driving

 

tree banner

I have always valued car time. For me, it is time spent alone with people I love, where conversations can go on for a while without interruption, where all the passengers are looking forward, where scenery is mutually enjoyed and things (sometimes long unspoken) come to light. When I am traveling in the car alone, I like to blast the music from the iPod and sing along, relishing the fact that I can choose the playlists. I listen more closely to the lyrics, allowing them to speak to my heart as the sound fills the car. When I am traveling in the car with others, I savor the chance to hear and to be heard. To listen, and to respond fully. To be aware of the gift of this time together.

It seems that autumn, for me, has been a road trip season. Both of our children have left the nest and are away at college. So, beginning in August, we’ve driven to their respective campuses for move-ins, visits, and various deliveries that could not be accommodated by mail, from mini-refrigerators to repaired laptops to bookshelves. Lots of time in the car, all of it good.

I drove with our youngest daughter to Kentucky, the car packed up to the absolute max, the GPS set to her dorm’s address, her new home-away-from-home. I’m pretty sure we couldn’t fit much more into the car that day than a couple of extra water bottles. More than the physical “stuff,” during the long drive, we filled the car with conversation. We talked about her insecurities about college, from making friends, to getting lost on campus, to managing her money. I responded with motherly reassurances. On my solo trip back to Pennsylvania, my awareness was on the grace of that trip. The grace of both of us being able to really listen to the other. To respond with love. To help the other understand, and to help the other to grow.

A few weeks ago, I drove with a friend to an airport a couple of hours away. Her daughter was coming in on a late flight, and the dark drive on the turnpike is not much fun. In our hectic lives filled with jobs, family, and friends, our conversations have been reduced to 5-minutes of catching up here and there. Having the car time with my friend gave us the chance to go much deeper into many of the conversations we’ve been starting for the past few years. I talked to her a lot about her cancer, her treatment, her recovery, the financial pressures and the celebration of her cancer-free status. The grace of this time of communion with my friend continues to bless me, weeks after the fact.

More recently, I drove with some dear friends to hear Richard Rohr speak at a venue a couple of hours away. These are women with whom I have shared hours in the car, in airplanes, in restaurants, in each other’s homes. My soul sisters. It’s time in the car with them that illuminates the grace that we are in each other’s lives. When I think about it this way, I am astounded. Surprised. Grateful. Somehow, I know that the grace of the time spent together is truly a gift. When this awareness touches my heart, I give thanks.

Today, I pray that during this holiday time of car trips to come, an awareness of the gift of this time of grace will stay with me. I invite you to do the same.

Now is the time to remember that all that you do is sacred.

-Hafiz

sustenance

IMG_1515

Lately, as I’ve been walking on the trail near our house, under the guise of exercising the dog, I’ve noticed the dry leaves. The ones that have been “released” from their service to the tree. I’ve watched them fall from the canopy while I walk, I’ve listened to the crunch of the leaves under my feet as I plod forward. Amused, I’ve enjoyed the times that Jasper thinks that the animated leaves, caught on a breeze, are little animals to be hunted and tracked, only to find that, when he finally catches up to one, it is just a dry leaf.

Jasper doesn’t seem to mind. Once he realizes that it is just a dry leaf, he moves on, his nose directing him onward to the next thing. He continues to trot along, his head to the wind, waiting for the next scent, or leaf, that will catch his attention and lead him to something new.

Just a dry leaf. And yet, just a few weeks ago, that leaf was working very hard to sustain the tree. To help to feed it before the cold winter ahead. To stretch itself out to the sunlight, providing the tree with needed growth and life.

At times, I think we can all feel like one of those dry leaves. Our energy spent. Our hope lost. We’ve given all that we can, and we can only hope that our efforts to sustain have provided growth and energy for the times to come.

I think it can feel that way when we send our children off to college. I’ve been contemplating this since I’m now living with an empty nest. And yet, changes in my life of late have given me so much hope. I’ve started painting. I’m finding time to enjoy the changing seasons and the spectacular autumn colors. The empty nest is agreeing with me.

