Anatomy of an Altar

Happy New Year!

Every year when new years comes around, I find myself responding to people’s queries about pending new year’s resolutions with, “I don’t really make new year’s resolutions,” while fully knowing that I am formulating a list of resolutions in my head–things to stop doing, things to start doing, things to start doing again.  (Self:  I do to make new year’s resolutions.)  Which brings me here, back to my blog, after a year-and-a-half long absence.

I haven’t posted since Easter of 2017, so please allow me an update:  2017 was a great year, 2018 was a good year.  And 2019 will be a better year–I think, I hope, I pray.

Over the past several  years, I have developed a tradition of altering my altar come the new year.  Throughout the course of the previous 12 months, I will have written prayers on scraps of paper and deposited them in the “cup” (a communion chalice in its former life) at the center of my altar.  I also sporadically pin (like, with actual needles, not like the Pinterest type of pinning) other scraps of paper with scripture passages, songs, quotes, pictures and other sacred visuals onto the white fabric whenever I come across something inspiring.  So by the end of a year, the altar is full.  Laden with words and pictures, it is heavy with dust and prayers prayed, and it needs a face lift.

So after burning most of said prayer-papers in my fireplace last night, sipping prosecco and listening to blasts of fireworks ringing in the new year, this evening I endeavored to thoroughly cleanse the rest of the altar–I even washed the linen at the laundromat tonight.  What remains is mostly open space, save the few items that have earned a perennial place on my altar–the pillow I made at an art therapy session at work with a whole heart on one side and a broken heart on the other (you’ll be happy to note it is currently set in the “whole” position, for which I am grateful).  Other staple items include the aforementioned cup, a meditation bell, electric tea candles, a visual representation of my motto (Less is more.), my “Strength” stone, my “Trust” bowl, and a black-and-white photograph of a woman from the 1800s given to me at my ordination–a reminder of the privilege of being an ordained female minister and of the call to serve women around the world.

A few other items remain which still feel pertinent in my heart–prayers that I wrote in the latter months of 2018 and items that represent the biggest areas of desire and discernment in my life at present.  Having recently ended my relationship with my boyfriend, I am now open to a new relationship, and I have the hope of one day having a child of my own with him.  My Native American heritage is tied to the Deer Clan of the Seneca Iroquois Nation, so the doe is my spirit animal–my “patronus” in Harry Potter’s world.  A shaman once told me that she embodies grace and peace.  The little buck statue was found at my friend Deric’s house by my former boyfriend’s son, John, a few summers ago when we visited for a barbecue and a swim in the pool.  At the time, the symbolism was not lost on me.  I have long desired a son to name John–as Elizabeth named her long-awaited son, John the Baptist.  There were often bucks lounging lazily in my former boyfriend’s backyard in the Boise foothills.  Their posture displayed serenity, confidence, ease, contentment–qualities that I think he used to enjoy in the context of our partnership.  So now my buck rests on my altar.  Perhaps this year will bring a different male partner in my life.  The postcard next to him is an image if a little fawn.  If I ever have a daughter of my own, I’d like to name her Fawn Rose.  The embodiment of gentleness, femininity, awareness, and beauty.  So maybe one day I will have my own little John, or Fawn, or both.  I’ve often dreamt of having boy and girl twins, and I’ve joked about giving them matchy-match names.  For a while I liked “Edie and Eddie.”  “John and Fawn” sound just right to me now.

