oh

Folding clothes my heart was pierced.

On the radio the strains of Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams transported me to another lifetime.

Suddenly I was eighteen and under the direction of Dr. John Hunter at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. My only previous experience with choral singing was with a mighty fine church choir but I was little prepared for singing in the select choir at UW-Whitewater. I will never forget the first rehearsal when fifty voices joined as one. It changed my life forever.

The man who wove the strands was a Texan by birth. He was huge of heart, exacting and had a laugh we sang for. His conducting was fluid poetry and his soul desirous of communion and he got that from his singers.

I fell in love. I fell in love with heart given soar through music. I fell in love with friends who are life companions yet. I fell in love with choral literature diverse and resonant. And of course I fell in love with Doc Hunter.

I wonder. Did he have any notion that years after his death one of his singers would gasp upon hearing music previously shaped by his hands?

Oh, to be eighteen again, broken open by amazement.

Oh, to be fifty-six, broken open by gratitude.

Advent 18

My mom is coming for Christmas.

It’s a seemingly simple sentence dense in power.

We are, we two, not unlike lots of moms and daughters.  We have spent the 55 years of my life clashing wills and life views.

My mother is a woman who knows with certainty what is seemly and what is not and her surety has extended to the needful state of cupboards (pristine!) and planned menus for each meal.

Her daughter?  Not so much.  For some reason my mother was presented with a girl-child who resisted blacks and whites and rebelled against imposed order.

We have lived, we two, a challenge.

I don’t know what it is about mothers and daughters.  The desire to protect, the temptation to create in our own image or the image of what we wish we had been able to able to call our own; so many things swirl beneath the surface of this elemental heart dance.

What I know is that my relationship with my mother affects my daughters and will affect their daughters.  If there is work to do, running from it robs not only me and my mom but the generations that follow.

So we have worked.  When it might have made sense to let it go and play it safe, we have engaged with each other and risked the hurt and vulnerability of letting each other know that it matters.  Our honest hearts won’t let go of each other.

My mom is coming for Christmas.  She will be in the midst of the feasting and the laughter and I know full well that she will bite back comments about how things might be better organized and I know full well that sometimes those comments will slip their way out of her mouth and into my ear.

But they don’t have to take up space in my heart.

What takes up space in my heart is profound admiration for the mighty mite that is my mom.  She has endured much, lived much, and loved much.  She has not let go of me.

Gathering for Christmas means readying our hearts.  We will mourn those absent, mark in our hearts the shifts and losses and remember years gone past when things were different.

But oh, the chance to be present to the wonder of the Word Made Flesh in our midst is stunning gift.  We get to learn what it is to love.

My mom is coming for Christmas.

Thanks be to God.

 

bell tones

Music during this season of Christmas makes every pore in my body gasp.

I spent decades as a soprano in church choirs, college choirs, and semi-professional chorales.  One of my favorite seasonal gigs was singing with the Rittenhouse Inn singers in Bayfield Wisconsin.  I’d motor over from Duluth and spent a night, singing multiple concerts in the dining rooms there.  I was a first soprano, one of the blessed (I would say) who get to take lofty flight through vocal chords.

Hearing the MPR offerings and experiencing the gift of singing in our church choir, I am home.  I have body memories of where I was when I was able to wrap my voice around various choral works.  I feel gratitude gratitude gratitude.

And, I feel some nostalgia.  I am no longer a first soprano, and maybe not much of a real soprano any more.  I don’t devote myself to singing as I once did.  I am a rusty and less confident member of the corps.  My life has taken me into other sorts of ways of using my voice.  What was is no more.

But for a time, I soared without fear.

Do I long sometimes for the opportunity to sing as I once did; often and in fabulous company?  Of course.

But the voice that used to join with others to create beauty sings yet in this body and life that has seen some changes.

And that is enough.

 

treasure

And so begins another season of life here on Blaisdell.

Oldest daughter Leah and her wildly alive Pit Bull have moved out.  The room that housed her life treasures (and mine, for surely she is life treasure extraordinaire) is emptied.

It surprises me each time I go upstairs, this vacancy.

I am filled with wonder about this elastic and colossal thing called love.  It is a force in life that finds endless ways to hum between parents and children, partners and pets.

Children come, they go, they partner with others, they hurt, they triumph and always always there is space and hunger within me for their being.

I had lunch with my girls yesterday.  We walked arm in arm down the streets of St Paul and shared Thai food, laughter, and hearts.  Advice was sought and shared, notions played out and life swapped.  This morning I had breakfast with my 21-year-old son.  Always this child has been tender of heart and voracious in his hunger for life and living and while being a sometimes terrified bystander to his questing is rough going, my faith in his amazing beauty is boundless.

