Broken concrete prayers and dreams

Abandoned concrete factory mechanism

I keep my journal next to my bed. In the morning, I write down my dreams.

Sometimes my dreams seem real.

Some dreams I use as a source of wisdom.

Here is a recent one.

Abandoned concrete factory mechanism
Abandoned concrete factory mechanism by Diacritica (Own work) CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

I dreamt I was driving a movie star to an event. He was famous, protected and padded in luxury and wealth.

We drove with the doors locked and the windows shut.

It was the future. Most cities were wrecks of chaos and inequality. People scrambled over broken chunks of concrete for scraps.

Everyone lived in fear. The fear bred competition. Competition meant some would be winners but most would be losers.

I told the movie star, “Your fame isn’t what matters. What is most valuable is your ability to appreciate the ordinary. You can relate to everyone if you are ordinary. You see the worth in a typical day. Enough to drink and eat. A friend to talk to. A roof and clothes. Freedom. Not just freedom, but the freedom to be kind.”

I dropped him off and joined a group gathering for lunch.

They asked me to say the blessing before we ate.

“Lord, I pray for healing. Everyone here knows someone who needs healing. Make us whole. Give us strength to get through the days—and especially through the nights. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.”

Sometimes my dreams seem real.

Some dreams I use as a source of wisdom.

What is most valuable is your ability to appreciate the ordinary.

Lord, I pray for healing.

Editing my life for 2015

Home is where the dog is.
Home is where the dog is.

If you had the ultimate power to edit your life in 2015, what would you change? Do you have people who don’t support you? Do you have a home that doesn’t support you? Do you have a habit that no longer serves you? The good news is that you have the power to change these situations!

In 2015, I want to edit my novel and my life.

Novel Editing

I’m three highlighters deep into editing my first draft of my novel from NaNoWri (excerpts in case you missed them). I bolster myself to be brutal each time I pick up the highlighter. No mercy! I think.

Where I thought I would have to cut a lot, I need the opposite. My novel writing style seems to mirror my poetry writing style: sparse. I need to put some weight on the bones of the words I already have and fatten the story up!

Life Editing

As for editing my life, I see it in two parts: home and self.

Home

My home needs streamlining. We have too much stuff for the space we live in. That is the reality.

This realization helps me to not feel guilty. No matter how many systems I try, the problem is more stuff than places to put it all away.

To start, I focused on our bedroom as the place to make spacious and open.

First, I removed all the boxes I stored under our bed and moved them to the bathroom. Who knew I had so much memorabilia? How much do I need to remember?

I still have to go through all the boxes and steel myself to edit their contents with a hard eye. If I try to hold onto everything, I won’t have space to welcome the good things that are coming to me.

So memorabilia weeding is in my future. For now, the space under the bed is clear so I am called that a success.

Next, I saw the floor of the closet after a big cleaning out. I’m afraid I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen that floor. I know it didn’t happen in 2014. Now I can actually walk in my closet. Novelty!

Self

The editing of self comes with healthier eating, regular exercise and working with God.

For 2015, I created a healthy four-week meal plan. This will help reduce our costs and shopping time. With our meals already decided, a menu will free my mind to think of other things. I built in making extra of some meals so others are already taken care of. So far, it’s been efficient. I will let you know more about it later after we’ve gone through a few cycles.

My exercise plan focuses on making exercise a daily habit. Some days, we only do eight minutes of yoga. But I call that success! My sister taught me the power of accumulation. Even a few minutes a day adds up to something respectable for the year. At the end of 2015, how proud will I feel if I say I exercised every single day? And even if I only do eight minutes a day, I will have 48 hours of exercise total.

Finally, my plan for spiritual growth will be a new prayer for wellness this year. Last year, I held the word simple in my heart. I sang about simplicity. I felt these prayers work in my life. Today I have less intensity about acquisition.

This year, I will focus on wellness and well-being:

  • I know things will work out. With God, all things are possible.
  • All is well.
  • May my loved ones be well.
  • May my valued readers be well.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to change something about your life? Even if you haven’t had success this first week, it’s not too late to try again.

Think about your life as a practice in editing. Make little changes and those little changes will add up to a good story. Never give up! Keep practicing so you can feel happy of yourself!

Do you have prayers about wellness or hopes for the new year? I welcome them in the comments! Have a wonderful week!

Prayers the color of code blue

dandelionsHealth is the great equalizer. Whatever we strive for and however many material goods we amass, it all pales in the face of health problems.

