Friday, December 19, 2014

19 december

It's been a long, long time since I posted anything here of substance. Not that some of the prompts of the Friday Fives don't elicit meaningful bits of sharing, but I started this blog as a way to share news and pictures about my world and the things that make me stop and take a look at it more closely.

In the last few years the view from where I sit hasn't been particularly compelling. A lack of work, direction, community, and a sense of purpose have all led to a fairly insular existence. I have a limited tolerance for sharing the shallowness of those kind of days, and I suspect there's even less interest in reading about it. These pages have been silent as a result. Even when I did have something to share the habit of turning to this space was dusty with neglect, and I am not known for my housekeeping.

Still, the desire to communicate and connect burns like a pilot light, so I am going to endeavor to be here more frequently than Friday Five memes.

With less than a week to go before Christmas we are in good shape here. The tree has been up for a couple of weeks, the lights finally got sorted out and strung, and ornaments decorate the branches. The mantel is seasonal (that kind of decorating is not my strong suit), the Nativity set is on the piano, and most of the daily clutter has been removed. The first round of baking has been mailed or delivered, and the second round is underway (note to self: smaller containers next year will make the baking go farther!). The first batch of cards went into the mail yesterday, and today I will endeavor to address the remainder of the list. Nothing more will go out until next week, since we can't buy stamps until Monday. The letter is written, but will only go to people with whom we haven't been in touch. We are still pinching pennies.

A couple of pictures! The above photo, already shared on facebook, is this year's ornament for the grand kids. The idea came from Pinterest, and with some pine cones already on hand, along with felt and a glue gun, this was my choice of what to make. I think they're adorable! Colors were chosen according to favorites of the three oldest. I wish there was an easier way to cut out small pieces of felt--I'd be inclined to make more of these!

The picture below was taken last week at our county Election Commission's reception for poll workers. I joined the ranks this year to work the elections (Ken has been doing it for several years), and am grateful for the opportunity to be involved. Ken is decked out in his veteran attire because the reception also honored veterans.

That's a wrap for now. Stay tuned, I'll be back. Promise.

Friday, November 14, 2014

friday five: the eve of Advent

At RevGals, MaryBeth writes: This time of year can be so busy with planning for Advent and Christmas, for those who work in churches and we who live close to them. Today, I invite you to sit quietly…as Mary sits in this phot…and consider five things about Advent. They might be images, practices, hymns, anything you like. Just let the thoughts wash over you. Be peaceful with them. Be blessed with them.

My love for Advent is steeped in the family traditions of my youth. Annual outings, rituals, the inner warmth of our home protected from the growing darkness and cold of winter all gave a glow to the season.  Church rituals have been less meaningful for me, perhaps because I inherited practices already in place at churches I served, and where those communities didn't feel inclined to revisit those choices. (Let me say that there wasn't anything wrong with them, but shaping them to add meaning for me wasn't an option).

So, five things... 

1) Sharing. Whether it was the creation of the family Christmas card, writing the family letter, helping mom with her homemade goodies of toffee and spiced tea, or singing Christmas carols outside the homes of friends, we spent family time engaged in activities that connected us to other people. 

2) As an maturing Christian who shifted from Quaker to Episcopalian in my late twenties, Advent hymns became precious to me. I especially loved hearing them played from the carillon of the chapel at the college just up the hill from my first home.

3) The Advent calendar. I don't remember the practice of using a calendar being a spiritual one, but it nonetheless instilled an awareness that we were in a season of marking a journey, and waiting with anticipation. This annual ritual made it so much easier to live into the spiritual practice of waiting when my faith began to bloom.

4) Purple.

5) Decorations. My mother chose a seasonal theme each year as a way to focus the decorations of our home.  The ones that stand out in my memory are the Magi, Peace, Joy, music, and the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Except, perhaps, for the "12 days," these themes emphasized the spirit of the season, instilling in me an abiding appreciation in my bones for the depth and meaning of what I would come to know as the Incarnation.  Little did she know that she was planting seeds...

Friday, October 17, 2014

friday five: jury duty!

My friend Jan, at RevGals, invites us to share jury experiences today.

1. Have you been called to jury duty? How many times? Did you excuse yourself or show up at the courthouse?
I have been called to jury duty several times. I would like the experience of serving, so have been disappointed to have had legitimate conflicts on the occasions called. I was finally able to say "yes!" 20 years ago, and reported the day after graduating from seminary.
2. What were the results of your call to jury duty?
There were two juries being selected the day I went. The first was for a negligence case: a woman slipped on ice and fell on some steps of a condo complex. She suffered a compound fracture to a leg, if I recall, and probably worse, since she was suing.

I don't remember what I answered to the questions posed to me by the attorneys, but I definitely do remember that I was pulled into a conference with the attorneys, the plaintiff, and the judge for an additional interview. I suppose they were on the fence about whether or not to seat me and needed to be swayed one way or the other. I remember being congratulated on my graduation, and in response to some related question I mentioned that one of the goals of the seminary was to impart critical thinking skills to their students. 

I did not get called to serve, and the timing of the second interview kept me from being questioned for the other jury, so home I went, disappointed.

Later that evening I was at my godparents' home for dinner and shared the experience with them. My godfather, who was a superior court judge, listened carefully to my tale. When I told them about the "critical thinking" part he piped up, "well, that was your mistake." It sounds funnier to hear that in my head, in his voice, but it was a humorous moment.
3. What does your state base its candidates’ list from?
In Connecticut, the voter registration list is used. Here in Tennessee I don't know what they use.
4. Have you ever served on a jury? What was that like?
Sadly, no.
5. Have you ever had a jury summons to a U. S. Court? What was it like?
Not there, either!

