Rooting in Joy

I feel like it is finally okay to post this poem. After another 2" of snow this past week, adding up to a total of 198.5" for the winter, I couldn't care less for that last 1.5" that would give us the 200" record.

The Spring (After Rilke) by Delmore Schwartz

Spring has returned! Everything has returned!
The earth, just like a schoolgirl, memorizes
Poems, so many poems. ... Look, she has learned
So many famous poems, she has earned so many prizes!

Teacher was strict. We delighted in the white
Of the old man's beard, bright like the snow's:
Now we may ask which names are wrong, or right
For "blue," for "apple," for "ripe." She knows, she knows!

Lucky earth, let out of school, now you must play
Hide-and-seek with all the children every day:
You must hide that we may seek you: we will! We will!

The happiest child will hold you. She knows all the things
You taught her: the word for "hope," and for "believe,"
Are still upon …


The Little Boy
by Helen E. Buckley

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy.
And it was quite a big school.
But when the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking right in from the door outside,
He was happy.
And the school did not seem
Quite so big any more.

One morning,
When the little boy had been in school a while,
The teacher said:
“Today we are going to make a picture.”
“Good!” thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all kinds:
Lions and tigers,

Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats –
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said:
“Wait! It is not time to begin!”
And she waited until everyone looked ready.

“Now,” said the teacher,
“We are going to make flowers.”

“Good!” thought the little boy,
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful ones
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said,
“Wait! And I will show you how.”
And she drew a flower on the blackboard.
It was red, with a green stem.

Fearful, Yet Overjoyed

Some of my favorite words in Scripture come immediately after Easter. They are three short words in fact: "Fearful, yet overjoyed."

You might know these words refer to Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary's” emotions after encountering the empty tomb. I imagine others might favor these words, too, seeing as they give comfort to the oft-occurring intermingling of fear and joy in our lives. These words remind me that it is normal to experience fear and joy simultaneously. While it might feel a bit weird inside, I am not the only one. (The point being driven home especially well in Disney/Pixar’s wonderful film, Inside Out, by the way.)

While it’s easy and obvious to point out this deeply human experience, I discovered a real-life example this week as we continue to wait for that moment when it finally feels like spring.
How did we get more snow? I don’t know. But we did. For a few days this past week, there appeared yet more white stuff on the ground. The daffodils and croci…

This Is The Night

I shouldn’t have been surprised today when, as I was running, my steps sped up upon turning on All Shall Be Well on YouTube. (Yes, I will admit it was a premature listen seeing as “this is the night,” and “that was the afternoon” leading up to Easter Vigil, but I couldn’t help myself.) (I also couldn’t help listening to it about twelve times on repeat.)

I had enjoyed the music I was playing before, but there is something about the heightened joy of singing, “Jesus alive!” that makes it difficult to contain myself. Yesterday morning during Tenebrae prayer, we chanted lines that elicited the same feeling of excitement inside me.

Even the bleakest life
sustains the consciousness
that somewhere, somehow,
there is going to be a resurrection,

a rebirth of life, of joy, of beauty,
that will never fade.

There is going to be a resurrection,
a rebirth of joy,
of beauty that will never fade.

May we believe this is to be true; this is the night, after all.

Easter blessings to each of you.

Let us walk in t…

Oh, Would That It Be

You might imagine that at a daycare center we do quite a few loads of laundry. Macaroni and cheese on a shirt after lunch? Throw it in the hamper. A soggy towel after water play? Throw it in the hamper. I will spare you some of the more drastic examples.

We also wash dozens and dozens of bibs on a weekly basis as each classroom of little kiddos eats two meals and a snack together Monday through Friday.
The other day I was sorting through some laundry, putting each item in its appropriate pile and figuring out which little pair of pants belonged to which child. I came upon a bib. As you might know, it is common to find “cutesy” sayings or images on baby clothing. This particular bib made a statement: Chick Magnet
I hadn’t seen it before and wondered which boy should receive it on his pile. I asked another teacher in the room. She said, “It belongs to her. Her mom found it and decided that she wanted to support her daughter no matter who she decides to love.” 
Oh, would that we all be…

Create In Me, O God

Psalm 51, a commonly-used psalm for the Lenten season, contains the oft-used line: Create in me a clean heart, O God. I cannot lie; I could use one of those. In today’s homily, our presider asked us a question I did not really care to answer because I knew the truth of my response: “Have you died this Lent?” Sigh. Not even close.

Sure, I’ve taken up my practices—meditation, giving away an item a day, Facebook fasting—in hopes that at least a slightly more pristine heart might appear. Yet, these practices have been completed on my terms. Is that really the point of taking them on? To die to self as I decide to die? While “meditating” this morning, I wondered about this all. Then, I told myself, “Val, just get back to the mantra.” The homily only offered an opportunity to continue my wondering, which only led to worrying, which only led to the cycle continuing.

A clean heart, yes, please. May my practices lead me there. What I might want even more, though, is a calm heart. Create in me …

Short and Sweet

One thing I enjoy about Lent is the hymn booklet we use for the songs we sing at prayer. Compared to the booklets we use at Christmas or Easter (Advent has quite a few, too), there are more options for songs sung as mantras. These shorter songs easily enter into memory and are nice to have in your head during the season as we prepare our hearts for Easter Sunday.

Recently I came across a shorter, maybe mantra-like Mary Oliver poem that I hadn't read before titled, Whispered Poem:

I have been risky in my endeavors, I have been steadfast in my loves;
Oh Lord, consider these when you judge me.
Then, I remembered two others that I often read. First, The Uses of Sorrow:

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.
And, We Shake With Joy:

We shake with joy, we shake with grief. What a time they have, these two house as they are in the same body.
These, too, like the mantras we sing in chapel, enter into my memory bank quickly, and…