by Mary Oliver
Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.
In college, I studied theology. For hours at a time (When I wasn't scanning the aisles, that is, for a glimpse of my now husband, Troy), I scoured commentaries and researched various doctrines to prepare for exams and write papers. And though I am certainly not saying this is true universally, all that head knowledge did little to inspire awe in my soul for Christ. I can see how, spiritually speaking, the foolish things of this world could indeed shame the wise, if being "wise" in that context means dissecting and neatly summarizing one's faith in the Resurrection or if one's motivation for analyzing excessively the teachings of the Church stems from anything at all besides love.
Our conversion to Orthodoxy required the letting go of my long-held presumptions and the acknowledgment that the Mystery of Christ is too astonishing, fearful, wonderful, mind-blowing to box in or contain. I discovered then that my new lack of dependence on succinct answers and explanations coupled with my submissive response to Christ's mercy in the form of communal prayer, fasting, alms-giving and my participation in the sacraments, worked together to transform my belief in God, eternity, the Kingdom of Heaven, the whole deal, from steady to ever increasingly wonder-filled.
I really like the line: Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. It sounds to me like a perfectly beautiful and eloquent description of someone praying without ceasing. I also like how Ms. Oliver alludes in this poem to the process, the long journey, that is salvation. She is packing light and pacing herself. She is slowly learning.
This morning I will focus my efforts on heading straight away to the Source of Living Water (I have a tendency to first try drinking from a lot of empty streams before remembering from whence comes true peace) when I get thirsty, which is often. I also plan on heading HERE throughout the day to find more thought-provoking poetry.
Blessings to you all!
Ride the horse in the direction that it’s going.
- Werner Erhard
I panicked there for a minute when I realized my youngest was turning five this summer. I guess I'd never really thought that far beyond the baby/toddler phase of parenting – I mean, I dreamed about it, like I dream about one day getting all the clothes in this house washed, dried, folded and put away at once (I can hardly type that with a straight face) but my children's independence seemed as improbable to me as an uninterrupted night of sleep.
Somehow or other, we inched our way forward while I was distracted, and then a couple of nights in a row I fell asleep and kept on sleeping until my husband's alarm went off in the morning. "Can I go to the park (the library, a friend's house three blocks down), alone, mom?" my big kids were suddenly dying to know (oh, the drama). We made some weighty decisions around here regarding schooling then, oh my goodness gracious, there I was, trying to wrap my mind around a Fall in which three of my kids would be gone all day, every weekday, and my littlest in half-day preschool.
Holy cow! I'd arrived!
I've been duly reminded, however, that each stage brings with it totally unexpected challenges and I'm working on coping with those challenges by giving myself permission to evolve right along side my developing sons and daughters.
For one thing, I've started back up at the YMCA – exercising somewhere other than my messy living room does wonders for my mood and energy level. I'm deliberately not shying away from community involvement and bigger writing projects, and accepting the sacrifices that go hand-in-hand with such commitments ( it is now 12:21 am, for example, and I'm up, alone …writing). For years it was very, very important that I learn to stay still, learn to say "no" in order to protect our little nest and my delicate baby birds from too much turbulence. But It seems my "babies,"as of late, have become anxious to test out their wings- they're hungry for less placidness now and more diving all adventuresome-like into the vast unknown.
What choice do I have but to pray for courage and stamina (and joy, of course – always) as I warm up here to this scary/exhilarating new role as flight instructor?
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Fortunately, we keep old board games in the basement, as well as Sun Chips in bulk, because that's where we hang out when the tornado siren goes off, like it did last Wednesday. It's been a real storm fest around these parts - in fact I think I hear rumbling now. Nothing makes me feel so small and vulnerable as a "bolt upright in bed" sized roar of thunder.
So I've been thinking about this quote lately:
"As Christians we are here to affirm the supreme value of direct sharing, of immediate encounter —not machine to machine, but person to person, face to face."—Bishop Kallistos [Ware] "The Mystery of the Human Person"
It is convicting, yes, in a day and age where most of our associations are fostered via technology – where flaws are easily hidden and criticism emboldened by that buffer of sterile distance separating each of us from the complicated humanity of one another. On the other hand, this quote is freeing and inspiring. It's good to be reminded that laying aside your chores (and self-consciousness) and inviting your neighbors, that new family at church, your co-worker, over for dinner – over to your less than perfect home where your children, though you've taught them otherwise, interrupt and bicker exposing their childishness, where your table is set with silver forks, red handled IKEA spoons and mismatched salad bowls, where laughter is shared over glasses of box wine and connections are made despite the differences between you – is not only okay but downright imperative, spiritually speaking.
I need to fill this house, my life, with touchable flesh and blood guests and acquaintances lest I forget in this era of the internet, how humbling and rewarding it is to nurture relationships with face-to-face empathy, patience, forgiveness and hard-working love. I believe Christ is in that effort, in the "inconvenience" of listening and serving, in the healing warmth of being really and truly cared for (fully visible warts and all) by a friend.
Again, as with most of these issues I poke and prod mentally and emotionally, it all comes down to balance – to praying for wisdom. There is a time for sending e-mails and a time for picking up the phone; there is holiness to be found in the "immediate encounters" we recognize as opportunities for spreading firsthand the light and hope of Christ.
And there is a time for getting schooled by my seven-year-old in a round of Trouble, in the basement, while the thunder booms reminding me LOUDLY and clearly of God's omnipotence.
Sure, it was cold and uncomfortable. Yes, the mosquitoes were plentiful and the sound a tad distorted. We are absolutely dazed and exhausted from arriving home at 1:30 in the morning, but it was worth it. What could be more inconically summer than an old school drive-in theater? "This is the funnest night EVA!" our little Mary announced about two hours after her bedtime.
Now, where's my coffee?
Three times now we’ve met the Johnsons at the airport, three times we’ve gathered with our hearts in our throats, anxious to behold first the son, then twin sons, then daughter our close friends Beth and Jared have thrice traveled half way around the world to finally hold in their arms. All last week, my thoughts were wrapped up in their epic voyage to Ethiopia where sweet Lucia, tiny Lucia, was waiting for her mother and for her father to bring her home; at night I’d lie in bed and pray for their safety.
Their expressions were bright, a bit haggard but memorably radiant, when they saw us. It was thrilling to welcome back with cries of , “Oh my goodness! Isn’t she darling?!”, the now seasoned travelers embarking on another brand new chapter of their lives. ”This is a very significant moment,” I thought to myself, “observing my children, my parents, my nieces, my sisters-in-law, all animated with excitement, reaping the benefits of community, of being interwoven into the weighty experiences, both sorrowful and joyful, of others, the Johnsons specifically – the Johnsons who’ve faithfully attended the births (well, just Beth attended those), baptisms and birthday parties of my four babies. What a comfort and inspiration they have been to me, to so many of us, all these years!
A very blessed Wednesday to you all!Read More