was willing to receive the help of another as well as give shelter to another.  It makes me wonder if Mary and Elizabeth might have had other things in common, such as feeling rejected.  One for being pregnant without a husband, and one enduring a lifetime of being barren.  Wasn’t it wonderful for both of them to be on the inside of the conversation, instead of outside?  The commonality of companionship where preparation can be shared and enjoyed because you are with another, receiving the help that we need when we believe without seeing.

It is hard not to form expectations while we wait, but there are gifts in waiting even though they might be hard to find.  I think that waiting can deepen our development into more mature beings.  Waiting allows us to figure out why we are reacting the way we are, to continue with those reactions, or to make adjustments.  It may also give us a gift of focus.  Allowing us to see what is truly important to us and maybe helping us to even uncover our deepest desires so we can change course.  

So what do we do while we wait?  Might we not create a new Advent practice to more fully understand Mary’s experience of waiting?  Could there possibly be an invitation to be intentional?  Sitting at a long red light, being alert to those who wait with us?  To wonder about their lives and what they are leaving or going to?  To make a type of practice that we do with our children when we sit at the red light?  Can we discover ways to be mindful, to breathe deeply, to exhale fully as we wait?  Maybe we notice and turn toward those who we are with, or who are with us and appreciate them more fully.  Could we find ways to be more alert for possible encounters with a loving mystery?  Is there a way to welcome the waiting?

“I wait for the Lord,
My soul waits,
And in his word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning
More than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

How Can Hope be Sewn so Late

This poem could be about mending clothes or it could be about our divided country, or our broken environment…so like fabric that has been torn.  I have a lot of concerns about the upcoming election and our environment.  I don’t feel as though I have the wisdom to “do” anything or much, and I wonder if we can afford to “go to bed”, or to let only the politicians find a solution?  What would happen if we each looked into our own “basket” and did a little mending?

______________________

Who will sit in stillness
When all the lights are dimmed?
Though tired, who will pick the needle up
And lay the fabric right
To patch or darn or mend?
   Who will say, “Do it now”?

My grandmother sat late at night
Silence all around.
Pulling threads with calloused fingers,
Adding her strength to fabric,
So clothes could still be worn.
   Who will say, “I will help”?

Who will stitch the patches now,
Where fabric’s weak and torn by rough duress?
Or seams that parted by weakened thread?
Who will stitch because of love
for person or the craft?
   Who will see the “us” in “them”?
   Who will say, “I forgive”?

If only the stitch was made
When fabric first was torn.
But now the basket’s full
And first tear forgotten how.
   Who will say, “Reconcile”?

We must pick up the thread and needle,
Not for stitching quilt or embroidery
Whose stitch is made for beauty.
With thread so thick with color
But made of thinnest wool.
   Who will say, “Bring the light”?

How can this repair be done
On fabric that has hardened?
We each must bring a light and
Sit in stillness,
With thick thread,
whose color has no arrogance or ego.
Or how can hope be sewn so late?

Who will say, “Do it now”?
   Who will say, “I will help”?
      Who will see the “us” in “them”?

Who will say, “I forgive”?
   Who will say, “Reconcile”?
      Who will say, “Bring the light”?

Lockdown

I was surprised
by the red-tailed hawk that landed in our yard,
the poison ivy on my legs,
the worry and stress,
the civil unrest.
So…painting the house
and mowing the yard,
gathering only with one friend
who was ill
and watched her worsen,
on the chairs in our yard
made by our son.
Feeding peanuts to squirrels
and seeds to birds,
watching the hummingbirds,
and knitting and knitting and knitting.
My husband went to hospital
the pressure in his veins too high,
watched my brother’s marriage dissolve,
then one brother-in-law sick with the virus died.
And we could not gather.
Raking loads of leaves and
and then we caught the virus but did not die.
Then one brother-in-law’s heart stopped.
And we could not gather.
Then cancer claimed my friend.
And we could not gather.
And I could not write.
Our mothers lived through this,
each loosing a son.
Our children marched on
and I’m amazed by them all.
And it began when a red-tailed hawk
landed in our yard and sat in solitude
on a chair that our son made.

