Sacraments: Letting Go and Waiting

Pruned branches of tree with one sprig of new life

Another week begins.

Another week without our usual workplaces, casual trips to the store, or gatherings of friends.

Some of us have let go of long-planned vacations.

Some of us are seized with panic about lost income.

We have let go of what is not essential. We are waiting for “normal.”

Our situation reminds me of this beautiful work by Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual.

She wrote this poem, which she gave me permission to share, about times when we are stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness.” At those times, we are living out the Sacrament of Waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go. 
First she surrendered her green, 
then the orange, yellow, and red 
finally she let go of her own brown. 
Shedding her last leaf 
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare. 
Leaning against the winter sky, 
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf, 
she watched it journey to the ground. 
She stood in silence 
wearing the colors of emptiness, 
her branches wondering, 
How do you give shade with so much gone?
And then, 
the sacrament of waiting began. 
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness. 
Clothing her with silhouettes 
that kept her hope alive.
They helped her to understand that 
her vulnerability, 
her dependence and need, 
her emptiness, her readiness to receive, 
were giving her a new kind of Beauty. 
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence, 
and celebrated together 
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Tastes from childhood

A few weeks ago, Tuesdays with Laurie posted about Plans & Projects. She said that she was getting “That itch to empty the house and scrub it from top to bottom. Only putting half of everything back in and donating the rest.”

At the time, the fullness of what COVID-19 would become was not clear. “I won’t be scrubbing my house,” I thought. “I’ll be free, outside, in the spring!”

More fool me.

We’ve been social distancing for two weeks. I’ve been tackling plans and projects that I thought I’d be leaving until fall.

I cleaned my fridge. At the back corner of the top shelf of the fridge I found a jar of chokecherry jelly that I had bought at a Christmas craft fair. I’d forgotten about it.

(Remember when we could have craft fairs?)

This morning I had chokecherry jelly on toast. The flavour transported me instantly back to my childhood on the farm.

Toast with butter and chokecherry jelly
Toast with butter and chokecherry jelly

My brothers and I would pick the bitter fruit from trees that grew wild along our fences. The tiny red berries always looked so good. I’d put one in my mouth and screw up my face because of the bitter flavour.

My mother would take our buckets of chokecherries, boil them and add sugar. She’d strain the juice through cloth, and from that came a jelly with the distinctive flavour I love.

It’s one of my tastes of childhood.

There are others: fried bologna, fat green onions straight from the garden, biscuits and brown sugar.

What are your favourite childhood foods?

You have a superpower

Oh yes you do.

The youth leader at our church introduced me to the book What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston. Within that book lies the answer.

The main character, Nalvana thinks that everyone but her has a superpower. She has friends who run fast, build with super strength and dangle from monkey bars for hours.

Every day she watches her friends and wishes she could do what they do. She tells them how great they are.

Nalvana is feeling badly until her mother helps her to recognize her own superpower. It’s a power we all have, if we choose to see it.

Nalvana makes people feel good.

Book cover: What's My Superpower, by Aviaq Johnston

Social media hate/love: Catch you on the flip side

Sometimes I think: “I should dump all my social media accounts.”

I get irritated by people tweeting or posting about foods I should or shouldn’t eat. Sometimes one post telling me that I SHOULD eat a certain food is followed quickly by another telling me that I should NEVER eat the food. It’s irksome.

And people can be horrible. Hateful. Mean.

But I don’t dump my social media accounts.

All those contradictory food posts make me realize how much I trust my body to let me know what it needs.

And people can be so wonderful. Inspirational. Kind.

I decided to ask my circle of social media acquaintances for their thoughts. The results wouldn’t stand up to scientific method scrutiny, but they represent an overall picture of the situation. And that is:

For every bad, there is a flip side of good.