Friday, I woke up with plans to clean the house and put in quarter round. After making myself hot coffee with eggs and toast, the sparkling dew on the spring grass distracted me. I left the kitchen table and took the dogs, Mercy and Cookie, outside. The dogs were content with my change of plans. They accept going outside anytime for any reason. God bless dogs with their moment-to-moment happiness.

I was in a mood of gratitude, feeling thankful for my family, my job and my animals. I marveled at the dandelions, yellow against the new grass. They didn’t seem like weeds, just little flowers hoping to become puffs and renew their kind. Do dandelions dream of their time on the wind? God bless the dandelions.

Inside, I started laundry and began to saw the quarter round. I do not see myself getting hired as a quarter round installer anytime soon, or, if I’m honest, ever. My miters left gaps large enough to stick dandelion stems in. I would call my hammering ability inclusive, as in, I included my thumb as well as the nails. God bless home improvement amateurs.

While I cheerfully bumbled about with hammers and saws, the phone rang. It was the high school. My son had some mild chest pain and due to his history, would need to get checked. I explained that I didn’t have a car, because he had one with him at school and my husband the other. I tried to reach my husband. No luck. The school called back and said my son was being driven home to me so I could take him to the ER, one school member driving my son in his own car while someone else followed to drive the administrator back. God bless small schools and caring school staff.

In the ER, everyone treated us with kindness and expertise. From the desk clerks to the nurses and doctors, we felt our son was in good hands. I texted five friends to pray for my son, and their immediate prayers eased the tightness of my bones. I felt them close to me. My ribs loosened to let me breathe again.

We waited for the cardiac test results and listened to the ER stories through the curtain, stories heard but not seen, heard but not completely understood. Ambulances brought in broken people, overdosed and injured. We heard a code blue and knew someone’s life was on the line.

We listened to a conversation about a child who used to come in the ER often but had died. He wouldn’t ever be back in. Through the curtain, we felt the collective missing of a boy we would never know, and somehow we missed him too.

A volunteer came by and offered us something to drink. The clear soda he brought cleared our minds. It grounded us in the simple act of being alive, swallowing something sweet.

The cardiac tests came back negative. My son was OK.

God bless us to always taste the sweetness of life, whether surrounded by weeds, sloppily sawn quarter round or a curtain in the ER.

Blessing

Lord, bless our eyes to see beauty
in both hospital waiting rooms and
spring mornings.
Seven days of the week our lives belong
to you.

Don’t let us turn our backs to what
you offer:
experiences to know you,
chances to pray and
chances to ask for prayers.

The end of our days belongs to you.
Before we return, remind us to relish
the sweetness of now.

Oh! The sweetness of now when
we taste it.

 

Tell me your thoughts!

Have you had a day that turned out differently than you expected? Who can you ask for prayers when you’re worried?

What I’m learning about facing my dog’s death

Portrait of Mercy

Portrait of MercyA stray on the edge of starvation, she slept with her body pressed against the chain link door of the kennel. Dogs barked, children yipped at the sight of the dogs barking and the parents followed the children, their heavy sighs seen but not heard from being drowned out. Such a tumultuous place and the spotted white dog slept.

I stopped at the door. “Look at this one,” I called to my family. “She looks nice.”

It was the beginning. We didn’t know it. Beginnings can be so subtle that they are as quiet as a sleeping dog in a kennel of 80 others barking on a Saturday morning.

We took her home

My seven-year-old son named her. “We should call her Mercy,” he said. “Because that is what we’re showing her.”

Her name quickly changed to Merfect. Companionable, she is loyal, friendly and tender, always happy to meet new friends.

“Mercy is the best thing we’ve got going,” we say.

She is such a good dog she even went to church

mercy-with-boysWe needed a dog to promote our annual pet blessing event last fall. With her calm patient manner, Mercy was the merfect choice. She walked up the aisle with a wag. We gathered beneath the cross for the children’s moment at the front of church.

A dozen small children gathered around her. A toddler kept touching her eye while another tugged her ear. A boy fascinated with her wagging stub tail tried to hold it. She accepted all the clumsy pats as the show of affection they were.

For ten years, Mercy has greeted us. A docile dog of little demands and much affection, she is as easy as sitting outside on a sunny spring day. Her mouth is so soft that she once caught a sparrow. When we told her “drop!” she opened her mouth and the bird flew out unharmed.

