Sunday, June 29, 2014

Filling the Gaps

Ann cheerfully carried the brown paper bag filled with freshly baked biscuits which came out of the oven a few minutes before. Resting on the bottom of the bag was a jar of marionberry preserves, which  traveled all the way from Oregon,  carefully clutched and transported from one airplane to another before resting on my kitchen table. 

Ann was hosting two family celebrations this weekend:  her second daughter's high school graduation and her mother's eightieth birthday.  Family and friends were gathering non-stop through the revolving door of her home to honor these milestones.

Ann mentioned she didn't have a grandma to fill in a few gaps - like baking biscuits for snacking and breakfast. I thought I was the only one with gaps to fill from the losses I experienced in childhood.  However, I reflected on Ann's remarks and realized even if we were all part of families who nurtured us emotionally, spiritually and physically in healthy was, no family system can make us complete.  We all need others. 

Jesus spoke of the need for community, for life in the body of Christ.  Jesus modeled balance many ways by going away to spend time alone with God.  Jesus also spent time traveling through towns and villages speaking with people, teaching and healing.

My husband and I did not live in the same state as our parents and other relatives, so our children did not grow up surround by adoring family members.  However, these gaps for family were filled by kind and loving people who were in the congregations of each church Mike pastored. 

We lived in parsonages, two of which were next tot he church.  People were always coming and going from the church and when I had the children outside, they came over and spoke, interested in what we were doing.  Sunday mornings also afforded opportunities for people in the church to express interest in our family.

Neither child (Sarah and Anna) was shy, each speaking with ease and politeness when addressed.  Eventually we were invited to wedding receptions, birthday parties, graduation receptions, and other special occasions celebrated by families in the church.  Although we didn't have biological 'family' we had 'church family' who filled gaps for meaningful and close relationships.

We fill gaps for others in ways we don't realize.  Frequently I have people tell me about difficulties or challenges they are facing.  They often add, "I can't talk to my mother/sister/father or anyone in my family about ______."  I have several children whom I see regularly who fill my life with laughter and fun experiences.  I remember them on their birthdays and other occasions throughout the year.  They've invited me to their graduations, birthdays and sporting events.  A few of the children have grandparents who live a great distance away, so I fill their gap for friendship with an older person.

Perhaps my gaps are deeper than another's or just manifest in different ways.  Living together in the body of Christ offers opportunities to be present to one another like Jesus was to people long ago.  I am grateful to those people who fill gaps in my life and I am honored to be present to others in kind and loving ways. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A 'Found Poem' for Friday

Found poems are made by taking phrases or portions of a sentence from a book or magazine or other written material, and putting together in a new form. 

When my parents died in January, 2013, I received over one hundred cards.  During the months I was processing their loss, I took portions of thoughts contained on the cards, and made several found poems. 

Here is the first found poem I wrote using pieces of ten sympathy cards:

Someone will keep your troubled heart.
Holding it close, with peace coming in the grasp during a difficult time.
Words are inadequate to express concern and sympathy,
When deepest comfort is needed for the heart.
Jesus reminds us, "I give unto you my peace.  Let not your heart be troubled."

What do you read that you can remold into something new?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Unsuspected Vessel

Twice during the past three weeks, I had chance encounters with people who told me, "I believe God wanted me to run into you today."  I was completing errands both times, purchasing groceries and paying a bill at the print shop.  I ran into women whom I had not seen for over a year, whom I did not know well.  One was a former employee at the grocery store, the other I met in a yoga class in which I had not participated for two years.

I spoke to these women, one about going to the YMCA and the other about a yoga class at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Both said before we parted, "I believe God wanted me to run into you today."  God affirmed a truth I've known for years, God can work through me when I complete ordinary tasks like running errands.

Most of Jesus' ministry occurred traveling in towns and villages meeting people in their homes, in the marketplace, in the temple, on a hillside, by a lake and other places.  Jesus entered conversations and discussions with words of direction to those who desired to love and serve God.  Many of Jesus' interactions and responses of people are recorded, but not all.  I wonder what others who were part of the crowd or perhaps eavesdropping thought or gained from listening to God's son?  Did a husband or wife or two friends say to each other at the end of the day, "I believe God wanted me to hear Jesus today."

I had no idea my words, which were not offered at a workshop I often lead or in a sanctuary or other 'holy' place, were important.  My experience reminds me of God's presence everywhere,  and how my words, which were not about advice or direction, were important for these women.

Everyone is God's messenger.  I did not perceive what I shared with the two women as out of the ordinary, however, they must have needed to hear what I said.  I am grateful for the ways God works through me in unexpected ways.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Poems for Friday

 Watching birds perched on the backyard fence were inspiration for a poem during spring. Elevation provided by my second floor bedroom window allowed a great view of two blue jays building a nest. I watched the construction and then the nesting after the egg appeared.  Another poem emerged as I watched a common 'rite of passage'.

Bowl shaped bellies
Land on my fence
Nest in my trees
Fill my heart.

You trust your place on the tree.
One tiny, anchored in protective branches.
Dried leaves you've gathered hang over the nest like
excess blankets over a crib.

You sit on a circular chair made of sticks and dried leaves
tucked in a cradle of branches.
You look around as the wind blows.
Are you anxious for the safety of your eggs?
You cover securely like a lid on a jar.
I watch as the wind blows
branches sway back and forth, but you dwell secure
like you are glued to the nest.
Your body warms the eggs,
like a quilt warms little ones snuggled underneath.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

One More Post from the Patch

I made a pilgrimage for the second time this week to the strawberry patch.  I picked twenty-six pounds of berries today and ten pounds Tuesday.  Tuesday I made jam and froze what remained.