Friday, September 12, 2014

friday five: todayish

1. If you could sneak away anywhere this weekend, right now, all expenses paid, where would you go and what would you do?
I would have answered Scotland, but the weekend would be consumed with travel getting there and back.  I'll continue to hold that dream in my heart a little while longer. Instead I'll go with a favorite B&B in Gatlinburg, TN (far from the madding commercialism of the "downtown" area), the Buckhorn Inn.  There are lovely, restful views from the inn; a substantive walking trail on the property, complete with pond and a pair of swans; fabulous food; a labyrinth; easy access to a favorite walking trail near in the national park; beverages and treats available in a comfortable library, and nearby artisans to stoke the creative fire. 
2. What is for lunch today? (one of the very first FF I ever played asked this.)
A BLT, to enjoy the last of the our summer tomatoes.
3. Along that first-FF-I-ever-played theme, what are you wearing today?
There will be changes: right now I'm still in my pj's, but will upgrade to sweats to walk one of the dogs. Then I will shower and change for a doctor appointment (tasteful but comfortable), then back to uber comfy when I return home. 
4. Along the Today Theme, what are you doing today? 
Along with the above noted activity, I'm also doing some online work as part of a "work from home" obligation, tending to some details to help a local candidate campaign for office, and promoting my canine massage business.
5. Along the random theme, what is your favorite scent, and why?
I'm wondering if there's a distinctive difference between scent and smell... I love the smell of curry, but I don't know that I would call that a scent. I got a whiff of an evergreen the other day and was immediately transported to seaside holidays as a child (wonderful memories), so that certainly ranks up there. I guess I would say that any scent that transports me to a time/place/state that makes me smile is my favorite. There are really too many to choose just one.

Friday, August 29, 2014

friday five: new

At RevGals MaryBeth writes: Many folks I know say the beginning of school makes them feel like a new beginning, even if they are not in school themselves or have kids there. In fact, I did a little math at the beginning of the week and determined that, based on my career in higher education and when I entered first grade, I am entering the 44th Grade this year.
So, for beginnings: Tell us five things that are new in your life, or that you would LIKE to have be new in your life. If that doesn’t work, how about things that you are ready to shed….to make room for new things? Opening your hands to release, to see what God might put into them?

1) I am beginning to enjoy a new confidence with my canine massage practice, and look forward to a busy fall attending agility trials where I find the most work.

2) Related to # 1: at a trial last weekend I worked for the first time on a canine amputee. I was so moved by the privilege of working with this dog as she adjusts to life on three limbs, and have committed to learning more about how to help such dogs. This may prove to be an area of specialty that I can offer in the future. The thought of that is both humbling and exciting.

3) In September I will begin a twice-monthly relationship with a small, historic chapel in our diocese as their chosen Sunday officiant. I am grateful for the regular work, and the opportunity to establish new relationships with faithful people in a congregation.

4) To supplement our income I have begun a part-time, "work from home,"  Internet job. It deals with web user experiences, and is sufficiently mind-engaging that I think I will enjoy it. I am relieved to be able to ease our financial burdens.

5) I am beginning to resume some creative projects after a hiatus since last Christmas. This is a good sign, indicative of inner peace and an answer to an inner yearning to move away from the urgency of my own needs.

Friday, August 01, 2014

friday five: what's in a name?

Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with tracking some genealogical mysteries in my family. I’m reaching back through generations into the past, but I’m also moving from the past toward the present in an effort to locate cousins descended from the same ancestor. Naming patterns prove to be useful clues in these endeavors, and in turn, lead me to today’s Friday Five theme.

Share with us:
1) Is there a story behind your name?
It just so happens that there is! I am the seventh in a line of women to be called Anne McKinne. The name zig-zags a bit through the generations to get from my 4th great-grandmother to me, but my mother and grandmother share the name. I'm sad that I don't have a daughter to pass the name to, but I'm honored to be the last to bear this name.
The first Anne McKinne (portrait), me (# 7) with my grandmother (#5)

2) If you have children, how did you choose his/her/their name(s)? If you don’t have children, how about a pet?
I don't have children, but I take seriously giving my pets names that have some sort of story or meaning. Except for the dogs of my youth, my Shelties and Border Collie carried Celtic names: Avalon, Rory, and Brenna. Dooley was named for a character in Jan Karon's "Mitford" series books. Rigel, our German short-haired pointer (pictured, right), is named for the brightest star in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter), due to the star-shaped blotch of white on his forehead. McKinlee is named to honor a dog-loving friend who took his own life the same week that McKinlee joined the family. The story behind Juliet's name is too complicated to go into, but officially she is "The Lady Juliet," and it suits her regal nature.

3) I named the stand mixer in my kitchen Ethel, and a friend of mine names her plants. Do you ever name household items, and what inspires the names behind them?
I don't name such items often, but when I do I try to choose a name that conjurs up a notion of fun and whimsy.
4) Do you daydream about what you might name a boat, a novel, a business, or something else that begs for a title?
I have a title for a novel that needs a plot! The title is "Polestar," referring to the constant guiding light of that entity. It's not meant to refer to God so much as to a constant desire to move forward toward finding one's purpose. Why, yes, it would be semi-autobiographical!
5) If you were to write under a pseudonym, what might that be, and is there a story behind that name?
There was a time when I needed to be in regular touch with someone who I could only contact while they were at work (let's just say that a kind of conspiracy was afoot related to a person we both knew). Occasionally I needed to leave a message that I had called, but leaving my name would begin to arouse suspicion. My friend and I knew each other through Scottish country dancing, so I used the name Jean Milligan as my "code name." Miss Milligan (as she was known) was the founder of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

when pain is our guest

Something happened yesterday that I always prayed would never be something I would experience. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, heading home on the two-lane highway from the second day of the weekend agility trials. A group of about half a dozen young men and boys were clustered at the foot of a long, country driveway, holding and waving political signs. Their action did what it was intended to do--it attracted my attention--and in that brief moment of turning my head to take in their presence, a dog bolted from the other side of the road into the path of my car. 

