For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. Is 35:6a-7I want to know so badly what that trickle of water represents. Is it a new course for my writing? Some new form of service? Something I haven't even begun to imagine? But I don't want to be like Moses—when God told him to command water to come forth, he became impatient and struck the rock instead. I do not want to try to force this process.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
True confession: I have an irrational fear of bears. When I was in my 20s, my roommate and I went backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One night, we heard a bear rummaging around our camp, looking for food. I remember lying in my sleeping bag in terror, consoling myself with the idea that the bear would have to rip through three layers of material—tent, sleeping bag, pajamas—before it could hurt me. (Like that would make a difference. My PJs weren't made of Kevlar.) The animal wandered off, however, and no harm was done except to leave me with a major bear phobia.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I've been tagged. Thanks, Anne. So I have to give you seven fascinating facts about myself, but then I get to tag seven of you.
Here are the rules if you decide to play along:
1) Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4) Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Then I went to college, and later I moved to Chicago. I made friends with people who were passionate about urban ministry, people who were committed to Christian community, and people who were pursuing their vocations as artists. My own jobs ranged from English teacher to gasket expediter to personnel assistant to textbook editor to freelance writer. And I went through a strange spiritual journey that took me through the Baptist, Mennonite, and Catholic denominations before finally (I hope it's finally) landing me in the Episcopal Church.
Now I have friends from my past, friends from career, friends from several churches, and friends from the world wide web. They aren't as homogenous as they were in the days when I was a young girl in Kankakee, Illinois, but they all have one thing in common. I see the image of God in them. As Gandhi used to say, we are all children of God. And so I thank God for the variety of people who bless me, just as I thank him for the variety of daffodils in my garden.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I hope you all find clarity today.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Sometimes when I pray or meditate, I receive a symbolic image that represents what is going on in my life. Often it is more than a single image; what happens is more like a film clip. It's not a hallucination. I'm always aware that the image is in my mind, but whether it is supplied by God or my own subconscious, I'm never sure. I don't think it matters because I have found both to be reliable guides.
One image that has recurred through my life—especially the last two years—is the image of walking on water as a metaphor for living in faith. Last week, I had a new variation on that theme. This time I was walking on the water alone (usually, I picture myself with Jesus), and I was surrounded by a cold, heavy fog. It was one of those damp, chilling mists that cut to the bone and make you feel dank and miserable. I was terrified. I literally could not see anything but a blank wall of grey fog, and yet I had to keep walking. That's the thing about walking on water. In my visions, anyway, you have to keep going with the forward motion or you will eventually sink. But because of the fog, I was almost paralyzed with fear. The only thing I had to guide me was the sound of a foghorn, so I would take a step, freeze in terror, realize that I couldn't stay where I was, and force myself to move again. Eventually, I did make enough progress that I reached the place where the Lord was waiting for me, and I fell into his arms.
That's how my life feels right now. Freelance writing jobs in educational publishing—at least in our subject areas—are scarce, and we can't see when the next one will come. It's not that we aren't looking; it's just that the industry seems to be blanketed with heavy fog. So we are moving out into the unknown. We're both working for a children's publisher and looking for other work. Last night, I felt so anxious about it that I was wakeful from 2:30 to 6:00. But worrying does no good except to rob me of sleep. Today I have to go back to putting one foot in front of the other and listening for the hoarse bellow of the foghorn to give some idea where to turn.
As I prayed this morning, I was reminded of a passage that has long been important to me: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11.
Monday, April 14, 2008
This shawl is the project I finished yesterday. I knitted it completely with leftover yarn. A couple of months ago, I finished a short cardigan, and even though I bought exactly the number of skeins the pattern called for, I used only half of them. At first, I thought I would knit a matching hat and mittens, but really, where am I going to go wearing a brilliant grape-colored ensemble like that? And in northern Illinois, I would have only about a two-week window to wear it before it would be so cold that I'd have to add my leather jacket.
So I made this shawl instead. I have a couple of warm weather outfits that are turquoise and deep purple, so this can be something I throw over them on chilly nights. And of course, it will stay in my office with my other two shawls to keep me warm when I type. My office is located on the northwest side of the house, and the winter winds hit it harder than any other room. It gets COLD in here.
The thing I am most proud of is that I created the shawl pattern myself. It's not especially complex or stunning, but it's mine and I love it. While making it, I did think of giving it away, but I guess I'm like the Yarn Harlot--I'm a wool pig. (For anyone who doesn't know, the Yarn Harlot is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, an author and blogger who writes endlessly and delightfully about knitting. If you're interested, just Google "yarn harlot.")
