Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Transitions

If autumn didn't give way to winter, it might be my favorite season. I resurrect my scarf collection in its fullness...while still wearing sandals; crisp apples are available; you can go for runs in the afternoon more comfortably; and, of course, trees.

What is to come...

The trees give us quite the display before they let go and surrender to the changing seasons. Yesterday as I sat outside, it was impossible to not feel the strong winds, which we've had with us for a few days now. I also noticed that the leaves were still holding strong to their branches in those winds; there is still a bit of dying-to-self to do before they are ready to fall to the ground.

As someone who experiences God in a big way through nature, it feels appropriate to transition into the novitiate as we transition into the season of autumn. Surely God will teach me many essential lessons as I receive the gift of more time to spend experiencing nature.

So, we bless the season (and the transition) with the words of Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr:

An Autumn Blessing

Blessed are you, autumn,
chalice of transformation,
you lift a cup of death to our lips
and we taste new life.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of the heart's yearning,
you usher us into places of mystery
and, like the leaves, we fall trustingly
into eternal, unseen hands.

Blessed are you, autumn,
with your flair for drama
you call to the poet in our hearts,
"return to the earth, become good soil;
wait for new seeds."

Blessed are you, autumn,
you turn our faces toward the west.
Prayerfully reflecting on life's transitory nature
we sense all things moving toward life-giving death.

Blessed are you, autumn,
you draw us away from summer's hot breath.
As your air becomes frosty and cool
you lead us to inner reflection.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of so much bounty.
You invite us to imitate your generosity
in giving freely from the goodness of our lives,
holding nothing back.

Blessed are you, autumn,
your harvesting time has come.
As we gather your riches into our barns,
reveal to us our own inner riches
waiting to be harvested.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of surrender,
you teach us the wisdom of letting go
and you draw us into new ways of living.

Blessed are you, autumn,
season of unpredictability.
You inspire us to be flexible
to learn from our shifting moods.

Blessed are you, autumn,
feast of thanksgiving.
You change our hearts into fountains of gratitude
as we receive your gracious gifts.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hmmm...

It's not that I don't have ideas or questions to write here right now. In fact, I have so many of them.

Writer's block ensues.

...

Many things have happened in my life recently that have caused some big ideas to float around in my head, so I will just share them with you instead. I read this fantastic article about asking big questions in community. I listened to not one, not two, but three fantastic episodes of On Being. (Each number has a link attached.) We heard a Vietnam-veteran-turned-Zen-monk speak at the Mount. I have engaged in conversations about all of these things with others who hold big questions with me. I have also found some threads that connect through them all. All the while, I am transitioning into my new routine as a novice.

It makes me a little sleepy sometimes!

But, in my lectio during this time, I have been stuck on the word patience. I think it's the answer. It takes time to see how new ideas and questions might fit into the beliefs and values I already hold. You've got to try 'em on a bit. Patience.

So, it feels pretty safe to assume that God's message to me came through an Internet search I was doing this afternoon as I looked for some words.


I will take that blessing and be patient with it. May these months be the same for you, in whatever way you need them to be.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Playing with the New

One of my first endeavors as I began the novitiate last week was something completely new: piano.

Yes, I played the viola for about one month in fourth grade and the flute for maybe a week longer in fifth, but playing an instrument is a totally foreign concept to me.

So, after learning all about middle C, I began playing songs such as Two Giraffes, Skipping and Stepping, and Our School Band. The first two songs, and I use the term loosely, came from a book for 5-7 year old beginners, but I am happy to report that I have graduated to the next age bracket! My teacher is a recent college grad who is completing a volunteer program through the Benedictine Women's Service Corps. She is living, praying, and working with us for the next nine months, and she is quite a wonderful musician. After listening to me trudge my way through some basics, she has been treating me to some more advanced pieces. Today I got to hear The Wells Fargo Wagon from The Music Man, which took me right back to fifth grade chorus!

I thought piano would be a good undertaking for me because I knew that if I used my head too much, it wouldn't work. That has already proven true. When I don't sing along, I get lost looking at the notes on the page, and I quickly make mistakes. When I do sing along, my head has somewhere else to go. Today I even decided what might make more sense for a brain that works the way mine does. I mean, shouldn't all the C's either be on lines or in spaces, not both? Then, I decided to figure out where the note "Z" would be on the keys; "Z sharp" was our next finding!

One comment I received when I said I was learning the piano was, "It will be good for you to do something that doesn't come naturally." I think this is true; for a perfectionist, playing it safe is often the best solution, not playing an instrument where letting go and letting the music lead proves better.

So, say some prayers for me (and for my teacher!) as we embrace lots of newness in our lives!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

We Take a Break From Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Amidst all the sad, frustrating, fill-in-the-blank-with-the-most-fitting-word news right now, I bring you a moment recently brought to me that put a smile on my face and some laughter in my spirit.