I always go by myself to the farm because I sense God's presence when I pick.  I want my heart clear of distractions. When I am assigned a row marked by a plastic neon pink flag, a rhythm flows from my heart to my hands to the berries to God.  I look for the ripest strawberries which can range from bright red to burgundy.  Some of the plants still have flowers, waiting to mold into a berry. Other berries are half red and half white needing more time in the sun.

Sometimes the straw carpeting between the rows finds its way into the rectangular box I push along the row. Seeping juice quickly stains my hands red with each berry I pick.  I feel the wind against my facing moving in the wide open fields, the deep blue sky providing a cap overhead.

The fields today were filled with women and young children.  I spoke with the toddler in the row next to me who began picking, but was quickly plopped into her stroller since she kept eating berries.  Who could resist a bright juicy strawberry? 

Her mother and another woman were talking loudly about the mother desiring a job to raise money for another adoption.  The dialogue continued about the expenses involved and the mound of paperwork.  The other woman, unrelated to the family, said she would find another job to help raise money.  The mother appreciated her generosity and lamented the complexities of local adoption.

Hearing the pain of the mother longing for another child, worried about the expense, reminded me of many others I know who endure infertility.  I wish all women who wanted children could have them.

I finished the row, my box filled to a peak, all the while praying for this mother - a benediction to close out my time in the strawberry patch.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Poem for Friday - Bird Companionship

A few weeks ago, I was to meet a friend for a walk.  I steered my car into a parking place next to the blacktop path, relaxed into my seat, tired from a busy Saturday.  I heard birds singing, while I waited and soon discerned a distinct pattern.   I found a piece of paper and pencil on the passenger seat and wrote a poem.

A steady cadence

Two singing chirps,

Followed by .........

Five staccato chirps -

Brought me to God

A bird mantra,

While I sat in my car,

Waiting for a friend to arrive

For a walk.

My friend forgot, but

I came

To God.

Thank you, sweet bird,
Sitting on a branch,
Behind a leaf curtain.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014



a new baby

a full laundry basket

a bouquet of flowers carried down the aisle

a sobbing friend going through challenging times. 

Holding means “to have or keep in hand; to keep a fast grasp.”

Often our days go by like a movie which keeps running and running.  Can we push pause, taking time to ask:

What do I want to “keep in hand”?

How do I want to express my holding?

What do I not want to hold?

Today I want to hold my experience at the strawberry patch where I stretched and bent and twisted to reach the berries and maintain balance.

I want to hold the shading of each berry – some red and white striped, some red, some burgundy, some light green, some white, all in different stages of development on the same plant.  The straw between the rows offered a dry carpet with wet dirt peeking through; conversations from others in neighboring rows—not eavesdropping; rather, hearing the heart of humanity.

I want to hold in my heart the children excited to find a berry, eat a berry, fill a small container with berries—not all of them ready for picking. I want to hold the sound of the wheels of my car against the gravel road leading to the fields.  I want to literally hold the heaviness of the rectangular box heaped to a peak with berries. I want to hold on to my red fingers, stained from cutting berries. I want to save four cups of the fruit for jam and the rest folded into baggies heading for the freezer.

One year I held my experience by making a quilt using green gingham fabric covered with fanciful drawings of strawberries.

God gives me all of this to hold, to “keep a fast grasp,” so I remember, cherish, and treasure these things in my heart. Thanks to His gifts, I hold God in each jar of jam.  

I hold God in the frozen baggies. 

I hold God in the quilt.  

I hold God in my heart, strengthened by my time in the strawberry patch.

And God holds me through all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Praying in the Water

"A nasty divorce kept me from coming for two years," she said, pulling on a pair of flippers and adjusting her bathing cap.

"I am so sorry," I said to the stranger sitting on the edge of the pool asking to share a lane with me. 

The fifty-meter outdoor pool at the Jordan Y opened Memorial Day weekend.  This pool, my favorite in the whole world, was my destination today when I awakened from sleeping most of the morning, still exhausted from our trip to Oregon.
Most indoor pools are 25 meters, except in high schools or the IU Natatorium downtown.  To have a fifty-meter pool so close gives me a thrill each time I think about it.  I make every excuse possible to travel to the far north side of Indy where the pool is located.

Common courtesy among swimmers is to ask before sharing a lane, so when I saw a pair of feet dangling from the edge of the pool, I knew my ability to stretch fully into the lane was over.  I greeted the woman, who told me in a sentence the challenges she faced the last two years, which limited her time and energy for exercise.

I told her the water was a little cool, but warmed quickly with my body heat.  She said she likes water a bit chilly, so, I thought, she will fare better than I when I first started.  I told her I would swim against the wall giving her the half near the lane divider.  We agreed that arrangement would work well.  I pushed away from the edge, after completing the necessary courtesies, thinking how much I knew about the woman in less than a minute of conversation.

Swimming in fresh air is so refreshing.  I like seeing the blue sky watching me, covering me with each lap.  Occasionally a leaf will wind to the water, adding further companionship along with clouds and breeze.  My body moved effortlessly in the water and I easily completed sixty-eight laps, four short of a mile.  I haven’t had the energy to swim a mile for months.

I remembered how I felt last summer when my swim season at the Jordan Y began.  I was filled with so much anger I practically exhaled it into the water with the stream of bubbles. Every time I came to swim I beat the water, arms and legs brimming with anger, fury almost escaping from the pores of my skin.  

When I finished my last swim of the season on Labor Day 2013, I took a long look at the pool, thanking the water for holding everything I deposited, mostly anger, mixed with a small amount of gratitude when I could clear a space. 

I was delighted to return to a place of great healing over the years.  I prayed when I got out of the water that the woman who shared my lane would also find peace with each lap.