There is more to my altar and on my altar, but I will leave the details there.  As I look at it, I think back to when I first constructed an altar in my old house–when my husband left suddenly and I was all alone.  At the time I was afraid, in despair, sad about what had already happened and scared about what might come.  My altar truly became a sanctuary in my home–the place where I sat, prayed, wept.  The place that led to my own healing and growth, a transformation of my spirit.  An altar is a sacred space.  A place to lay it all down–the good, the bad, the ugly, but also the beautiful, the terrifying, the hopeful.  My altar is clean, it’s open, it is ready to receive.  I believe that this year to come will bring life-changing developments.  I have “proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor,” as is written in the Gospel of Luke–the text I studied throughout this last season of Advent, and which reminded me of my connection to Elizabeth, and to John.  Advent may  be over, but I still find myself waiting–waiting for a new relationship, for a family of my own, for a deeper connection within my local church communities.  I choose to believe those things will all come to fruition, in time.  But I also trust–trust that God knows me and loves me, hears my prayers and wants to grant me the desires of my heart.  So I will continue to go to the altar–to sit, to pray, to weep, and ultimately  to hope, to heal, to grow and to love.

Many blessings in 2019 and beyond,

Liz

altar.New Year's 2019

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Resurrection Sunday

Dear Friends,

Happy Easter!

Now that the “Easter Vigil” service is over, I think it’s theologically appropriate to say that.  I’ve been seeing signs all over town this holy week saying “Happy Easter!”  I want to lecture them about how we must first go through the agony of betrayal, injustice, conviction, humiliation, suffering, death, hell, etc etc…before we get to the resurrection and the joy of saying “Happy Easter!”  But, then I remind myself that I’m a hospice chaplain, and I’m used to seeing and talking about suffering and death every day, and that most people aren’t, and do not want to do so either.  So, I say nothing in the face of the “Happy Easter!” signs.  And…I digress.

Anyway, I confess here that I intended for one of my two lenten disciplines to be writing regularly on my blog again.  I must say, I did pretty well with the other lenten discipline–which was to pray for one of my hospice colleagues daily.  Alas, here it is, Easter Vigil night, and I’m writing my first post in almost a year.  Ack!  Oh well.  As my mom would say–better late than never…

You need not be concerned.  So much good has been happening at Satis House; I just haven’t been keeping you all up-to-date here.  I won’t fill you all in now, but just know that the front yard is looking great after it had a serious de-thatching last September; the side yard is in the process of being converted to a raised vegetable garden; there is also a beautiful fence around the side yard; and the kitchen renovation is in the works.  It’s been a busy year here, as I said.

Also, most of you who follow my blog already know this, but it’s been a great year for me personally as I’ve been dating my dearest darling boyfriend, Bill.  He is such a blessing, and I am so grateful for him.  I’m aware of the correlation between our dating relationship and the decrease in my blog writing.  As he and I approach our one-year anniversary (wow, how did that happen so fast?!), I’m trying to re-commit myself to writing more regularly on my blog.  It’s an important exercise for my creative self, but it also brings me joy to know that my little stories bring others joy.  And it helps sustain my gratitude and appreciation for my humble little home.  So thank you for reading and for encouraging me in my little public journal here (dear friends who have encouraged me to write–you know who you are–thank you!).

So, I’ll just say a few words here about resurrection.  It’s fitting to me that Easter occurs during the season of Spring.  (How do all those pastors in the southern hemisphere find appropriate metaphors to relate what’s happening in the liturgical calendar to what is happening in their seasonal calendar?  One wonders…)  I love how life literally springs forth from the earth during Spring.  The light shines brighter after the dark months of winter.  The air warms up and the rain falls down.  Here in Idaho, as in much of the West, we have just endured an historic winter.  We had something close to 50 inches of snow fall in the valley this winter.  Local kids missed around 9 days of school due to the snow and ice.  Just yesterday morning, a squall blew through town and blanketed us, yet again, in a light coating of snow.  The ski slopes are still open and the hills look about the same as they did in February.  It was a loooong winter.

Needless to say, we are anxious for spring–for flowers and blossoms and warm temperatures and shorts weather.  It’s still pretty chilly out there, honestly, but the colorful flowers that have emerged from the cold are telling us that spring is indeed here.