Today, I realized that this shawl is a lot like my personal writing. I take scraps of experience from my own life and try to work them into a pattern that makes it something useful and (hopefully) beautiful. In the last couple of weeks, as I have been experimenting with news paths for my writing, I have been sending out articles to various magazines. A narrative about how I learned to cope with being childless, an explanation about how praying the Rosary helped me through a transition, a meditation about how knitting a sock is a lot like life (sorry, Stephanie, it's only a temporary trespass on your turf). We'll see if any of the publishers like my stuff enough to buy it.
Looking at the closeup of my shawl reminds me of a poem I wrote 26 years ago. It's as true for me today as it was then, so I'll close by posting it.
I follow your lead, Lord,
this time-tangled string
known as your will—used to beckon me on.
Most days I scarce see
past knots in the thread
that seem to be blocking my view of what's next.
Knots hard to squeeze through
climb over or round
to land in a hole
where the threadway seems gone.
Places of emptiness
where I linger for days
when I let loose the lifeline
the pulls me your way.
In time I regain it
that delicate span
drawing me over the void
to tangles again.
Why can't my path
be simple and straight
a line for my life
made clear from the start?
From here all I see
is snarled thread and gaps
marring my present, my future, my past.
Only your viewpoint
too high for me yet
sees all the knots and the holes and the tenuous threads
weaving a life of obstruction and space
into a pattern of intricate lace.
Blessings on your day.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The dictionary defines synchronicity as a coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related. I'm a big believer in synchronicity. I think life does its best to point us in the right direction. And today, I experienced one of those strange convergences.
After logging off last night, I was thinking about what I wanted to post on my blog today. And I decided to write about something that happened a year and a half ago. The story seemed relevant because it relates to the theme I've decided to focus on for the blog: the theme of change.
At the end of the summer, I was digging up an iris bed because of an infestation of iris borers. Borers are insects that rot out the rhizome (the fleshy root that looks like a yam). After digging up the bed, I sat and cut away all the rotten parts and divided the remaining pieces for replanting. As I sat there slicing through rhizomes and tossing away rejects, a sudden flash of insight hit me. I grew up in a church that emphasized salvation versus hellfire and damnation. God is portrayed as eager to separate the sheep from the goats—or the incurably rotten from the good, as I was doing with my irises. Sitting there in the warm August sun, I concluded that I don't view God that way anymore. Instead I see him more as an overall gardener: feeding and watering plants, pruning a bit here and there, propping up weak stems with support, and providing restraint where needed. The purpose of all this activity is not to sort out the good plants from the bad. It is to try to help each plant in the garden grow as full as possible and bear the most fruit.
So here is where the synchronicity comes in. Today, in the Episcopal Church, we observed Good Shepherd Sunday. The gospel reading was from John 10, in which Jesus says, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. . . . Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
In the sermon, Rev. Kate, one of our priests, said she doesn't believe that Jesus is a gatekeeper, standing there saying, "I want this person, but that one is no good, so Satan can have them." Nor does she believe in a God who accepts everyone just as they are. Instead, she believes that God wants us to grow and change so that we can do more of God's work of bringing peace and justice to the world.
As I said yesterday, I believe that I am going through a new set of changes, and I still can't see exactly where I'm being led. So I'm going to write about the transformation as I go through it, step by uncertain step. Hopefully, someday, my life will be as bountiful as this:
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The name of my blog comes from those lines within "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," a poem that I love. Written by T.S. Eliot, it tells of a middle-aged man whose life hasn't turned out quite the way he wanted, probably because of his own timidity. In the end, life overwhelms him and he never asks the "overwhelming question" that weighs upon his heart. The poem ends with his defeat.
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
I grow old … I grow old …(To read the whole poem, follow this link: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
As my 50th birthday approaches, I'm doing what I can to make sure I don't end up like Prufrock. So for the last three years, I have been in the process of change. In December 2005, I left my job of 17 years as a staff editor for a major publisher and launched my boat unto the uncertain seas of freelance writing. This year, jobs in my field have dried up, and I'm pushing out into new types of writing. Hence this blog. In it, I will experiment with anecdotes of personal experience and manifestos of personal opinion. With any luck, I'll learn which types of writing suit my voice best. My posts won't always be this serious; I have my witty and sarcastic sides too. But there will be times when I muse about life's meaning.
I guess this is enough of an introduction to serve as my first post. My husband Michael will be home with our supper soon. Tonight, we're doing carry-in to celebrate a writing assignment he just received. So for this evening, the question isn't "Do I dare to eat a peach?" It's "Do I dare to eat buffalo wings and risk indigestion?"