Category Archives: Some Other Thoughts

Opening Up

The other day, The boys and I stepped out on to the deck to leave the house for a bit. They were fully clothed (miraculous, I know), I had my keys, wallet AND phone, we were ready. I am out the door first and I see, sitting just to the rear drivers side of the car, a bunny. Yep, there was Bugs just nibbling on the clover. So I paused and let both kids pass me on the stairs. I watched as the rabbit turned into granite as the kids hit the bottom step.

So I whispered, “Hey, guys, come back up here I want to show you something.”

And in that moment, as both boys stomped their way back up the steps, I knew that there were only a couple of realistic outcomes, I mean I have a six and four year old, you could list the viable options for me. But they reached the top step, saw the rabbit and the two opposing, possible outcomes occurred together as time slowed down.

Vulnerability is a scary, opening, brave opportunity we give ourselves. We invite a person into this space we have prepared both physically and mentally where we are giving them insight into what is important to us. That is a powerful gift, one that we give to ourselves and to others.

My six year old went quiet and watched. The 4 year old shouted, “I will chase it away!” Aaaand he took off down the stairs. These are common reactions when we invite people into our safe spaces. Some will sit, grateful with wonder. Others will run and chase the wonder away, unable to sit in the moment.

Being vulnerable, in this moment, didn’t cost me much, honestly I was expecting both boys to chase the rabbit away. If anything, the rabbit was really the vulnerable one that shared the moment with us. Sometimes vulnerability is inviting a child to come see a rabbit, hoping that they embrace the quiet beauty of the moment with you. Other times, it is daring to nibble on clover while maintaining eye contact with a creature much larger than ourselves.

And there are large, intimidating creatures out there that are continually staring us down. But can we feed ourselves if we don’t acknowledge we are hungry?? We are starving to be known and there is no security in baring parts of ourselves, even to people we trust—in fact that can be even scarier, but on the flip side, there isn’t any true security in our silence either. If we are not willing to be so beautifully brave, we will simply fade more and more from lack of simple, open connection. I want more for me than that. I want more for you.

This all sounds fluffy. But it really is hard to feed ourselves the connection of openness when we are sore, battered, bruised, traumatized by a society of make believe perfection and hard core judgement. Vulnerability is freaking hard and scary. Talking about miscarriage. Or spousal abuse— physical OR emotional, being fired from work, topics of shame or fear. These are hard things, but I think vulnerability just might be the food that helps us realize we are not alone.

I Have Fallen from the Tree

I create seasonal checklists to retain my sanity and some semblance of my identity. As a stay at home parent of a five year old and a four year old, I have found this to be the simplest way to not forget myself. This checklist isn’t things that I need to do, but rather anything I would like to do if I have a spare moment or simply need to feel like I am human. It hangs on my refrigerator and is there for me— not the other way around. The list might look like:

  • Enjoy a glass of wine
  • Have a phone date with _______
  • Clean out the cupboards
  • Learn something new
  • Memorize a poem
  • Visit Montana
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail
  • Try a new recipe
  • Support a small business
  • Walk a hundred miles

It is so fulfilling to check off a box— because it is what I want. It is crazy, realistic, hopeful, everything and nothing. And every season as I sit down to create my list, I always include “Witness Something Beautiful.” I have marked it off every single time and I think it is because I am looking. Today, I checked that box again.

I was walking over to my neighbors, to help her put on her socks, when I happened to walk under a tree and was lavishly rained upon with leaves. I paused and thought, “I didn’t witness something, I was apart if it.” Clear blue skies, golden leaves raining down, and I was in the middle. Cool. I continued on my path with a heart-full smile, finished the mission, and began the short walk back. I come to the same tree and as soon as I walk up to it, it begins to rain leaves again. A holy, irreverent moment ensued.

