Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Blessedness of Winter

My "word of the year" this year is "Plow," and I wrote here about some of the ways that this was a metaphor for my goals this year; to pay attention to rhythms and seasons, notice the holy in the ordinary, to look and live beneath the surface . . . to avoid wasting time, be deliberate and unhurried . . . cultivate quiet, live with vision, etc.  . . .  and so I have sensed this coming on, sensed this frail part in me calling weakly to be still and quiet, to disconnect.

I have been reading Richard Foster's book "Prayer" with our church and am enjoying it immensely.  This week the chapter on Formation Prayer was especially powerful, and the section on The Little Way and The Communion of Solitude especially struck me;
"Without solitude it is impossible to live a spiritual life." (Henri Nouwen)  The reason for this is simple to see: by means of solitude God frees us from our bondage to people and our own inner compulsions. . . The less we are mesmerized by human voices, the more we are able to hear the Divine Voice.  The less we are manipulated by the expectations of others, the more we are open to the expectations of God.
I fell asleep last night aware that God was asking me to set myself free from my "bondage to people and my own inner compulsions" . .. for me this is in the form of my online habits; facebook, Pinterest, and most of my online surfing for information.

My protests sound like this:

"But I can keep in touch with people I care about on facebook; I can rejoice with them and weep with them, I can know what I need to pray for someone."  . ..  But what if I simply submitted myself to praying instantly for whomever the Lord brings to mind?  (like they did in the olden days *grin) What if I was intentional about writing to encourage people rather than a passive "like" of their status update?

"I get tons of ideas online, it makes me a better mother and homemaker."  . . . But I also am overwhelmed by all of the ideas I find, what if I simply focus on my home and complete the ideas I already have?

"I use the internet constantly for news and information."  . . . I will be reasonable, if I need information that I can't find anywhere else I will look for it on the internet, but so much information can also cause confusion and disharmony.  What if I try first reading printed words and seeking the still small voice of the Spirit rather than consulting so many opinions online?

This morning what I read in Foster's book confirmed what I had been thinking;

The Blessedness of Winter
As winter approaches each year, I like to watch our large maple in the backyard begin to lose its covering of summer green and take on a funereal brown.  As the leaves drop, one by one all of the irregularities and defects of the tree are exposed.  The imperfections are always there, of course, but they have been hidden from my view by an emerald blanket.  Now, however, it is denuded and desolate, and I can see its real condition. 
Winter preserves and strengthens a tree.  Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth.  Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish. 
Instantly you see the application.  So often we hide our true condition with the surface virtues of pious activity, but, once the leaves of our frantic pace drop away, the transforming power of a wintery spirituality can have effect. 
To the outward eye everything looks barren and unsightly.  Our many defects, flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections stand out in bold relief.  But only the outward virtues have collapsed; the principle of virtue is actually being strengthened.  The soul is venturing forth into the interior.  Real, solid, enduring virtues begin to develop deep within.  Pure love is birthed.
I am looking forward to a season of stillness, to focus on my family and to devote more time to writing. I will continue to check email and update this blog occasionally, and my plan is to allow myself a couple hours one day a week, probably Saturdays, for blog reading and Pinterest, so I will be enjoying your blogs occasionally as well.

It is a dark, blustery day today, the leaves on the tree outside my window all blew off during the night; this used to feel like sadness to me but today I see the hope in those stark, barren branches.  Truly there is a blessedness of winter!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Mother and the Engineer Consider the Geology of the Great Lakes Region

We kiss three heads all in a line and then
drive along the curve of the Lake
to the tip of the thumb
in the glory of Autumn
to see her dressed in white
to see them before these amber fields
beneath these applauding trees-
to touch these friends again and see for myself
the smile of light in their eyes.

As we drive and return he wonders at the layers-
sand trapped here
what caused this rock formation
this valley this marsh
this layer of clay
what force
what age
why here but not there?

I am thinking that I know why
(saying nothing)-
it is of course
just the way that the sippy cup was found beneath the pile of laundry
and for the same reason that every time
every single time
I sweep beneath the table
she will walk into the pile-
for the same reason that she is standing here in my pile of dirt
and making fish lips
and kissing me on the head
as I sweep between her ankles.