I hit the brakes, too late, felt the thud of impact, and immediately negotiated a place to pull off the road to go back and check on the dog. As I opened the car door I caught a glimpse of the dog's tail being raised, one last salute to life, and then it was still. I ran the 100 feet or so to its body, knelt beside it, and the tears began to gush. She was gone. Across the street a car had pulled over. Some of the sign-wavers had disappeared up the driveway to report what had happened to others in their party. A woman called over to me, and I stood and made my way across the road. 

The dog was a stranger to this rural cluster of neighbors, following a few folks around for a handful of days up until now. She had likely been dumped recently, seeking companionship and hospitality where she could, and spying the frivolity of politics there on the roadside, decided a good time might be in the offing. Such was not to be the case. 

The woman who had called out to me made me her priority. Was I okay? I nodded between sobs. Did I have dogs? I nodded again. She smiled, knowingly. "There was nothing you could do. It isn't your fault," she repeated again and again as I wept. No one seemed to know what to do, and I was gently urged to go on home. I gathered what composure I could, went back into the road to retrieve some pieces of the car that had separated at the time of the collision, walked back to the dog with a final apology and my regret, and got back in the car to come home.

To say that I was distressed would be an understatement, and after arriving home twenty minutes later and sharing with Ken what had happened, I began to make the progression from reaction to assessment. I was hurting, deeply, but the grief that was spilling from my core was beginning to ebb, and I was able to assemble the pieces of what had happened into an understandable whole. I began to breathe again, and be still. There were practical realities to address (there was damage to the car), and I had been gone for two days. The rest of my small world had its own pace and was moving forward.

As so often happens when the ordinary of our days suffers a traumatic interruption, the divine insinuated itself on my behalf. This morning our plans included being in church where I was filling in as celebrant for absent clergy. Another colleague was preaching--my role was to make holy things happen at the appointed time--and I settled in to listen to his sermon on welcoming and hospitality. He referred to the variety of guests who make themselves at homes in our beings, and the necessity of making space for them and embracing their presence. He wasn't referring to the the kind of guests with whom we dine and offer bed linens, but visitors who come uninvited--the likes of anger and resentment, for instance. He stressed that hospitality was about creating and providing space for whatever guest was present with us, and to be open to the gift the guest brought into the abode of our heart and soul. And, most critically, when we offered our hospitality by creating that space of being, we also opened a space for God to be present as well. 

Ahhhh. I had already asked myself the agonizing question regarding what might be instructive for me in this incident on the road. I don't subscribe to the belief that "everything happens for a reason," which isn't to say that meaning can't be found buried within the crevices of the events and experiences that make up the lines of our lives. Now, however, as I sought to embrace the difficult reality of what had happened, I could rest in the knowledge that I was likewise embraced by the God whose love I cherish above all others. The devastating tear that had ripped through my soul was already beginning to heal, and this uncomfortable part of my story would now be laced with the graciousness of God's care. 

I had thought, initially, that I wouldn't talk about what happened yesterday. I wanted the pain of it dealt with privately, shut away from my efforts of building my life up. But now I know that what is instructive about it is that being hospitable to that which we would shun and turn away is the path toward healing, and the grace of redemption. And that, dear friends, is worth sharing.

Friday, May 23, 2014

friday five: trash and treasure

For this week's Friday Five at RevGals, Deb invites us to share some yard/garage/rummage/jumble sale adventures. I'm afraid I'm a bit boring as yard sale enthusiasts goes, but I'll give this a whirl!

1. TREASURE: What is the best thing you’ve ever found at a rummage sale? Was it a bargain or just something you’ve longed for but couldn’t afford?
I confess that although we have certainly held our share of yard sales to unload unwanted treasures and bring in a little cash, I don't often visit other yard sales unless I'm in need of something on the cheap that I think I can find there. Probably the most useful thing I have ever found is a small rack for the bathroom on which to keep makeup and other items used daily.
2. TRASH: What is an item you couldn’t WAIT to donate to a sale like this, and then were surprised that someone not only bought it, they were so excited to have?
It would have to be some incredibly tasteless item that was received as a gift (thus fulfilling the "trash and treasure" relationship), though I don't keep track of such farewells. Sorry!
3. BUDGET: How disciplined are you at these kinds of events? Can you stick to a budget, or do you empty your wallet?
As noted above, I rarely visit yard sales, and since I have come to the point in life where I rarely buy something unless I need it, temptation doesn't visit often. Budget isn't an issue because I simply don't buy much.
4. TAKE IT AWAY: What’s something you’d gladly donate right this minute if I would just come pick it up?
An old, crappy coffee table that my husband insists on keeping with the intention of cutting a new, acrylic top. Yeah, right.
5. TEA: Do you have a favorite tea? Or a special teapot? Tell us more!
Although I like tea, I don't drink a lot of it. I do have a favorite blend that employs two different flavors of teabags: almond dessert and honey chamomile. 
Found these on Pinterest a little while ago and think they're adorable!

Monday, April 21, 2014

love. actually and otherwise.

The strangest things pop into my mind when I'm cutting the grass. It's a tragedy, really. If I turn something over in my thoughts for more than a lap around the lawn I inevitably consider that a reflection on the topic du circumnaviation might be fodder for this blog. As you can tell, I am rather short on blog posts these days that aren't otherwise prompted by someone else's ideas. Fodder is welcome! Equally inevitable, however, is that by the time I've finished mowing my mind has moved to other considerations, like how humid it has become, or how grateful I will be for a long drink of water once I get indoors. Yes, that's me, the non-outdoorsy type.