“OKAY! I get it! You are here and present! But you know what?!?!?” I began talking to God about how I know he is there and she is good, but I have all these unanswered questions, doubts, frustrations, anger, and heartache. And in the stillness between moments, I heard a reply and was given a gift.

Thomas Merton wrote, “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.” My faith has evolved so much since I made it my own 28 some years ago. I was sitting in a Wednesday night class when someone announced their decision to follow Jesus. I remember so clearly bowing my head and silently praying, “Uh Jesus? If that girls needs you, then you better get in here and change me cause I need you way more.”

My vision of who God was, was a simple cleaner upper of humanity. And sure, to a certain degree that is true. But as I have aged and ever so slowly matured, I have come to see that he is also okay with us being dirty. Wrestling in the mud with the hard stuff. He is okay with our doubts, our fears. God can handle our honest anger. Because we learn more about ourselves and therefore more about God when we do. When we ask the hard questions. When we wrestle with our humanity. When our hurt, pain, and anger overtake us. When our joy is complete, the cup is overflowing, and peace surrounds us. If we are willing to take the deep breath and explore the moment and all that moment involves, we can learn about who we are and who God is. If we are looking and listening.

And today, I was.

Me.

My Environment

Right now my environment is in chaos!  We are getting ready to have our living room and bedroom re-carpeted.  We have odd furniture in the kitchen and other rooms, and the room that was set up as quiet space is filled with years of clutter from sentimental accumulation.  I miss this room.  I feel it’s absence because I had gotten used to the aroma of the scented candle and the routine of entry into that quiet space with it’s slanted ceiling.  There are things that I can’t find right now because the usual place has been misplaced.  But, Lord willing, this chaos is not forever.  I will bring order, a new order with fewer possessions, by the end of the month, after the new carpet is laid.

Outside the leaves are changing color.  It is cooler and the wind has begun to pull the leaves from the branches of our hackberry tree.  It is here, in this environment that I sit in silence, listening to the wind and the migrating birds.  Giving peanuts to my neighborhood squirrels, who have gotten used to me.  I seldom see my neighbors, even though the fences are low.  It seems we have become an indoor society, venturing out only to deposit our garbage in bins or to mow.  So if I walk the neighboring blocks, where the houses have numbers, but the people inside have names, I will seldom if ever encounter any of them.  But, my backyard, with it’s blooming mums and nasturtiums, is a place, an environment that holds a peace in this changing season.  It welcomes me when I accept the invitation with its aroma of autumn.

In some ways, my interior environment seems to be a reflection of the environment I live in.  A mirror of sorts, or maybe the source?  My interior is both a place of chaos and a place of changing color.  I find myself sorting through an accumulation of interior sentiments.  Anger as I walk through the election process and read about racial injustice.  I feel the frustration of being held in isolation.  I am sad, angry, frustrated… right along side my feelings of delight and enchantment… at seeing pictures of grandchildren, or feeling satisfied in the deep discussions with family and friends.  But I’ve also lost inner places or things that have grounded me in the past, things like scripture, or journaling, and centering. For those seemed to require a place that is lost in the chaos of carpet.  I find that it is in my outdoor environment, my natural environment where I find a place that my mind isn’t circling and cycling from one thing to the next.  But, where it rests and wonders.  Where thoughts of what’s next can take root and maybe grow.

So maybe this quote by Parker Palmer applies.  With its background idea of letting go of ego, and instead of being the spotlight, fading into my environment.  The acknowledgement of patience…extreme patience, as I give myself to attentiveness and openness to what it next.  It seems as though it is not an invitation to fade into and sleep as Rip Van Winkle did, but rather to go quiet, let go of my fears and become awake, fully alert and attuned to the environment.

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.” -Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

To continue in the dense underbrush, the frenzy and chaos that is part of my interior and exterior life, will not sustain me.  It is a place of safety, not sustenance. So I will go to the place that has opened for me and if I can let go and go quiet with patience, I might hear, see, or experience something wild that becomes the voice of the Sacred for me.