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,
3 thoughts on “Anatomy of an Altar”
Hello, Liz. Not sure why I thought about you today, but I did. It has been a long time. I don’t have much to say: just “hello.” And I still haven’t gotten around to reading any more Nabokov.
What a surprise. Obviously I haven’t been writing much lately… Hope to get back to it in 2020 when I have a bit more time.
What are you up to? We should catch up. Have you read “Speak Memory?” It’s good.
Hmm, well, I don’t see your email address here, but if you’d like to you can email me at “joseph dot mylastname at zoho dot com” or my ancient email@example.com account that I don’t care if the spam-crawlers pick up.