So today--and don't ask me to recount how I got to the subject because I've forgotten--the topic of unconditional love filtered through the minutiae that takes up space in my little grey cells. For a while now this phrase has bothered me. It is my considered opinion that if love has conditions then it isn't love, it's a negotiation based on what can be gained by either side of the equation. That's not love in my book. So love is like being pregnant: you are or you aren't. It's love or it's not. 

But today I went a little deeper with my thinking on this. What about what we call "tough love?" Does that qualify as love with conditions? This is a trick question. The answer is no. Behavior might have expectations, or at the least, consequences. As a wise workshop leader once offered about expectations, we can have wishes or requirements when it comes to how we will respond to someone else's behavior. But the long and short of it is that if it's love, there are no conditions.

Now this doesn't mean that there aren't some nuances to how we experience love, or perhaps more significantly, how we make decisions related to love. I think that's where the rubber meets the road. For instance, it's possible to love someone to the core of your being and beyond, and at the same time recognize that spending time with them for the long haul is going to ruin your life. That's one nuance.

Here's another (and, spoiler alert! another cliche will be involved). A long time ago I loved someone who was more than a few years older than me. I wanted to have a family, and he'd already had his family. The odds of either one of us conceding our position on this matter were excruciatingly small, and as time went by and my clock ticked, I had to make a very difficult decision. Extricating myself from that relationship was beyond difficult, and took several years of missteps in an effort to be available for a new relationship that included the possibility of a family. Among other lessons learned and wisdom gained, the reality that love does not always conquer all became abundantly, and painfully, clear. In this case it wasn't love that bore the condition, it was my own deep yearning for a family that carved a difficult line through the substance of what was otherwise fulfilling. 

There is, as well, a kind of sacrificial love that means that the other person's needs will always come first, no matter what. I don't know if it takes a certain kind of person to practice such love, or if I have yet to know that kind of love in my own life to appreciate it fully, but I want to acknowledge that it exists. 

I'm sure there are other variations on this same theme that illustrate what I refer to here as nuance.  In the end, however, after turning corners of tall grass into blades of uniform height, and considering how we make choices when love stands at the core of any kind of decision, I am back where I ended up: if conditions are attached, we're not talking about love. 

Aren't you glad I shared? Since grass-cutting season is just out of the gate, chances are good that the coming months will see more than friday five blog posts here on this page.  I'm always open to suggestions, too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

friday five: pre-Holy Week distractions

 From Noble Pig, a fabulous food blog.

At RevGals Karla offers us a pre-Holy Week Friday Five!

1.  What is your favorite Easter candy?
Anything Reese's, be it mini-cups, eggs, or the tried and true standard. Chocolate and peanut butter rule!
2.  If you have an Easter memory from childhood to share, then please do.  Or any Easter memory.
My freshman year in college my mom sent me the makings of an Easter basket. She included the green cellophane grass, the candy, a card, and maybe something else. That was just the best treat ever.
3.  Speaking of, what has your most favorite day of the past two weeks been?  Why?
See my last post! But in short, at the last minute some friends gave us tickets to the NCAA women's championship basketball game this past Tuesday night. As a long-time UConn Huskies fan I was over the moon having the chance to see them play, and enjoy their historic win!
4.  I am kind of digging’ Chipotle’s sofritos these days (marinated and “shredded” tofu) and have been eating them like twice a week.  Is there something new in your life that keeps bringing you back for more?  (be ye creative here…)
Archive.org! I'm a genealogy addict, and am eternally grateful that the world of historic records and documents is growing online at a rapid rate. I don't have the luxury of being able to travel to local sites for hands on research, so online tools are invaluable. More and more works are being digitized and can be accessed through archive.org, allowing me to search local histories for signs of ancestors and any stories that might shed some light on events in their lives. It's a research bonanza, for all kinds of topics.
5.  Of course, a sentence. Using the following words (or some form thereof):  Tree frog, squares, kleenex, eyeglass, lost, daffodil, palms, lamb, Peeps, licorice jelly beans, and donkey.
Lured by the song of the tree frogs near the meadow, I headed out to visit the neighbor's donkey and the newly born lamb. Cupping its face between my palms it sniffed the remnants of hastily eaten licorice jelly beans and Peeps, and as I looked down I spied a pair of lost eyeglasses in a patch of daffodils, from whence I retrieved them with a square of Kleenex.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

bucket list: check!

We just enjoyed a rare opportunity that was on my bucket list, even though I didn't realize it.

It began innocently enough. As Ken learned more and more about Templar history in Scotland, he became eager to discover that he had Scottish roots. His quest coincided with some genealogy research I was doing on his family, and one day: Voila! A MacFarlane link was made. A few months later he connected with members of Clan MacFarlane at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta, and joined the clan community on facebook.

Through that facebook connection he has become acquainted with a number of others "of his ilk," several of whom will join us at the end of May at the Glasgow, Kentucky Highland games where we are serving as hosts of the Clan MacFarlane tent (via Clan MacFarlane Worldwide, Inc., another story).

Now the story gets interesting. Saturday morning Ken gets a phone call from one of his clan brethren who will be part of the "tent crew." Bill and his companion, Susan, are en route to Nashville for the women's Final Four basketball tournament, staying at a hotel in a city not far from us. Would we like to meet for lunch? 

A break from yard work becomes a time to freshen up, and before long we're heading to a local restaurant to meet. It turns out that Susan's granddaughter plays on the University of Maryland team, slated to meet Notre Dame that night on the basketball court. These are exciting times for the family, and the energy at lunch is contagious.  We bid farewell in time for Bill and Susan to check in at the hotel and don their Maryland attire before heading downtown for the game.