I’m reminded of the post I wrote during Advent (two years ago, I think…?).  My point was that gardening is an act of faith, and planting bulbs makes that clear.  Well, I’m proud to say that, their second spring in, my bulbs are going strong.  They exemplify faith to me when I look out my front window and gaze at their beauty in the early morning light.  I can tell that they are stronger this year than they were last spring.  They stand taller upon thicker stems, some even with several flowers coming off of one stem.  I would like to believe that the tremendously cold and snowy winter has something to do with developing their strength.  But then, that is life, right?  The storms we weather eventually make us stronger.  The darkness we endure causes us to yearn and reach for the light that much more emphatically when it dawns on us.  Once the skies clear and the wind calms down, we can stand up a little straighter, projecting even more beauty and radiance in the world than we did before the storm.

I know I feel that way in my life.  We don’t always know how a year is going to go.  Some winters are harsh, other winters are mild.  As Zora Neale Hurston says, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”  I’m grateful for the years I have had of asking questions and facing harsh winters, and I’m grateful for the years that have also brought answers, some in the form of bright beautiful flowers.

The Lord is risen–He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

LizDisplaying IMG_4230.JPG

Gratitude, and Shabbat Shalom #2

Hello dear friends,

Goodness gracious it’s been awhile!!  I can’t even begin to describe the dozens of blog posts that I have wanted to write as ideas and inspiration have come to my mind these past several months.  Obviously there’s been a lot going on in my life this winter and spring, and I haven’t been very focused on writing (not on the blog, at least).  But, I’m trying to live more “in the moment” (Carpe momento as one of my beloved hospice patients used to say…).  So I’m not going to feel guilty or sad about not having captured those moments in a more timely manner.  I will just say that life is great.  I love my life, I am so blessed, and I am so grateful to God for bringing so much goodness to me.  My home, my relationships, my work, and my life are all filled with joy and love.  All is full of love, as Ben Gibbard sings.

The winter was great.  El Nino delivered tons of snow, as hoped, and I skied as much as possible from January through March.  My Seattle “grandfather,” Jan, encouraged me to “just go skiing” as I continue my healing journey.  So that’s what I did.  And I have to say, I really improved a lot.  Grandparents are so wise…  And, being that he’s from Norway, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he would know the healing power of skiing…

The spring has been lovely too.  My bulbs worked their magic and appeared gloriously right at Easter time.  Tulips and daffodils and hyacinths galore–the front yard smelled so good and looked so beautiful.  I had friends over again for Easter dinner too, in spite of the fact that I was laid up in bed all of Holy Week with the dreaded Influenza B.  (Oy, that was a doozy.)  But fortunately my energy was back enough to enjoy all the services from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday, from Easter Vigil to Easter Sunday, at both my Episcopal and Presbyterian churches.

I’ve had lots of fun with girlfriends and dear ones in my life this spring, and am really looking forward to summer.  But again, staying in the present moment……….  The spring indeed is a time of rebirth–a time when the hopes that we planted in the darkness of winter come bursting out of the earth with revitalized life, energy, and beauty.

So, given that I’ve been enjoy a satisfying and abundant sense of fullness for these past months, I’m also grateful that today I had the discipline to just allow myself to rest.  Most of the past 8 nights I was up really late and didn’t get enough sleep.  So today was truly a Sabbath–a day of rest with no other agenda but to be reminded of the gift that it is to have a full life, but also the gift that it is to lie down and rest.  Often when I lead funeral services, I preach on Psalm 23.  I emphasize the verse, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul…”  That is the purpose of Sabbath, I believe.  To lie down; be led into and among a place of peace and beauty; and to have one’s soul restored.  It all serves a purpose of filling us back up, refueling us to fulfill the work that lay before us each week.

In my previous piece called “Shabbat Shalom” (from practically the same weekend a year ago–May 19, 2015–hard to believe it’s already been a year…), I shared my desire to one day host Sabbath dinners with friends on Friday nights to usher in this holy day.  I hope to still do that eventually.  So last weekend I spent time watching the YouTube video below to learn the Hebrew prayers that are traditionally offered at sundown on Friday night.  The  Episcopal  communion prayers are adapted from the second and third blessings:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. 

