As the sun begins to set

The-setting-sun-1I write as the sun is setting. More noted because the sun was visible today! We have had much rain and snow during these past few weeks. The blue sky is turning dark but not before it gives small rainbows to the clouds, revealing colors bright against the winter sky.

Saturday evening has always been a time of preparation. The Sunday schedule for a priest is packed with details often unexpected. Having those things you “think you can control” in place before Sunday morning can be crucial! Things such as locating copies of bulletins, having sermon complete and where it can be found, checking the hymns posted on the boards in the sanctuary. Like preparing for guests in our home, this is a time of preparation to greet the people who will enter the red doors on early Sabbath morning. Perhaps to help with balance or to feel in control, whatever the reason, that last walk-through the sanctuary often brought moments of gratitude and quiet peace.

My Saturday evenings are very different now. Retired, I often find myself a bit unsettled as this day’s sun begins to set. Old habits are hard to break especially when they are an important part of one’s spiritual journey. As life changes so does living and adapting to this change takes time. Finding a way to express one’s vocation as a retired priest, takes discipline and a sense of ‘being-in-place’. The weeks move ahead toward the date marking my first year in Asheville and these mountains. Roots have barely taken, yet my sense of place and home, is certainly more heartfelt.

As I settle into this home and community, I find myself longing for a sanctuary. The past holds my practice and foundation. Opportunities for creativity and growth are before me. Short on patience, I eagerly look to the future and gratefully rely on the past.

The prayer below is meant for the closing of the day. Within, it offers words of comfort and challenge for any time of transition. May it inspire each reader in your own spirit’s journey.(found at Sacred Space )

In God’s loving presence I unwind the past day,

starting from now and looking back,

moment by moment.

I gather in all the goodness and light,

in gratitude.

I attend to the shadows and what they say to me,

seeking healing, courage, forgiveness.

Letting go…

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These words ring familiar to my ears on this evening. Be it large life decisions or the plans of one day, I find that what I expect seldom matches the outcome.

When reading Joseph Campbell’s quote, familiar phrases may come to us: “let go, and let God.” or “the best laid plans of mice and men.” Phrases that speak to the plans we think are together and ready to execute. When we are up and preparing to go – we discover our direction becomes the opposite of our original course.

Big life changes are like this. Who knew that at the end of my last job I would be looking at retirement? Certainly not me! I was on a certain path filled with expectations. These type of changes in the course one’s life call for soul-searching. Re-direction is never easy. On a small or large-scale it can fill us with frustration and create anxiety about what life will really look like. Re-direction often means change requiring patience and trust.

Joseph Campbell speaks to this clearly and to the point. The frustration, oh – it comes from being human– when the plans we’ve made do not work out the way we expect there is a need to hold on tight. But as I read this quote from Campbell, I realize “The life that is waiting” might very well offer less stress and more grace. It is hard to argue when things work out better than you ever imagined!

So I’m thinking about life changes this evening. There’s little we can do except be open. Open to what the new direction has to offer. Letting go is never easy. There will always be grief from a sense of loss. But the joy that can be found might just make one wonder why you fought to hold those other plans for so long. To be given the opportunity to live in a way that brings hope and creativity is a true gift. A gift never to be taken for granted.

When I begin to lose my humor or feel frustration – I remind myself of this quote from Campbell. What lies ahead may not always be what was planned but isn’t that part of life’s adventure?

To Be Whole…

I know this child. I was she. With few role models to begin the journey, I faced my own mirror and saw a ‘dancer’.

There was no textbook for how family could raise a disabled child with confidence and opportunity. In the late 50s and early 60s few families had the support of established organizations nor were encouraged to meet with one another to share their struggles and successes.

Blessed as a child I knew few limits. My memory takes me to friendships and fun. My memory takes me to travel, family, school and all things that nurture the imagination of a child. The limits that were obvious became challenges (puzzles) to solve. The world was before me and all I wanted to do was move through it with the spirit’s music and rhythm. There were plenty of times when I needed that music to cushion and calm. Every child has to face the hard edges of growing up. These edges were particularly unique for me (as they are for any child growing up with a disability) – I entered the world of medicine, doctors and surgery at a very young age. Recovery from multiple surgeries was hard but to go without I could not have moved forward. So, there was never a question – recovery it was. With encouragement and love from parents and friends, I made my way through those young years and into an adult life filled with opportunity.

“Dancing” takes on many forms and the steps change throughout a lifetime. Ordained an Episcopal priest, I have the honor to lead the steps in faith’s dance, through the grace offered by God’s spirit. Now retired, I am testing the next steps in this dance. Again, the textbooks are few for what the road ahead should look like, which is a good thing because my style would most likely challenge any expectation. As many readers know, I have recently moved. Along with settling in a new home, I am meeting new doctors and other practitioners on a regular basis. To my surprise, there have been several moments when I have been thrown back to hard edges of my childhood. While recently meeting with a new physician, I made mention of how grateful I was to be so ‘healthy’. Her response – ‘yes, you have few immediate health problems which is good. You are in pretty good shape to be so ‘broken’. ‘Broken‘ – a word I have never thought of when describing myself. I may be able to understand her intent but the word used was hurtful.

That same confidence that carried me through childhood, the confidence that knew few limits, is still ever-present – ready to redefine and move ahead with the dance that is before me. I take these new steps grateful that I know the difference between being healthy and being whole. Like the image of this tiny dancer — it is not about seeing the broken – if that is all we see than we miss the beauty before us. She has all she needs.

I know that child, I am she.

a bigger bowl…

After a full week of focusing on so many details to help with my move, I said ‘see you later'(never say goodbye) to people who had given every bit of their energy and strength to unpack, arrange my things and offer their emotional support. I miss them terribly but know that their time with me had to end. They have returned to their own homes and I have begun the process of making this new place – my home.

It has been a long time since I have moved to a new town. I think about all of the people who I met along the way while living in Greenville NC for 20 years. They helped shape who I am today and I know they will always be a part of me. Even though we are far from one another, we will stay connected – that is the way of friendships.

Tonight I write as Lilly sleeps next to me. No kennel will confine her right now. She is by my side with an alert eye to the changes around us. We belong to one another and in a place filled with new faces and routines, this bond brings comfort and strength.

The stress of establishing ourselves is evident. Lilly always loses her appetite when there is change of any kind. I feel easily overwhelmed as I meet incoming assistants and begin training for my care. I feel easily overwhelmed as I continue to look for pieces of my life still packed or stacked in undiscovered places throughout my apartment. I pray for patience as this transition takes place at a pace set by the length of each day and the schedule of those who are with me to help.

Through it all I am grateful for the support and structure of the community around me. This retirement community is beautiful – out every window there is a view of trees and mountains. The food is great and I am never alone – but I have moved into a retirement community. At the age of 54 this was not what I anticipated.

This was, and still is, a big decision. Each day I talk myself through moments of challenge and, in turn, give thanks for the chance to make such a move. This community has welcomed both Lilly and I. Even though the work of resettling can only be done by me, I know it would have been more challenging without the support and resources available in this place.

Why the fishbowl? The image speaks to my feelings. Like that fish, my leap to make this move is a stretch and risky. The new bowl is larger and full of possibilities. Taking this leap has been an act of faith. An act of faith filled with unanswered questions and unexpected feelings.

And tomorrow is a new day…