Now two degrees of separation removed from one of the night's games, we decided we'd tune in and cheer for Maryland, lending support to our new "in real life" friends.  Alas for Maryland, it wasn't their night, and just as we were offering our armchair assessment of the game and getting ready to switch gears for the next one, my phone rang. It was Susan.

"Since we won't be using our tickets for the finals on Tuesday, would you like them?" I didn't hesitate. "That would be great!" At this point we didn't know who would meet Notre Dame in the finals, but the Stanford/UConn game was a matter of hours from being decided. As a Connecticut native and long-time fan of the Lady Huskies basketball team, the opportunity to be at that game was a God-given miracle. (Only days before, I had expressed a desire to go to the game, recognizing the rare opportunity to see UConn play here in Nashville.  Knowing that we could never afford the tickets, it was a short-lived wish.)

We don't watch much basketball. Ken never played or had much exposure to it, so it doesn't interest him.  I generally watch when a UConn game is being aired locally, which isn't all that often.  Neither of us knew what to expect being at a live game at this level.

Let me just say that it was incredible. We didn't watch the images on the jumbotron hanging over center court. We watched the live action from our seats in the rafters (not a complaint about the location--I share it as a way to share that even from that distance watching the players, themselves, was the best way to enjoy the game). Seeing each play unfold within the visual context of the whole court, rather than the limited view chosen by TV officianados, made all the difference in the world. And I was cheering surrounded by other Huskie fans as opposed to the isolated confines of the couch.  I kept pinching myself, in a virtual way, knowing what a gift had been given to me to witness not just UConn in the NCAA finals, but setting records as they did so. It was historic all the way around, and I am deeply, deeply grateful to include the experience in my memory banks. Thank you, Bill and Susan!

I thought of my dad as we were leaving the arena, knowing how happy this night would have made him, and imagined him yodeling with enthusiasm (he was a good yodeler, even to the last).  So I guess I'll dedicate this extraordinary night of the fulfillment of an unbirthed dream to him.  I guess I also need to think about what other sorts of experiences might need to find their way to my bucket list.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

ah-ha!

I had an epiphany yesterday. We continue to suffer through tough times here, and despair seems to have unpacked its bags and settled in . NOT a happy feeling. But back to the epiphany. Tears were starting to prick at my eyes, and to stave them off I dug into a prayer. Help! (Yes, Anne Lammott and I are in full agreement on this.) In addition to that exclamatory invitation into my chaos, I got specific. "Give me strength, give me courage, give me wisdom, give me insight..." and that's when the epiphany struck. "Wait a minute," I thought. "I already have those things." 

Hmm. It seems, then, that I am not needful of those attributes. Instead I appear to be having difficulty accessing them. Which means that something is in the way. Of course now my thinking shifts from the theological to the psychological, but that's okay. God oversees that, too, in my opinion. The important thing is that I am reminded that I already have the tools to move from my current position on the "stuck" board. That doesn't mean anything gets easier. Like on The Amazing Race, the sorting out of one puzzle simply moves you onto the next one. But. It's one puzzle closer to the light. 

I'm trying to feel optimistic about this. It is, of course, helpful to clarify and redirect my prayer. It's amusing to think of the image of the dog digging, with its butt in the air (metaphor has always been my preference at times like this). There is, after all, nothing graceful about doing messy work. The grace is that the epiphany occurred, and that I can laugh about my butt being in the air, and that all of this has mysteriously drawn me closer to God rather than distancing me from him or her (something that, truthfully, has been at risk).

The upshot? I need to find a job. I need a job with flexible hours, part to full time. The flexibility thing probably means a job I can do from home. Until I can build my business up to generate enough revenue to fill the gap of our necessity, we need a reliable and consistent revenue stream.  Even minimum wage, which is likely.

It's not pretty. But the alternative is worse still. Here's to digging.

Friday, April 04, 2014

friday five: all around the mulberry bush

It’s been a week of ups and downs at our house. On Tuesday I received word of the birth of my goddaughter’s second daughter, a blessing to that family, and the hope of the first daughter happily fulfilled. That evening I learned that my sister-in-law, a breast cancer survivor, is facing a recurrence of cancer in her lymph nodes, and probably her lungs. Joy and concern pressing in on my heart has made for a week of lots of deep breaths and deep-in-the-marrow prayer, smiles and tears.

At times like this my soul finds comfort and seeks expression through my senses. Pinterest feeds my visual need for beauty and color (not to mention adorable puppies, and herds of sheep). Cooking fills the house with pleasant aromas, and the results satisfy my palette. My hands find tactile pleasure in massaging my dogs, and music penetrates and reverberates in the fiber of my being.

Today's ff invitation is to respond to this: When you need to hold disparate parts of your life in tension, what do you do? Share five things that steady your pace, recharge your batteries and invite peace to your soul.

1) As noted above (since I authored this week's ff), Pinterest is a delightful source of distraction. I find that going there after a morning review of facebook, then news, redirects me from the noise of the world to the rhythms that help me be in tune. Images of Scotland, quilts, sheep and lambs, food, quotations that inspire or resonate--these are all things that settle my soul. (Photo source)

2) In temperate weather I like to get out in the garden--not so much to dig (I'm not a good "digger), but to plant, and then maintain by weeding. The act of preparing, and then culling the garden to help it thrive is cathartic.

3) Creating something is always a benefit, though when my mind is cluttered it is harder to settle into that process. I am grateful for those occasions when I have a project at hand that I can pick up and on which I might make some progress. I haven't done any cross stitch since Christmas, and for all kinds of reasons I think it's time to revisit the potential candidates for completion.

4) When I can manage, I love to read. I am between books at the moment. Home front challenges of late have made it difficult to feel that I can afford the time just to sit and read. I think it's time to revisit that perception, however.