This week, her doctor told me that she has cancer. I hung up the phone and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I reached out to friends. In grace, prayer and community, I felt God’s holy hand of comfort. I know I will be sad, but I will not be alone. I will not avoid my grieving. It is proof of love, proof of life.

Grief honors the beloved

This might be her last spring. I don’t know if she’ll live to see the pet blessing in the fall. This is the end. We know it. I hope it will be a quiet ending, quiet as a sleeping dog surrounded by the ones who care about her.

I will treasure her as long as she is with us. I will love her after she passes from this life. I will remember her as Merfect, the stray who made a home in my heart, the dog who made my home more welcoming.

Blessing

Mercy with Chase the catLord, thank you for the blessing
of animals in their feathers and fur,
bright eyes and open faces.

Let us care for the wanderers,
the neglected, the abused by cruel hands.
Make our hands kind,
make us the good stewards
you ask us to be.

Above all, let us love as dogs love,

As if each reunion is the best,
as if each homecoming matters.

Tell me your thoughts!

Have you had a beginning or ending recently? Do you have a story of an animal who welcomes you home? How has grace touched your life this week?

Two blessings for your week

woods

woodsI wrote these two blessings during my spiritual writing mini workshop at the women’s retreat last month. They are raw and unedited. I offer them to you with the hope that they will nourish you during your Lenten journey.

May your purpose continue to be revealed, and may your heart feel strengthened as Easter nears.

Blessings

God, come bless me in this circle of prayerful women.
Bless my pen.
Bless this day of unmatched socks and warm sun through the window
on my neck.

In this ink—your guidance.
On this page—your forgiving nature.

God, you’ve never been an editor.
You put it all on the forest floor—
dead leaves, broken branches,
squirrels who fight.

Your way is messy.

I am too attached to periods and
line breaks and
let’s make the language clean

Your language, Lord, is happiness.
You always seem to be running toward me.
When did I get caught up in reading signs
about what was allowed?
You are always giving me permission
to run

to run

to run across the page

******************************************

May the Lord bless these women gathered
in the holy act of opening to words
opening to the Word
who was
before the first person spoke and
a great star broke

Lord, bless us in our twingey places and rattly worries.
Bless us in our worm-filled yards and birdfeeders.
All the places we seek life.
All the ways we seek each other.

I wanted to climb every fence for you
and not little fences but
the metal razor wire.

I know we put you far away.
I know we make you sit alone,
laying without clothing,
with hunger, Lord.

Yet you bless us in noise and trash cans.
All the while you bless the trash
because it doesn’t seem like trash to you.

You don’t call it trash.

That’s our word.

You, who broke open the first star and
saw no trash—
only the holy

Tell me your thoughts!

Do you ever feel unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness? What helps you to stay grounded in your faith when life gets hectic?

Blue icing and dried grass: a Thanksgiving prayer

Miko horse at sunset with hay

blue icingGod, we thank you for this life,
babies born and growing,
hands covered in blue icing from
a first-birthday cupcake.

Thank you for babies who become kids in college
and turn in final papers and
shine in visible brightness.
Bless the next wave of your people.

We thank for you for
the memory of loved ones
gone on to glory.
The funeral flowers have wilted.
The hymns quieted down.
For all those who notice an absence
at the table, comfort them.

We thank you for this feast and
all the people who brought it to us:
the turkey farmers who dedicate
all their days to the care of the birds
and the turkey farmers’ daughters who
have to be understanding about
their fathers never taking a vacation
because farming is an everyday job.

Miko horse at sunset with hayWe thank you for all your creatures,
horses who only ask for water and dried grass,
dogs who nap at our sides and
appreciate scraps from the table.
A walk is ever new to them,
always cause for celebration.
They show us the reason for joy
can be simple.

We remember the ones without hope
and pray for their salvation.
The agonized, the lonely, the lost.
Let them know it’s not too late to remember
your love.

Bless the ones who suffer,
who have come out of surgery
and need your healing.
Ease their pain.

Bless the ones who wait in the hospital,
who don’t know what will happen,
who know they should pray but
find themselves worrying when the lights
go down and the corridors go quiet.
Even with all the medical machines,
it can be so quiet.
Lord, let them hear you.

Bless the wives who witness their husbands decline,
the bodies once the height of strength become
frail. The men never imagined their tree-climbing days would end.
They want to stand straight but their spines bend as hooks do.
When did I become old? they wonder. When did gravity win?
The wives soldier on with patience and bring cups of water.
They smile with determination as they accept good wishes.
They make the best of it.
They don’t let themselves fall apart.
Keep them together; help them travel
a difficult road.