Mary, My Older Sister

Mary, my older sister,
you risked the sacred silence,
And found an angel facing you.
Your brave “yes”, 
became a womb,
(a hidden basket among the reeds)
Holding child and promise,
For love and freedom’s sake.

Your “yes”, is water turned to wine.
Becomes a key for those held hostage,
A message of hope for those who grieve,
A hand to the poor and ill,
And still, a friend to strangers.

Those things pondered in your heart,
Of a child whose values included you,
Whose love embraced the earth,
The skies and every living thing.
Sweet Mary, your example for us all.
If there is no time in heaven,
Pray for me now, pray for us now,
for the need is great.

Pray for us now, 
And help us give our grandest, yes,
to set aside our fear
and give us vision for what may be.
As the messenger greets us now,
I sing your praise, and ask you,
Help us with our, yes.
Help me with my yes and amen.

***********

This poem comes from a number of places, mainly from my heart being disturbed by recent political events, an exercise in the book, Birthing the Holy, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.6, and a centering prayer time around M. Basil Pennington:

“In the silence, whether we listen to the creation around us,
The words of revelation, or the deepest stirrings of our own hearts,
We begin to perceive another voice,
One that is too often lost in the static of life.
It is no use saying: ‘Speak, Lord, your servant wants to hear,’
If we never risk the silence to listen.”

Many of my more traditional friends will enjoy this poem, while many of my evangelical friends will probably shake their heads and be concerned. But, I would ask all to examine what is going on inside themselves and if they have ever asked others to pray for them, or if they have reverenced Paul, or Peter? Why not Mary? Her ‘Yes’, was as grand as any.

Play and Practices

I’m reading a book called, The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God (by Christine Aroney-Sine).  I have no idea how I came across it, but I am delighting in it.  “Nothing lights up the brain like play…”.   “We don’t usually think about having fun with our spiritual practices…I find myself wondering if we need to rethink what spiritual practices are and how they connect us to God.”  “Restoring the joy of play restores the joy of spiritual practice.  It is part of our journey toward redemption and salvation.”  And the question, the beautiful question, “What creative and playful activities do you enjoy that could become fun spiritual practices for you?” 

What an amazing idea that play could be a spiritual practice.  A restorative practice as well as a transformative one.  It delights me that play could lead me into mystery, into love, into intimacy.  But, that is something that play does.  It bonds us to our play-mates.  It helps us to stretch and learn new things because it is fun or because we are doing it with someone.  

I no longer play with dolls, or nurses kits.  I don’t pretend to be a cowgirl while riding my bike or of  being a ballerina when I listen to classical music. I no longer build forts in woodlands, and I don’t ice-skate on frozen lakes.  Those were a few of the things that lit my brain when I was a child. 

So what does light up my brain now?  

First, I find it much easier to mention the things that do not light up my brain.  Doing dishes! Doing laundry! Watching sports!  Reading assembly instructions!  Filling out forms!….  But, the question is, “What creative and playful activities do I enjoy that could become fun spiritual practices for me?”  Creative and playful being the important words.  

My play seems to be mostly solo.  Walking around the local lakes, being outdoors seems to clear my mind, creates mind space to think without a screen.  Knitting seems to light up my brain….learning a new stitch or technique, or weaving a basket.  But, what would it look like if I were to “play into” those things that don’t seem to light up my brain?  What if I were to change the narrative or make a game out them?  What would a child be doing if they were doing the dishes?  What would they be appreciating or noticing?  What would they be trying to do?  How would they fill out the forms?  (Can I at least think about it?)  I can still do the solo things; Visiting with people one-on-one , reading, writing my thoughts down in a journal.  But, whether I enjoy doing something or not, how would a child do it?  

I may even come up with a list of playful practices to use when I feel depleted?  A quick go-to “playlist”! What might I notice?  God watching?  God playing with me?  And how might it make me feel while I’m doing it?  Can I let go of the “I have to get this done” feeling?  Can I just be with myself in a more joy-filled way?  Will I feel grounded and relaxed?

So if you’ve read this far, I wonder if you have any thoughts about play as a spiritual practice and what other questions I might ask myself when I play.