Now that our kids are both off at college, I’ve been able to enjoy a bit of freedom. I’ve allowed the winds to carry me, just a little bit more than I’ve been able to before. Like Jasper, I’m looking to the next thing. Today, I reflect on how much of my energy has been focused on sustaining our children. Until now, I’ve expressed sympathy and love when they’ve been bruised and battered by forces outside themselves. I’ve held them tenderly when they feel as if they are hanging by a thread. I’ve watched them stretch and grow and begin to sustain themselves, as if they have put down roots and are now creating the seedling of life in their own world.

My love and support of my kids is still very necessary. It will continue forever. As I watch them stretch and grow, reaching for the sunlight, I realize that I am so proud of these young adults. Each day is a new opportunity for growth, for a toddler, or a teenager, or a college student, or an empty nester, or a grandparent, or an elder. Each time I am aware of this, through the grace of God, I am astounded, and grateful, and aware of being fully alive.

Today, I give thanks for the spectacular autumn that I am experiencing. May I continue to sustain and to let go. May I continue to appreciate and to live fully.

I invite you to do the same.

All good giving and every perfect gift comes from above.

-James 1:17

gentle prophets

A few months ago, on a silent directed retreat, I spoke to my assigned spiritual director about something I’ve only shared with a few people: my personal call from God to be a “gentle prophet” in this world.

The director tried to talk me out of this. She tried to tell me that prophets are never gentle, and that if I wanted to embrace this call of mine, I’d have to drop the “gentle” part of it. Prophets, she said, are people like Jeremiah, hated by those to whom they preach and despised for their message.

At the time, I nodded my head in agreement. Surely, someone who had been directing retreats and retreatants for so many years must know a lot more about prophets than me. And yet, her words have stuck with me, challenged me, made me think. And I’ve come to this conclusion. In my heart of hearts I know that she was incorrect. Gentle prophets can, and do, exist, and must continue to do so in this modern world.

This morning, I ran across a wonderful piece by Ron Rolheiser about this very thing. Rolheiser wrote about my kind of prophet back in 1995. You can read his article here:

http://www.ronrolheiser.com/columnarchive/?id=1062

As I sit here this morning considering all that Rolheiser says, I begin to see this gentle “prophet-ness” as a sort of bridge. The only constant in most of our lives is change. We move from place to place. We leave jobs, and find new ones. We get married, have children, and do our best to adapt to their constant change and growth, all the while ourselves constantly changing and growing older. Sometimes, our marriages end. Or we sever ties with people we have loved. Or we suffer deep personal losses that seem to make no sense at all.

As Rolheiser says, the task of the prophet today is “to keep incarnate the wide, all-embracing heart of God, a heart that has many rooms.” To embrace change and continue to love through it. To bridge the hurt and anger and indignation that inevitably comes from living. And to respond with gentleness and compassion.

Today, I pray that my evolving sense of purpose continues to be molded and shaped by God. I pray that providence allows me to live out my purpose with renewed commitment and love. And I pray for each of us to know, in a deeply personal way, God’s all-embracing heart.

I invite you to do the same.

for lost friends

As twilight makes a rainbow robe
From the concealed colors of the day
In order for time to stay alive
Within the dark weight of the night,
May we lose no one we love
From the  shelter of our hearts.

When we love another heart
And allow it to love us
We journey deep below time
Into that eternal weave
Where nothing unravels.

May we have the grace to see
Despite the hurt of rupture,
The searing of anger,
And the empty disappointment,
That whoever we have loved,
Such love can never quench.

Though a door may be closed,
Closed between us,
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Forgive them the damage
We were left to inherit;
Free ourselves from the chains
Of forlorn resentment;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance
We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
And prosper into difference,
Wishing them peace
Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space.

-John O’Donohue, in To Bless the Space Between Us