Through your goodness we have this bread—wheat of the field and work of human hands.

And this wine—fruit of the vine and work of human hands. 

Let these become our spiritual gifts. 

Those lines are my favorite parts of the eucharistic liturgy.  As I took my evening walk around my park tonight, I just sang them over and over, reminded of how good God is and how abundantly God has blessed my life.

Here is another link to the Reform Judaism site where you can read the prayers transliterated and also hear them recited:

http://www.reformjudaism.org/practice/prayers-blessings/shabbat-blessings-hamotzi-blessing-over-bread-meal

I hope that you have a sense of blessing and abundance in your life, and that you take time to regularly give thanks to God for being such a generously loving God.  And I also hope that you take time to observe the Sabbath–to lay down, to feel a sense of peace and beauty, and to be restored–body and soul.

I’m going on my writing retreat next weekend, and then a few weeks after that will be at my writing conference in Princeton.  So hopefully it won’t be four months before I post again……  :/

Thank you always for reading.

Peace be with you.

Shabbat shalom.

Liz

Christus mansionem benedicat

Dear friends,

Today, January 6th, is the Feast Day of the Epiphany.  It comes the day after the twelfth day of Christmas, meaning Christmastide is over and it is now Epiphanytide (though we don’t often use that term to describe these weeks in between Christmastide and Lent–with the Baptism of the Lord and Transfiguration Sundays thrown in there too).  Epiphany means “manifestation.”  It is on this day that we read the story of the three magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) and their journey to meet the Christ child in Bethlehem.  God is made manifest to them in little Jesus, and they offer him their precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in response.

Last year, when I was still in the first week of scrubbing the house and preparing for my dad’s arrival, I distinctly remember going to bed late on the night of Epiphany (so late I suppose it was probably January 7th already…).  At some point prior I had been googling ideas about Epiphany to find some inspirational piece to send out to the hospice staff, when I came across this tradition:  Chalking the Door.  It’s practiced by the Carmelite monastic order and is essentially an opportunity to re-bless one’s house every year on Epiphany.  The intention is to invite Jesus into one’s home, and to ask God to make Godself manifest to those who visit this home in the ensuing year.  I wanted to do this ritual in my new home, but it just wasn’t time–I was tired and it was late and I didn’t have any chalk and it would just have to be done the next year.

So guess what?  It’s the next year…!  So I invited my friend Norm over, who also did my “original” full-fledged house blessing in March (which I’ll have to write about this coming March when I celebrate that anniversary too).  The blessing is a lovely, simple liturgy that begins with the blessing of the chalk:

Blessing the Chalk

V. Our help is the name of the Lord:
R. The maker of heaven and earth.
V. The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:
R. From this time forth for evermore.

Let us pray.
Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then, the ritual continues by writing in chalk, either on the lintel above the door or on the side of the door, as follows:

20 + C + M + B + 16

while saying:

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and fifteen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

Then offer the following prayer:

Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen

It was such a simple ceremony, but one that was important to me as I begin my first full year of living in my home.  I was aware that I felt a bit sad about the prayers being written with the plural pronouns “our’s” and “we’s” given that it’s just a “my” and “I” who lives here alone now.  But, I view my home as a place for community and hospitality, and know that the Holy Spirit dwells here with me when I am on my own.  Honestly, I pretty much love living alone, but the “our’s” and “we’s” did remind me that I don’t have an “our” or “we” sense in my life currently, but which I did used to have.  I’m actually not sure I could ever live with someone else here, 1) because it’s just such a special place for me to be alone right now, and 2) because I just need a lot of personal space, and it might be too small to share with another.  (Hey, I grew up in the woods on 20 acres–can you blame me for needing a little room to spread out??!!)