5) I ponder love. That may sound strange. The church we attend lives into a distinctive ministry of love and justice, keeping the notion alive and visible to me daily. With so much pain in the world love is the sort of balm that makes sense to dispense. My own existence these days is far too isolated and solitary to be the direct source of much loving, which is why I ponder. I want to find ways--beyond affirmations on facebook and blog posts--that reach more deeply into the hurts that are spilling out into the world. Pondering serves a purpose.

Friday, March 28, 2014

friday five: are we blooming yet?

For this week's RevGals Friday five Deb invites us to share:


1. Your favorite spring flower. (Is it blooming yet? If so, share the joy by posting a picture of that loveliness with those of us still waiting!)

 Daffodils in the 'hood
I adore both daffodils and tulips, but in my section of the south the heat tends to be too much for tulips. Although I keep intending to plant dafs, our late fall cycle of weather tends to go from 80 to 40 overnight, making it difficult to find the right time to get those suckers planted. Maybe this year I'll go by the calendar and not the thermometer.
2. Your spring cleaning routine. Do you have one? Is there a family memory or tradition around it?
I don't have a spring cleaning routine. With three dogs cleaning is a constant necessity, the timeliness of which I fail on a regular basis.
3. A personal area of growth where you have seen some success lately. It can be personal, physical, spiritual or familial.
Since I have started a new business (canine massage) I am confronting my tendency to procrastinate or not take necessary action. I've been reflecting lately on the fear of success, or at least asking myself the hard questions about why I'm not taking the action I know would help propel me forward in positive ways. It's not easy inner work, and although I don't know if I've seen any particular growth, I'm going to go out on a limb and be grateful that at least I'm probing more deeply in this area than in the past. A breakthrough might prove interesting.
4. When does “spring” usually arrive in your area? Are you holding out for late May? Or are you one of the lucky ones who has already put away her sweaters and mittens?

 In St. Louis a few years ago
As a native Yankee I'm conditioned for a late spring--the aforementioned dafs and tulips appearing in April. Here in Tennessee (where I've been for 15 years) I still can't used to seeing daffodils emerge at the end of February. This year they are quite late, having just bloomed (and by our front walk, a lonely volunteer is in full bloom). Our temperatures, like elsewhere, have swung wildly, so t-shirts as well as winter coats are at the ready.
5. A verse or set of verses from Scripture that speaks “new growth” to you. 
This may seem like an odd choice, but it is a favorite. It is the gospel passage read at our wedding, reflecting that a marriage, a new expression of a relationship, was like new wine. "Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." (Mt 9:17)

Friday, March 21, 2014

friday five: land, sea, and air

At RevGals Jan invites us to share some of our travel experiences. I'm choosing a diverse route to sharing some of those rich times.

1) While growing up my family did all our travel by car: each spring we ventured from Connecticut to South Carolina to the family tree farm, often detouring to historic sites along the way; in the summer we vacationed with a cousin who had a house on Cape Cod; in the winter we skied with another family with whom we spent lots of time and shared activity. 

On one of our trips to the Cape I asked my dad how the Vietnam War started. For what seemed like an hour he laid it all out for me, a captive audience. Thinking about that now I am enormously impressed that he had a grasp of the facts and was able to explain it with a certain amount of detachment, and his explanation didn't leave me in the dust. That was typical of my dad, who enjoyed telling a story, but could do so without making it overly complicated. Do I remember any of it? Ha!
(That's dad maintaining a seaweed-free path into the water at the Cape. I've never known anyone else to do that, anywhere! but he loved taking on that responsibility each summer)

2) A childhood-->adulthood friend and I spent our teen years writing stories about the heroes of a short-lived television series from our tween years, The Young Rebels. We were both enthralled with the era of the revolutionary war and indulged our passion and fantasies with all sorts of adventures and romances for our intrepid revolutionaries. One fall when it was time for me to return to college in Indiana, she joined me on that trip and we drove to and through parts of Pennsylvania to research the history of the area about which we were writing, seeking authenticity. I still have copies of documents that we uncovered, pictures torn from magazines that inspired the look of some of our own characters, historic buildings that starred in our scenarios, and the fictionalized genealogies we created. It was the kind of journey I look forward to taking again to explore my own family's history and the places that shaped them, and occasionally those that they helped shape.

3) I was fortunate to spend a week sailing off the coast of Maine one summer with five others. Extraordinary memories, gastronomic delights from the galley as well as some of the small, seaside towns, and nights on deck admiring the star-studded sky stand out in my mind. The sailing was pretty good, too, but recedes compared to everything else. It was a unique adventure, cherished in my heart.

4) Another extraordinary piece of travel took place too many years ago. A trip to dance in Scottish castles is probably the highlight of my travel life. For two weeks twelve of us traveled with our own musicians (fiddler and pianist), donned ball gowns and full kilt regalia, and danced in the likes of the ballroom of Blair Castle and the kitchen of the ruined Castle Campbell. We dined on sumptuous foods, sipped single-malt scotch, and laughed regularly until our sides hurt. Twenty-five years later friendships are still maintained and enjoyed, and the memories run as deep as the music in my soul. 

5) On the first anniversary of the call to my first solo pastorate, the beau of a parishioner offered to take me flying in his two-seater plane. I accepted! I have always enjoyed flying, and it was a treat to view the area from above, including seeing (and attempting to photograph) my house, the church, and other local areas of interest. I always feel honored when people share such passions, offering a glimpse into worlds I would not likely see otherwise, and this was such a time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

friday five: a few of my favorite things

At RevGals this morning Jan invites us to share some of our favorites: food, drink, animal, color, and time of day.

1) Food: nothing jumps immediately to mind! I used to go directly to pepperoni pizza, but these days I limit my pizza intake, so it's not a current fave.  On our top list of "let's make this again soon" recipes is homemade baked beans (my husband can't have sugar, so making our own is our best solution when we want beans); crock pot chicken masala; casserole dill bread. Homemade soup is a stalwart favorite--I make a mean Curry Chicken Corn Chowder.

