As I look out my windows, I see the fading colors in our garden spots.
I’m not ready. You read that right—I’m not ready.
The spring and summer blooms have kept my spirits high as I glanced from a window or stepped to our back deck. And on those days we’ve headed out in the car to whatever appointment I had, there was the front garden by our drive. Bright coneflowers, cosmos, and marigolds, and early on the blossoms of strawberries.
But it is only proper that with the season winding down and shadows growing longer, autumn is nearby. There are other colors waiting to take center stage. And with these changes come the fading of summer colors.
As Thoreau so wisely says, we must accept the changes and resign ourselves to what each change brings.
Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink,
taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
— Henry David Thoreau
Lots of folks make resolutions each new year. Others set specific goals. I’ve never been successful with either. As I attempt to live in the slow lane, I’m putting aside such organized planning for my life.
Instead, I’ve chosen the word “contemplate” to guide me through my next year.
Slowing down has shown me areas in my life lacking attention. Examples include God’s teachings, prayer, reading, music, and more. When we center on a given activity, we hear more, see more, sense more, and learn more.
The word “more” in that last sentence excites me. Why? Because in this fast-paced, recognition driven, madcap social media world, I run to keep up. If I slow down and allow myself space to focus on the important things, I receive boundless gifts in the form of “more.”
All that translates to slow down, think, contemplate.
About the time I reached this conclusion, Mary Oliver left us for a better place. Yet, during Oliver’s life, she gave us many gifts in her poetry and other writings. I began to scour the Internet reading about her life and her poetry. While doing so, I came upon one of my favorites, thanks to a high school English teacher, The Summer Day.
It’s my belief God has slowed me down for a reason. Perhaps so He could shine a light on what I need to be doing more often and with greater intention. And He’s probably asking Himself, “What is taking so long?”
Well, there are a few things over which I have no control currently. I firmly believe in God’s understanding and patience much more than I do my own. So, I’ll push forward with this new lifestyle and way of thinking and writing to see where they take me.
My family history consists of many changes. With parentage defining our personal history, my parents and my DNA have more or less labelled me in many respects, especially change.
When my dad arrived home from work on Fridays, he teased my mom that it was a good thing he wasn’t a drunk. His reasoning was based on the number of times Mom rearranged the living room furniture, he might have thought he was in the wrong house!
Likewise, Dad couldn’t resist physical moves to newer or different housing. I don’t dare count the number of moves we made until finally Mom said, “Enough!”
I share this bit of family history with you because I’ve done it again. I’ve not only changed the look of my website, I’ve moved it. Yes, I’ve moved from Squarespace back to WordPress, but for good reasons.
Sometimes we have to spend a little time in a new place to get all the details on top of the playing table. Then we realize the deal wasn’t as great as we first thought.
There were and are features at WordPress that I decided I just didn’t want to give up. And Squarespace lacked certain conveniences I’d grown spoiled to having available. So, I’ve made the move back “home.”
Now, there’s one little thing I couldn’t move back with me. That was the list of people who followed the blog using something other than signing up for my newsletter. There are three ways to follow a WordPress.com blog:
First, if you are a WordPress.com user, you can use the “Follow Button” as seen near the top of the sidebar to your right. It only takes one click and my blog posts will show up in your WordPress Reader.
Or just below that button I’ve placed a “Follow Via Email” block where you simply provide your email address and my posts appear in your inbox.
Perhaps you love social media and prefer to follow using one or more of the media channels. Look for the “Let’s Connect” block and choose your channel of choice.
For the next six weeks or so, I’ll continue to circulate the posts via my newsletter account. But at that time, I intend to take a sabbatical from the newsletter and sharing my posts using the newsletter software. I’ll give fair warning before taking this action.
Thanks, as always, for reading, and I hope you continue to do so.
Since January, following a fall, I feel adrift. Adrift as a wife, a writer, a friend, a human being.
My body, in pain most days, isn’t allowed to do housework as ordained by professionals. Simple cooking is OK. No vigorous kitchen cleanup reads don’t make a huge mess while cooking.
My mind won’t wrap itself around the craft of writing. Whether it’s working on my book, the blog, or book reviews, it doesn’t seem to matter. I feel mindless, wordless.
My summer days are mostly inside, and little or no exercise is ordered by any of the illustrious physicians in attendance so far. Don’t even mention flowers and gardening.
One chair in our home allows me to sit comfortably. Our bed allows me the comfort of lying down, but have you tried working from a prone position? I am trying to grow accustomed to standing while using my laptop, but years of otherwise make unlearning difficult.
Rays of hope arrived over the past few days.
After seeing multiple physicians, undergoing as many lab tests and imaging studies, and receiving steroid injections times too many, another doctor seeing me for an unrelated problem listened. I mean she really listened to my complaints and symptoms.
This doctor gave me what probably comes the closest to a correct diagnosis anyone has attempted. Then she referred me to a physical therapist specially trained in treating the adverse physiology I’m attempting to overcome.
(Sorry for the mysterious explanation. It’s a rather sensitive and personal subject as far as I’m concerned.)
We left that appointment feeling we’d been given a ray of hope.
A couple of days later our church newsletter arrived. Physically unable some Sundays to attend church, I’ve learned the importance of the newsletter to feeling in touch with people and activities.
On the last page of this newsletter, the second ray of hope came to me. In the form of a #40wordprayer, incredibly beautiful word creations limited to 40 words.