Bless the daughter who visits her mother,
but her mother cannot speak.
Her mother doesn’t remember.
Her mother can no longer walk.
Her gardening and laughter are over.
Her mind has bleached into one long snowy landscape,
details covered over;
white stillness stretches from now until
the end of her days.
The brave daughter holds her mother’s thin hand,
warming it between her palms,
giving it a squeeze.
It has to be enough.
Please give your blessing to
the mothers who have forgotten and
the daughters who have not.

We praise you,
not because our lives are easy,
not just for obvious blessings,
but for air to breathe and
another day of life.
Rejoice!
Be glad!
This is the day to
thank you.

Nun vs. Couch Lady: an internal argument

nunShe lives a life of simplicity and order. She likes her space sparse so we’ll call her Sister Sparsicus. She follows Jesus’s teachings and has no attachments to material goods.

Pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17

She does. She structures her life around prayer. She wakes and reconnects to the spirit as easily as entering a waterfall and flowing with a river.

Obedience draws its meaning from the verb to listen. Focused on the Lord, her ability to listen grows deeper from consistent practice. Like sensing an earthquake before it happens, she can hear the sound of God working in our lives through her bones.

Calm and unshakable, she lives with the divine at her center, edges and flesh.

Her own room is smaller than a horse stall with only a simple cot, a chair and a desk. There are no mirrors and few personal possessions. She lives in a community of faith where they sing together and worship at regular intervals during the day when the church bells ring. She eats bread and water, vegetables and rice. On feast days, she enjoys a single cookie or jam on her bread.

Her exposure to the world limited, her single focus is prayer. Protected from the onslaught of advertising, marketing, personal promotion, social media and junk mail, her mind is tuned to a single spiritual transmitter.

She is a living reminder of where God belongs: everywhere—in our space, in our words, in our mind, in the center of our being and in our heart.

Sister Sparsicus is my fantasy self.

Couch kingdom

couch-friendsMy reality self is more like Cozy Couch Camper, luxuriant and indulgent. I looked for a bible verse about relaxing on the couch but I couldn’t find one (leave it in the comments if you know one!).

I’m absorbed in good times, soft cushions, silliness and splurging on snacks like dark chocolate. Mmm dark chocolate. Might need to take a break for some…

I collect books, notes, photos, poems, potential craft items, memories, magazines, yarn skeins and blue striped spa socks.

I survey stuff stacked through the length of my trailer. Piles of papers make castle walls. I feel protected with stuff around me, shielded from impending pain and doom, the unknown and uncontrollable.

I am my own princess of paper and boxes.

I occasionally leave the couch. I scuff my way in fuzzy slippers to the kitchen where hot cocoa and a plateful of cookies await me.

Then it’s back to my couch kingdom. Like a kitty finding a sunny spot for a snooze, it feels good to sink in the sensual pleasures of the world. Soft couch. Dark chocolate. Friendly pets. From morning to night, I consume messages, food, flattery and social media updates.

How do I find faith in the life I live? This hairy, messy, comfort-seeking life? So far from my fantasy life of a contemplative nun.

Two sides, same coin

Do you have two sides? My husband said he has a “I want to help people” side with “Leave me alone.” Another friend said she has a homebody vs. a world traveler. Maybe yours is a workaholic vs. a dilly-dallier. A believer vs. a cynic. The logical vs. the emotional.

We can’t divorce an aspect of our personality so how do we live with it in peace? We can apply gentleness and respect to resolve the conflict of opposites. I value my nun side but spend more time couch-side.

To find reconciliation, we need to see what they have in common. Both sides of me seek contentment, surrender and faith.

Sister Sparsicus and Cozy Couch Camper don’t want God relegated to random moments or a weekly hour.

I’ve got pray intermittently down pat. No problem! Pray when it occurs to me at random times or when my prayer reminder computer alarm goes off. Not quite a monastery bell!

I will respect my desire to pray more. I’ll work on the more, and give myself a break about the constantly. It doesn’t have to be a nunnery or nothing!

I’ll ease up the critical judgment on my couch self. I’ll forgive myself for being a lazy lover of all things cozy—for I find joy and restoration in soft places with afghans and pillows.

I’ll respect the delight in experiencing the physical world: its sweetness and saltiness, its abundance of treasures.

This world points to heaven. I’ll enjoy it as such, a traveler seeing the sights while knowing I’m moving on.

How do you find integration and wholeness between opposing sides? I welcome your thoughts below!