2) Drink: I'm surprising myself here by claiming water. With ice. Even when temperatures are frigid it is refreshing no matter the time of day, and a welcome gulp of renewal in the midst of demanding activity (mental or physical).

3) Animal: dogs are my passion, but I also simply adore sheep. They captured my attention when I was in college on a foreign study program in Scotland, and they continue to own a piece of my heart. 

4) Color: my default favorite is blue, although depending on the use of color, I will lean in different directions: clothing, decorating, an accent... 

5) Time of day: first thing in the morning upon rising. I love the quiet of the house, the pale, early light outside my window, that coveted first cup of coffee, and the promise that a blank canvas offers as the day stretches before me waiting for me to make my mark. 

Friday, February 07, 2014

friday five: spring is getting ready to be sprung!

Snowdrops making an appearance at the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland
Here in Nashville the annual Antiques and Garden Show is getting underway.  The temperatures are more cold and windy than is typical, and the garden displays with colorful spring blooms are going to be tonic for many of the souls that visit the show this weekend. Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted another six weeks of winter when he saw his shadow, but spring is on the minds of many!

With that in mind,

1) What do you anticipate with the coming of spring?
Spring is a favorite season, in part because I have a spring birthday. I also welcome the return of color and beauty to the world following the grays and browns of winter.  I love the parade of blooming things that begin with snow drops and croci, and leads us into the greening of the world and the enduring blooms of summer.  On a more intimate and spiritual level spring also heralds the promise of hope, whether that means fanning the flames of dreams or experiencing the transforming redemption that is part of healing and new life.
2) Is there anything you will miss about winter?

Call me crazy, but I love sweaters and cold-weather food. Soups and casseroles, and the comfort of cool fingers wrapped around my morning coffee mug are sweet companions to my introverted nature. 
3) Is there an occasion on the horizon to which you’re looking forward?
In May I will serve again as chaplain to a week-long icon-writing workshop. That week of holy and creative community enriches my soul, and the icon that results from it feeds me continually afterward.
 4) Do you have a favorite spring memory?
Where I grew up spring vacations took place in April. Each year my family journeyed from Connecticut to my family's tree farm in South Carolina where my grandmother spent a couple of months each spring. The highlight of that time was always being there at Melrose, but we often combined the trip with sightseeing detours to historic places along the way. I'm thankful for those visits to Gettysburg, Monticello, Williamsburg, Valley Forge, and other sites that helped instill in me a love for our country's history.
 
5) Do you have a favorite spring flower/bloom, and if so, what makes it special to you?
Tulips and dogwood top the list. Tulips were a favorite of my grandfather, so that created a bond for us, and dogwoods bloomed around my birthday. I also adore daffodils, and when they grew in my yard I loved to cut a huge bunch of them to display in the house. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

friday five: pleasant surprises

Remembering an encounter that led to an unexpected friendship, Martha offers this prompt at RevGals today.

In this week some of us are preaching about a woman who encounters Jesus at the well, please name five encounters in your life leading to unexpected results. They might include learning a new skill, making a friend, falling in love, discerning a call or anything around or far off from those ideas.


1) While growing up my mother and my bonus mother were both knitters.  Eager to be just like them in this way (other ways, too), I tried to learn to knit. It didn't stick. Endless rows of knitting and purling just didn't interest me, so I gave up.  Fast forward to my junior year in college and a semester abroad in Scotland. Three of us lived with a family there whose mother was a kick-ass knitter. She could read, knit, and watch TV at the same time.  She agreed to teach us how to knit, insisting that we pick a pattern that would challenge us and hold our interest.  We chose a fisherman-knit pattern very close to the one pictured above (we were in Scotland, after all), and commenced our lessons. Not only did we finish our sweaters, but I continued to knit for many years until heading off to seminary. I've done a few projects since then, but dogs in laps and knitting don't go well together, so I have shifted to other handwork.

2, 3 & 4) Many moons ago I flew to Scotland to attend a friend's wedding as a surprise to her. Her priest had also flown over to perform the ceremony (she was an American, her husband, Scottish), and though the priest and I met briefly a few weeks before the big event, we bonded during the wedding celebration. Bonding led to dating, which led to attending his church to hear him preach, which led to a spiritual renewal (not from the preaching, although he was an excellent preacher, but as a result of a profound experience of prayer), which led to being baptized, which led to thanksgiving, which led to my call to ordination. So, I attended a wedding, fell in love, got baptized, and ended up being ordained. Pretty unexpected results!
(The picture is with the bride's daughter, with the ruins of St. Andrew's Cathedral behind us. The bridal bouquet was thrust into my arms by the bride as she left the church with her new husband.)

5) Fewer moons ago, after breaking an engagement I found myself without a beloved, a job, a home, or a community (I had sold my house in anticipation of moving to another state, and had likewise resigned my position at the church I served). As I began to rebuild my life I focused some of my creative energy on scrapbooking. I turned to an online scrapbook message board as a resource for supplies and expertise, and ended up finding a diverse community of women where friendships began to form. A daily "Early Bird" thread gave rise to a subset of scrapbookers who continue to stay connected to this day (more than ten years later). I have met many of the Early Birds "in real life," traveled with a few, and when I did finally get married a few years later, some of them came to Nashville from as far away as New Brunswick, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Scrappers!

Friday, January 10, 2014

friday five: recent random

From Karla at RevGals, today's random looks at recent goodness:

1.  What is the best thing you have had to eat in the last couple of days?
Oh, some true yumminess emerged from our kitchen this week: Stuffed Shells Arrabbiata, and Crockpot Coconut Chicken Curry. And there's leftovers!