I requested and received permission to share not only the #40wordprayer, but also a reflection on a conversation with a friend and former student:
for the reminder from a dear life-giver that in life all of the goals and striving do not automatically lead to arriving and as the world is revolving the purpose resides not in solving but in serving and evolving…
Thanks. Amen. #40wordprayers
This prayer emerged out of a conversation I had recently with a dear friend and former youth group student who now serves as a radiation oncologist and just finished her final oral medical board exams. We marveled at how milestones in our lives give us the impression that we will one day ‘arrive’ at the destination to which we have been striving for so long. And then we mused at how this contrasts with the reality that so often these points of ‘arrival’ are actually springboards of ‘departure’ into the next season of the journey.
When Jesus came to the greatest milestone on his journey and cried out ‘It is finished’, it took some time before it became clear that he was actually saying ‘It is beginning’.
In our desire and hope towards ‘arriving’ at the next ‘destination’ of vision and mission as a family of faith at MPC [Moreland Presbyterian Church], may we be ever mindful that in this journey of life and faith, the ‘ends’ (great and small) are actually ‘beginnings’. And as we receive the gift of each new moment of life, may we hear the voice of the Giver saying, ‘My child, begin again.’
With Jesus and with you, brian
ATTRIBUTIONS: PRAYER AND REFLECTION: BRIAN MARSH, HEAD OF STAFF, MORELAND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, PORTLAND, OR IMAGE OF CHILD: “PATH OF LIFE,” DIGITAL ART BY ALICE POPKORN VIA FLICKR
Am I drifting or evolving?
Perhaps this is a God-given time for reflection, discernment, and new direction. If so, I feel better about the conditions I find myself struggling through in my writing, my home life, and my friendships and other human connections.
Days on end, as many of you know firsthand, of the same thing takes us to a land of drought, parched to the elimination of our art. A life of illness or injury with no definitive answers, again as many know, leaves you with anxiety and stress and doubt, none of which enhances the body’s ability to heal. Nor do these emotions lend themselves well to family relationships and friendships with our online or real-tie community.
I am filled with hope on two fronts now: (1) from the medical community caring for me; and (2) my faith community providing prayers, encouragement, and as Brian said in an email this week special prayers for “sani-T!”
Attributions: Image: Adrift via Unsplash (no attribution required; free images) Image: James 1:5-8 (MSG) via Pinterest
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted in response to a nonfiction essay I submitted last year. The essay’s status fell to the bottom of my pile when 12 months passed since submission.
Yet, an email popped in explaining the delay and telling me the essay on how my parents met would be published in an anthology in 2016. Still some minor adjustments were needed. These “fixes” sent me digging through boxes of memories. You do keep your memories in boxes, don’t you?
I quickly found what I was looking for, but the minutes and hours slipped by as I got caught up in examining other items in the box. An interesting thing happened while digging the day away. I remembered how things had happened in the past, generally. But I sensed something different.
As I sifted through memories, I sensed a shift, a change. An awareness of something different.
The change is in the value placed on memories when seeing them through a new lens.
For me, the new lens is the passage of time. Cousins, nieces, and nephews look so young and small in the images now yellowing in the box. Handwriting so solid and steady in old letters and cards now looks less solid and steady. Has it been that long?
Sadly, some of the memories are of times spent with family and friends now gone. Images of visits to their homes in the last three decades bring back cherished childhood memories as well. Has it been that long?
Each memory found, seen through a new lens, and tucked back in the box will be the basis for a post here, an essay submitted somewhere, or the genesis for a second book.
An absolute treasure trove awaits us as each few years pass by. We grow older (sorry, but we do!). We grow wiser and sometimes forgetful. We experience the sour taste of losing friends and relatives, yet know they are in a better place. And miraculously, what seemed strange or silly when we were in our teens or young adult years becomes a gift, a treasured memory seen differently.
How about your memories in a box? Have you brought them out lately? Wonder what you would find looking through a new lens? Maybe it’s time to find out!
Fifteen years ago, Alice Hoffman received a diagnosis that changed everything about the life she’d been living. Most significant, aside from the grueling physical ordeal she underwent, was the way it changed how she felt inside and what she thought she ought to be doing with her days. Now she has written the book that she needed to read then. In this honest, wise, and upbeat guide, Alice Hoffman provides a road map for the making of one’s life into the very best it can be. As she says, “In many ways I wrote this book to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. There were many times when I forgot about roses and starry nights. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it’s impossible to have one without the other. . . . I wrote to remind myself that in the darkest hour the roses still bloom, the stars still come out at night. And to remind myself that, despite everything that was happening to me, there were still some choices I could make.
A simple comment I left on a blog post I enjoyed at Women’s Memoirs offered me a chance to win Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons. Luck was with me, and not too long ago a copy arrived in my mailbox.
A short but graciously filled book highlighting Hoffman’s experience surviving cancer, Survival Lessons shares the important things in Hoffman’s life during her battle with this evil disease. Not all things work for all people, but even if you glean only one tip to help you over the next hurdle, reading Survival Lessons will have been worthwhile.
Each chapter begins with the word “choose,” giving form and importance to the choices we have not only in crises like Hoffman’s, but in life itself.
Recently, my husband and I have faced health issues, more for him than me. This past week, when I read Survival Lessons, we had faced a trip to the ER and some startling news following a minor surgery the week before.
As I read these words in the chapter, “Choose Love,” I shared them with my husband and they bridged the myriad of emotions we’ve been feeling:
You may feel alone, but your husband, lover, girlfriend, or wife is going through this with you. True, they are not the ones with needles in their arms or surgeries to recover from, but they have to watch you go through these things. Which is worse: to be the person who is ill, or the one who has to watch someone he loves suffer?
Both are not too good.
I highly recommend this book for anyone facing any type of crisis in her life, or his. These choices Hoffman shares fit more than just the health part of who we are in this life.
* * *
Meet Alice Hoffman:
Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.
Hoffman’s first novel, PROPERTY OF, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become PROPERTY OF, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff’s magazine, American Review.