But for now, I’m grateful that I can trust in God’s presence dwelling here with me in my home, and I do hope and believe that people are blessed when they come and go from this place.  This month will be a busy one for gatherings at Satis House, between my several varying groups of girlfriends who will come over to do art projects, drink wine, talk about books, and generally share our lives with one another.  I look forward to them and many others coming and going from this blessed home.

Christus mansionem benedicat.  May Christ bless the house in 2016.

Liz

epiphany.2016

Happy New Year!

Dear Friends,

HNY-2016!  2015 was a fantastic year for me, and I hope 2016 brings as many blessings and more to us all.

Last night I reflected on what I was doing a year ago when the calendar turned to 2015.  It was the first evening I spent starting to clean my house in preparation for my dad’s arrival and for the renovations to begin.  I only had to be on-call for New Year’s Day, so I stayed at the house until the wee hours of the morning–2 or 3 a.m. I think–scrubbing the walls and dreaming of how lovely the house would look once it was all spiffed up and freshly painted.

The house was in pretty good shape when I bought it, but the walls were filthy dirty.  There must have been an oil furnace back in the day, because most of the bedroom walls had some kind of grey exhaust-like smudging above all the floor vents.  I foolishly thought that a few hours of scrubbing with buckets of hot vinegar-water would brighten it up and ready it for primer and paint.  After about 20 minutes, with little to no noticeable difference, I thought to myself:  What have I done?  Is this soot ever going to come off?!  I eventually had bring out the big guns–TSP chemical solution–to suck the dirt out of the walls.  The process took most of that first week, and included about 7-steps:  wet walls with hot water, clean with TSP, rinse with hot water, wash with second round of TSP, follow by second hot water rinse, complete with final round of vinegar-water and one last rinse.  The OCD-person in me had to draw the line somewhere and trust that priming the walls with Killz would have to suffice.

As I worked, I immediately became aware of what a cleansing process working on this home would prove to be for my life and for my soul.  I was stripping away layers of memories and stains from the walls within this house, but I was also washing away the dirt of my divorce and the messes that were made in my unfortunate marriage.  I also recalled that when my husband first left at the beginning of the previous summer, I instinctually worked from one end of that house to the other, washing the walls from floor to ceiling.  I felt like a Jewish woman in mourning or something–participating in some purification ritual aimed at setting a fresh start, purging my home of the bad spirit behind so much of what had taken place there.

Just as my home improvements continue a year after that first night of wall-washing, so too does the healing process continue within me.  I felt sad last night that I didn’t have somewhere more exciting to be and fun people with whom to celebrate.  But at the same time, I’m grateful that I could be at home in my lovely Satis House, which will always accept me and receive me and reflect back to me images of dirty things having been made clean.

I leave you with this quote from T.S. Eliot that a little elf left in my stocking at work:

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language.

And next year’s words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

Liz

Happy Anniversary!

Dear friends,

Today, December 22, 2015, is the one-year anniversary of officially getting the keys to my house.  Yay!  That was such an exciting day–I’ll never forget it!  I came to the house after work, snapped a few selfies and lots of what will be the “before” pictures in my photo-album-to-be, and took myself out for a celebratory dinner at Tango’s to enjoy some Argentinean empanadas in my “new” neighborhood.

This has been such a wonderful year–so full of positive growth as I’ve settled into my lovely home and worked to make it mine.  I’m particularly appreciative of my dad, who spent about 6 weeks with me in the new year doing renovations to turn it into the perfect home for me.  When he first arrived in early January, we walked through the house and I pointed out about a half-a-dozen changes (some small, some significant) that I asked him to make.  And he did them all, one by one.  It was so fun to come up to the house after work every day and see the progress he was making.  I remember thinking to myself, Well, gee, I know I asked him to do all this, but somehow I didn’t believe it was all actually going to get done…  But it did come together by the time I was ready to move in in February.