2.  What is the topic/subject of the best thing you have read in the last couple of days?
While at the library last week I saw a clerk putting a book back onto the shelf in the "new" section: Hope After Faith, a Pastor's Journey to Atheism. I don't have a foot in that camp, but I empathize with the folks who have made that transition, so I was curious to read about his. I don't know that it's the best thing I read, but it was a short, easy read, and offered food for thought. I don't regret giving it my time.
3.  Who would you like to give a shout out to that has been in your life the last couple of days?
My friend Jeri, who celebrated 50 years of sobriety last Sunday. She is a remarkable woman, a dear friend, a light in the darkness, and an inspiration.
4.  How have you practiced self-care in the last couple of days?
This may sound strange as a self-care item, but I've been cleaning and purging in my office (at home). I can now get into the closet, I can walk to the window to clean the nose prints off of it, and the top of my desk is almost useful again. The decluttering effort is poised to catalyze great things in the days ahead.
5.   Use the following words in a sentence:    couple, shutter, smile, pillow, groan, skip, baby elephant, red shoes.
The shutter of the camera clicked as the young couple smiled, watching their daughter skip a circle of red in her new shoes in front of the baby elephant. The image formed a pillow for later memories while Mama Elephant groaned with delight.

Monday, January 06, 2014

star words

On the RevGals facebook page an idea was shared for a meaningful and engaging way for congregations to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. I hate it when a good idea goes to waste, so I decided to employ the project at the church where I was filling in yesterday. I've been there several times and have built a bit of a relationship with church members, so felt safe departing from a standard homily on this occasion.

The project is known as Star Words. The concept is that a variety of words are written singly on paper cut out in the shape of stars. Each person draws a star and carries the word with them through the year to consider, reflect upon, and in whatever other ways occurs to them, draws inspiration and meaning. I drew on the transformative beginning that the Star of Bethlehem was to the world into which Jesus was born, and invited the congregation to consider how the use of their word, led by the light of Christ and the Spirit of God, might be transformative for them. 

It was a fun and interesting exercise. Nearly everyone who came to church took a star, (two teenage boys were the lone abstainers). The responses ranged from quiet, knowing smiles, to tilted heads of puzzlement, to bright grins and enthusiastic sharing on the spot. Only one woman, the last to draw from the basket, said, "Music?" As the remaining participant I offered her the option of drawing a different star, but she adamantly stuck to her original, claiming that it would be interesting to discover how a renewed awareness of music might work its way into and through her life.

Most touching was the woman who looked at her star and clutched it to her chest with a sense of disbelief. She began to make utterances, not really sure what to say, until at last she whispered, "I can't believe it!" I asked her if she was willing to share the word she now held protectively in her hand, and she turned it to me and spoke the word. "Healing." Grasping for composure, she glanced toward the ceiling, tears beginning to form. "You don't know..." she began. Indeed, I didn't! Then she took a few quieting breaths and shared with the three of us who surrounded her that she might be facing the recurrence of cancer.  Just, wow. I am happy to report that earlier today I had an email from this church member, sharing the news that the biopsy performed returned negative.  She is eager to live with her word and discover how else it might play out in the year ahead. I am grateful to have shared that small moment with her, the kind of moment I miss no longer serving regularly in a parish.

As for me, I drew the word competence. It was funny. When I was typing the words into the stars to print out and came to this one I was intrigued by its inclusion in the list and wondered how it would be received by the person who drew it. It is actually synchronicitous (I think I just made that word up) for me as I live into a new line of work without vast experience on which to draw as I move forward into a life of canine massage. I felt very competent as a parish priest, in spite of circumstances that led me from that work. That said, however, the experience of that change was damaging to my confidence in general. Believing in myself, and feeling competent, has been a bit squishy during the last few years. I am grateful, beyond words, that in recent months I have received affirmation from several quarters, but reclaiming my confidence and competence is a work in progress that requires some propping up.

So, competence and I are keeping company this year. And like my new friend experiencing healing, it will be interesting to see where this journey winds.

How about you, would you like a word?

Friday, January 03, 2014

friday five: turn the page!

Whether or not we make resolutions with the new year, we all transition to a new, physical calendar. In recent years my favorite wall calendar is called Pooped Puppies, a monthly collection of sleepy, or sleeping, pups that can’t help but evoke an “awwwww.” for many years my godmother gave me a flat, weekly desk calendar that featured National Geographic photos. One of the great things about calendars is that for each of us they fulfill the “form and function” requirement–a place to indulge an interest while serving a purpose.

For today’s FF, tell us about five calendar themes that you like to see hanging on your walls or going with you to appointments, or that you WISH existed to adorn and accompany your life.

1) Pooped Puppies! I just love this calendar, which provides a "puppy fix" of sorts for me. I'm fortunate to spend time with all sorts of dogs in my work, although puppies are not generally among them.  This calendar helps me get in some oohing and ahhing!

2) There are a number of calendars that support dog-related advocacy groups, and some of them have outstanding photographs. Any one of those would be welcome on my walls.

3) Scotland. I've got a board going on Pinterest to help me get my fill of pictures from this beloved country, but a calendar would definitely find a favored spot by my desk at home.

4) Quilts. Another Pinterest board helps me capture sources of inspiration for quilting--something I wish I had the space to indulge--but a regularly seen splash of quilting deliciousness on my walls might just push me over the edge to create not just the space to work, but a quilt itself. Ideas abound!

5) I've always thought that a saints "book of days" kind of calendar would be great fun for us clergy types.  It would be set up as a weekly, featuring a saint whose feast day occurs during that week along with some critical biographical and spiritual/theological information. With a whole week to spend with this inspiration we might actually become well enough acquainted with a contingent of inspiration to inform our work and our preaching in some new, and interesting ways.
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