While on switchboard (the front desk) the other night, someone came up to me saying, "Who's on first - What's on second - I don't know's on third." Though I had heard of Abbott and Costello before, and watching it jogged my memory, I certainly had forgotten about it.

I am a big fan of wordplay. So, here are eight brilliantly written minutes of comedy to counteract all that other stuff, which is sadly and frustratingly being programmed to become the norm. Enjoy!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(c/o youtube.com)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Compare and Contrast

Comparing and contrasting was one of my favorites as a teacher: characters in a story, factors of different numbers, regions of Pennsylvania, anything really - it would go into a Venn diagram.

I recently came across something new to compare and contrast. Many people know the Mary Oliver classic Wild Geese, but the other day, into my inbox came Wendell Berry's own The Wild Geese. I hadn't heard of this poem before, but here's a chance for you to create your own Venn diagram.

Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wendell Berry
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over the fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Similarities? I love 'em both!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(c/o teachbytes.com)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Beginnings

Besides bicycles, another piece of art on my wall is a print of a painting by Julia Fehrenbacher titled "Beginnings."


It felt like an appropriate picture with which to spend some time as I began my novitiate year yesterday. I enjoyed the gift of much quiet time before evening praise last night when I was welcomed into the next stage of initial monastic formation. In this stage, I am a beginner, a learner, a starter on a monastic journey.

The entire evening (and day leading up to it) was so full of presence; as I reflect there is no one moment that stands out so much more than any others. Yes, there were the hugs I received from each sister. And yes, there were many sweet sentiments expressed in notes and well wishes. And yes, there was a lovely meal shared at the table. But it was the sum of all these moments that made the day so special.

Because of this it is a bit challenging to put the experience into words, and when I thought about it, it felt appropriate to feel that way. As we begin something new, just as when children begin life, we don't yet have the words to articulate our experience.

As someone who loves words, this could easily feel frustrating, but here in this moment, I am okay with it. Yesterday just was, and what it was was the just-right beginning as I continue to articulate who I am by living my monastic journey.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sharing on the Journey

In our community room you will find a table that we call the "share table." On the share table you can place your old treasures so that they might become someone else's new treasures. There will you encounter quite a variety of goodies - clothing, books, cards, games, and more... You name it, and you could probably find it there at sometime or another. I am sure most sisters have a good story about something spotted on the table. In fact, the purse I now carry was a share table find!

Sometimes you also just receive treasures, like this gift that I received last year when I entered the postulancy.


Now, it is one year later, and I will officially enter the novitiate on Saturday evening. The journey of this past year has been quite a wonderful ride. So how wonderful that a few days ago I stumbled upon this treasure on the share table!


Quite the gift, I must say! They both now hang on my wall as lovely reminders of the journey I'm on. And here is my favorite view from my journey on two wheels yesterday morning.


Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Words. Words. Words.

Many people know that I am a voracious journaler and have been since 2009. I was journaling before then, but it wasn't quite so frequently. I can still picture my fuzzy orange journal with Tigger sewn onto the cover from eighth grade. Now I keep a folder of word documents on my computer titled, "Words. Words. Words."

On retreat this week one thing I did was trace my salvation history, reflecting on the "big, out loud, up close" places and spaces where I felt God working in my life. To do this, I began reading some of my old journals, primarily from 2010 when I was doing big life discernment without really knowing what the word "discernment" was. That was the year was when I decided I would pass up using my business degree in favor of entering the world of inner-city education - a very important piece of my salvation.

To go back and read some of things that were happening inside me, where and how the Spirit was leading me, was very affirming of my journey so far. I knew that entering corporate America would not be authentic, and I knew that teaching was calling me. I knew my faith was forming, and I knew God was working in real ways. Going back into these memories was a beautiful experience for me; I felt so blessed by the gift of life during that time.

I felt that same way during my retreat this past week. God's presence was so close and so personal, as I very much experienced continuous moments of salvation throughout my days among the trees. One evening I opened up some old files that I had saved on my computer: one was a poem about a topic we had discussed a few nights earlier, another was an article about the Rule of Benedict that I saved to my computer way back in 2011 before I even knew who Benedictines were, some were my own words that reminded me of the Spirit that has always been present and moving in my life. It was amazing to re-discover all these beautiful words.

And then Friday came. It was time for me to pack up and return back to the Mount. As I walked along the trail, I saw a stone that looked a bit out of place for the surroundings. I looked down and noticed something written on it. I looked a little closer, and there it was --


God is always at work saving us with Love. That often happens through relationships with others, with nature, with whatever brings us to fullness. But, the silence and solitude of retreat allow us to experience the Divine in even deeper, truer ways. Thank you all for your words of support and encouragement as I continue the journey; I am grateful.

Let us walk in the holy presence.