Another of my favorite memories from this first year was my house blessing/housewarming party.  So many friends in my community joined together to fill my home with love and laughter and to bless the space and those who enter it.  A real highlight was the blessing of my bedroom–and ALLLLLL the people who will sleep there…….  Everyone from work got a kick out of thinking of the chaplain and alllll the people who might find themselves sleeping in my bedroom.  I turned about the color of a summer-ripe tomato.  It was hilarious.

I’ve enjoyed hosting groups of friends and neighbors for casual get-togethers.  Easter dinner here with several colleagues was a lovely time in the spring.

I had considered staying home to celebrate my first “real” Christmas at Satis House, but I’ve decided to drive home to be with family and friends this year.  Assuming I actually get there (lots of bad, snowy weather forecast for the mountains….), I know I will enjoy reconnecting with my loved ones.  Hopefully I will have plenty of joyous Christmases here in my Satis House in the years to come.

I love my house so much.  It was by far the best Christmas present I ever bought myself…

Merry Christmas to you all, my friends.  Thank you for joining me in my house both in real life and from afar as you read my stories.  You all are always welcome at Satis House.

Peace be with you,

Liz

first day selfie

First time in my new house–can you tell I’m just a little excited…?!

On Waiting, and Things To Do

Hello my darlings,

Again, where has the time gone???  I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting my updates–so much fun and goodness has been going on in my life since I last wrote, so I feel behind on updating you all on my house projects and spiritual musings.  I had all sorts of intentions of writing a Thanksgiving post particularly, listing all the things for which I am thankful.  I was going to call it “The First Thanksgiving,” and it would be a marker of celebrating my first Turkey Day/Native American Pride Day (more on that later) in my lovely new home.  I’d hoped to host the feast and have a house full of people with whom to give thanks.  But then, I decided that still not having an oven in my kitchen posed a slight problem, and also I was on-call and had to work the day after.  So, you know, that was that.

And so already that holiday has come and gone.  This very evening we had our annual hospice staff holiday party, and I thought to myself, Where has this past year gone?  It seems as though we were just celebrating last year, and here we are again, on our way to Christmas and the beginning of another new year.

I’ve had that thought quite frequently this past year–especially the past few months.  I’m afraid that perhaps I’ve passed the tipping point of my life–that somehow, subconsciously, my mind and soul know that I’m on the downhill, and that life and time are only going to feel faster and faster as they pass by.  Being as I’m not yet 33, I hope to God that I’m not already past half of my life.  Yet, as someone who works daily with the dying, I can’t help but wonder how long I will live–how many more years will I have to take in as much goodness and adventure as possible?  How much longer do I have to share my joy and love with the world and those I encounter?

So having to do with this post’s title–my big revelation this past week came when I realized that if I had a personal assistant, my life would be a whole lot easier.  Let’s just say that it’s pretty bad when one of the tasks on my “list of things to do,” was to gather all my varying said “lists” from different parts of the house (my art room, my writing desk, my work folder, my purse…) and compile them into one big “LIST” of things to do, and then check off that list the task which was to compile lists and consolidate them into a single, more updated and orderly LIST.

Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhh, see what I mean…….????????

Alas, most of this past weekend was begrudgingly spent trying to catch up on errands and jobs that I’ve been putting off for weeks or months.  (Beth–my new goal is to get you last year’s Christmas present by this Christmas, so there’s that…)  Some of it had its rewards–I felt quite empowered to finally get my new wireless router set up (jobs involving wires and “signals” generally freak me out, and I did have to call the help line, but still…).  And, I sold a handful of things on Craigslist, so now I’ve got a nice wad of cash, plus much more room in my garage, which is nice.

One job that I’m particularly proud of completing was the planting of 150 bulbs in my front flower beds.  I’m preaching this coming Sunday–the third Sunday of Advent–and so some of these thoughts are results of my mind and spirit working on how to reflect on “waiting” and “hope” and “expectation” and “anticipation.”  These are the themes of Advent, and all of these grand ideas have their place in the humble bulb.