I have loved every phase of their being, these people who shared my body for a time.  I sometimes long for the days of sleeper jammies and newly washed heads under my chin for reading marathons.  I long on occasion for the days when I could tuck them in at night and rouse them in the morning.  Their presence in my every day was ground of my being.

And, it still is.  They are flown, my babies.  Flown to the lives they are creating through their willingness to engage and stretch and live.

They are treasure unbound.

who’s on first?

It is a morning of intentional deep breathing for me and for this living thing called my home.

In the next week two people are moving out and two people are moving in.

Rachel is vacating the nest she has lived in for two years.  She has been a most delightful roomie, breezing through the days with updates on life and adventures.  While working AmeriCorps, the third floor of our home was a cheap place to live (the coffee pot is always on, not a bad side benefit).  Now that she has a grown-up girl job in her field (pinch me!  It’s so fine!) she is moving into an apartment with friends.  It’s time and it is right and I will miss her.  Luckily she will be only five blocks away.  This I like.

Son Jameson is moving out.  He landed here six weeks ago after a near-year adventure in New Orleans working AmeriCorps.  At 21, his sense of play and need for friend gaggle is great, so having a house of his own is a near desperate desire.  He got the word yesterday that his rental dream house is his, so he will move this week.  He will be a mile or so away, able to come and go and congregate and music make as he pleases.  This is good.

With Rachel’s move in the offing, we decided to rent out the third floor, so on the 31st we will move into uncharted while familiar territory:  sharing our space, but this time, with a renter.  She will have access to the kitchen and will need to enter and leave through common space.  She is a nice young woman.  I think this will work.

And, frosting on the cake and almost unbelievable to my heart, my eldest daughter is moving back to her people.  Leah has been in Denver making life and learning much and having done her time, she is coming home to a great new job and a rejoicing fan club.  It hasn’t really sunk in yet.  I don’t have to steel myself for inevitable good-byes.  I get to see her and hear her and be with her and love her crazy from a much kinder distance.  She will live here for a time until she finds her own abode. Our house will be filled with her beauty and the fruits of her tiny bread-kneading hands.  She returns bringing with her Chela, a pit bull mix.  I’m trying to send peaceful energies to my creaky black lab and to the energetic and not-well-dog-socialized Chela.  May peace reign in their hearts!

So, a Saturday morning spent alone in this house soon to be stirred into changed and new life is a precious gift.

finitude

I have read much about it and I live it through my work, but no second-hand living can articulate what my being is grappling with in these days:  finitude.

I have a birthday this month.  I will be 54.  That number in itself is not all that noteworthy, but the awareness of limits on a body heretofore game for anything is sobering.  Sleeping on the ground in the BWCA was more remarkable to me in the morning than it has been in the past; remarkable meaning painful!  I carried canoes and toted packs and savored living in my body and in the savoring I was aware of creakiness new to me.  I will bear no more babies.  My laugh lines will bear ever more powerful witness.  And gravity…well, real it is.

There is a flailing around within me of late.  What is it I am called to do with the sweet miracle of the years I have?  I am in the life-cycle breath between launching children and welcoming grandchildren.  I am in the sweet place of gained confidence and earned life lessons.  I am seeking to listen listen listen for what it is the Holy calls to me to explore.  So far, the only answer I am given is “what is”; I am called to be present to what is.

My tendency is to launch myself into much.  I have dashed down roads to school and career and child-bearing and rearing of same and I have inhaled life and its fullness with great gusto.

I find myself in the familiar mode of scanning the universe for the “what next” of life.  I have written for catalogues for Doctoral programs (compatible with my pastoral schedule – I’m not leaving ministry!).  I am reading professional publications seeking the next fascination or adventure.  I am seeking seeking seeking.

But.  But perhaps this roily itchy time is the time to digest and savor the much of what has been.  Perhaps this is the time in my life when I will “afford” the Yoga classes I have longed for and the friendships I have tended shallowly.  Perhaps, after eight years in a church that has demanded constant juggling to lead I can take deeper breaths and trust that the Spirit breathes and frolics with greater freedom with and through a congregation pastored by a less harried woman.

I will admit to a bit of anxiety.

It takes greater spiritual discipline for me to “be” than to do.  It has always been so.

Perhaps this is the season for being present to the now; the precious irreplaceable now.

Perhaps, if you find yourself facing finitude and its provocations, you might join me in being present to what is.

No work for cowards, that.  I will welcome your company.

It is deep soul-mulchy work for this soul at this time: aware of time, honoring time, savoring time, loving time, trying-not-to-clutch-at-time, time.