We don’t like:

  • HATE that is easy to spread, aided by anonymity. “I do not like how cruel and thoughtless people can be when not face to face,” one person said. “How quick to judge, and attack, how divisive some posts can be.”
  • FALSE NEWS and rumours
  • SHALLOW “LOOK AT ME” POSTS, sometimes mindless and trivial
  • ADS and blatant self-promotion
  • HOW IT ENCOURAGES US TO CONSTANTLY COMPARE OUR LIVES TO OTHERS
  • HOW IT WASTES OUR TIME

But then, we stick with it because all those things have a flip side. We like:

  • ALL THE LOVE AND CONNECTION, with friends, family, distant connections and people we wouldn’t connect with otherwise. “The other side of that the hate] is how kind strangers can be; how supportive and uplifting,” one friend said. Another added, “I’ve developed supportive friendships around the world and have met several of them.”
  • USEFUL INFORMATION, breaking news, information in emergencies, recommendations for services, event notifications, genuinely happy news from friends, and hobby groups.
  • PEARLS OF WISDOM AND INSPIRATION, intellectual stimulation
  • PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE, finding out about something we need
  • THE BOOST we get from others who share their creativity and positive experiences
  • ENTERTAINMENT “Oh and I love the cute animal videos,” a friend said. Don’t we all.

There are valid reasons to cut and run from social media. There are valid reasons to stay. I’ll stick it out, because I’m an optimist.

Catch you on the flip side.

* Exits whistling *

Words of wisdom: Parent-isms

When you think of your mother or father, what sayings come to mind?

For me, it’s my mother: “It’s a beautiful day. Get outside.”

I grew up on a farm, so outside for us meant playing games of hide-and-seek in and around the trees of the woodlot, swinging on homemade swings hung from the rafters of the barn, or skating on the frozen creek in winter. To this day, I can’t abide being indoors on a beautiful day, so my mother’s words served me well.

A person I follow on Twitter asked this question and got some interesting responses. My favourite: “If cows shit butter, you wouldn’t have to churn it.”

My mother would never have used those words, but she made the same point in other ways more times that I could count.

As parents we live day to day, tackling challenges as they come. We don’t realize there will be a through-line to our actions, that someday our children will attach an overall theme to how we tackled the parenthood job.

It made me wonder, how would my children answer that question, so I asked my daughter. I was hoping for, “Be kind,” or “Honour yourself and always be creative,” or “Don’t ever make yourself small to try please someone else.”

When I asked my daughter, she thought for a lo-o-o-ong time. “I don’t think you use sayings.”

“Oh, great. I’m boring,” I said.

“No, if anything it means that you really think before you say something,” she said.

I can live with that.

Woman in a chair contemplating a mountain view. A thought bubble says, "Think, think, think."

3 deep breaths

Stop what you’re doing.

Take three deep breaths.

Look around.

Now, in this moment, how many amazing things can you find to be grateful for?

Three deep breaths can’t solve the busy-ness of our lives or dissolve our problems. But taking time for three deep breaths can re-centre us and recharge us to get through it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leap Day: The gift of an extra day

Most years have 365 days, but leap years have an extra one.

I know that time is a human construct and all that, but when we have the gift of an extra day, we should take best advantage. This post is inspired by the poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. That poem ends with:

Tell me what else I should have done? | Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do | With your one wild and precious life?

The Extra Day

Where to be today? Who to spend it with? What makes my soul leap, like the day?

There is a place.

The one where I plug in to recharge, where each face is love reflected, where the synapses of my brain snap with new ideas, faster and deeper, where the rainbow falls on the tree of life.

Reassurance and growth.

Wisdom and compassion.

This is where people are SEEN, where peace is made, where we question how to live, where graces falls on us all.

This is where I dance “Like a Prayer,” I travel on pilgrimages, and where my head sizzles.

Here, children’s laughter ripples through the air. I thrill in their sparks of insight, and their truckloads of questions. Here is where I say, “I don’t know.”

In this place, people are fed, body and soul, smiles right the world, and friends embrace in tight hugs.

Spicy soup simmering, tart, sweet pies, pinkie squares.

Guitar strings strumming, harmonious voices, organ crescendos.

A silent night of candles and tears.

This is where I am.

A place of steadfast friendships, where good grows out of my mistakes.

Wisdom and compassion. Healing through hardship and celebration after the light returns.

Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Do you have a place like this? May you find it and spend this gifted extra day there.