Bulbs don’t possess any inherent beauty.  They are brown lumps of fiber, which we place deep into the earth with the hope that in a few months, a delicate flower will emerge from the dirt.  It takes a lot of faith to place anything in the ground and expect something entirely different to grow out of it–given enough time, darkness, and water, that is.

And yet, that’s what happens.  Important work is taking place underground, where it is dark and cold and seemingly lifeless.  Work that we are not privy to, but rather work that we must only trust is happening beyond our sight, out of our control.

So as I dug holes and placed handfuls of daffodil and tulip and hyacinth and anemone bulbs into the dark, moist soil, I thought to myself, I don’t think we’re really “bulb” people–I think we’re more “annual” people…  Actually, as most people don’t grow gardens or spend much time working in the dirt anymore, maybe we’re really “bouquet” people…??  At least, as a culture of middle-class Americans, I think this is true.

What I’m saying is that I don’t think we are people who like to wait.  I think we are shaped to expect and prefer instant gratification with the least amount of effort.  Drive-thru meals.  3-d printers.  Text messaging.  Microwave popcorn.  So many details of our daily existence are about urgency, rather than patience.  (Now don’t get me wrong–the little introvert in me prefers to communicate via text, and I’m not above eating microwave popcorn and drinking club soda for dinner.  But still…)

People nowadays don’t expect to have to wait for much of anything.  Rather, we expect that we will get what we want when we ask for it–that there is no “reason” for having to wait longer than is comfortable for us.  We are an “on-demand” culture–give me what I want, and give it to me now.  And if indeed we are ever made to wait longer, it’s usually because something has gone dreadfully wrong.  Apologies are usually made by staff people to clients who have been made to wait an unreasonable length of time for their service.

No, it is not in our nature to wait–not anymore, at least.  I think people used to have to wait all the time.  Maybe they didn’t even notice they were waiting, because to live was to wait.  It used to be that family members and lovers would wait with hope and faith for months to receive a letter from thousands of miles away, reassuring one that one’s beloved was in fact still alive, let alone thinking fondly about them.  People used to possess the skills to grow their own food and raise their own meat, to weave their own fabrics and sew their own clothes.  These were crafts and trades that took years of practice to master.  Countless hours of work went into producing something both useful and necessary–and, I might add, often beautiful.

We, on the other hand, are annual people.  We are delighted that, as spring warms up and summer sets in, we can drive by a big box store like Walmart or the Home Depot, and spot those colorful racks full of annuals, already showing their color and ready to be placed in the ground (of course, they’ll be pulled out and thrown away in just a few months–but don’t even get me started on that…).  The hard work has been done–someone somewhere in an industrial greenhouse far, far away has painstakingly planted the seed, nurtured it in its infancy for the past several months, and gotten it to be a convenient 4-6 inches high.  So now all we have to do is pay a few dollars to buy entire flats full of these annuals, and place them in the ground.  Instant beauty–inexpensive, and easy to maintain.

But how different is it to take the time to work outside in the freezing rain and blowing wind, digging holes and planting sacks full of bulbs?  Quite different, indeed–I can assure you.  My yard looks no more beautiful now than it did Saturday morning, before those 150 bulbs were put in their place.  As I said, I hope all 150 of my bulbs come up out of the dirt in March or April, and that my first full spring at my house is beautified with dozens of yellow and pink and purple flowers dotting my front yard.  But it’s all a gamble.  I don’t know for sure at this point that any of those bulbs will mature and blossom into the perfect flowers that appear on the  package labels.  But, I will wait and see.  I will wait with hope and anticipation, trusting that important–no, necessary–work is happening underground.  That in the darkness, and in the cold of winter, life is being stitched together, and that life and beauty will emerge, in time.

Advent blessings for whatever you are waiting for that is growing in the cold and in the darkness, beyond your sight, and out of your hands.

Liz

bulbs