(St. Philips Church, Barbados) (it's the only picture I could find. I know it is small!)
So, the other day, I was sitting in my office, working on a huge filing project. (o.k., so I haven't filed a thing in 18 months, what's the big deal, right?) and my phone rings.
It's the new activity director at the nursing home facility where we do a protestant communion service once a month. We don't have congregational ties to this place, but this service has evolved over time. Any way. The AD, whom I have never met, said that he had a resident that was asking to speak to a Priest, whoops, a Reverend, and could I visit her. Her name is Gertrude. Sure, I said. Could I come this afternoon? (Note: it was already "this afternoon") Of course, I said. I will be over in about 30 minutes. But I don't look much like a reverend today, I mention. (I am in hiking capris shorts and a silk funky tunic) He laughs. Doesn't matter, he says, and hangs up.
Dude, I think to myself, could ya give me any more information? I am wondering, is Gertrude dying? Is she expecting like, a Catholic Priest to do last rites? Is she agitated? Obviously, I am not going to find out until I get there. So, I dig around on the shelves and locate my tiny bible, pop it into my purse, and drive over to the nursing home, praying for awareness and presence and for Gertrude. When I arrive, I am directed to the memory care unit. When I pass through several locked doors, I am directed to a little living area, where several elders are sitting around a table, "watercoloring"--entailing a cup of watered down paint, and a coloring book page of flowers. Gertrude is sitting quietly, painting her hibiscus flowers a pepto-bismol shade of magenta.
"Ms. Gertrude?" She looks up at me. "I am Pastor Karla. I am the reverend. I am here to visit you." "You are the reverend?" She smiles. "oh, how nice!" "Gertrude, someone told me you wanted to have a visit with a pastor. Would you like to visit for a while with me?" Gertrude is focused on her painting. "No," she says, "I don't think so."
So, I watch her for an eternity of seconds. Then I try to make some small talk. Not much luck. I try to get some information out of the staff person at the table, but she isn't very communicative. Obviously, since this is the memory care wing, I don't really expect Gertrude to remember that she was wanting a "reverend" but don't you think the staff might give me a clue? "Gertrude, would you like me to come back another time?" "No!" "Well, I am going to pull up a chair here and watch you paint" "That would be nice."
I ask her some questions and through the course of this, she tells me her church is St. Philip's parish in Barbados, and she proceeds to list all of the parishes of Barbados (11 in all) and repeats them several times. Then she starts to sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" and I sing with her. We sing it three times. She sang another hymn, but I didn't know it.
It is time for me to go, so I ask her if we can pray together. I ask her if I can hold her hands. She reaches out to me. So I hold Gertrude's hands and I pray for her, knowing nothing, but knowing that the Spirit knows it all. I finish, and say, do you want to say the Lord's Prayer together? She nods, but then instead of praying the Lord's Prayer, she begins to pray for me. In her dulcet west indian accent, she prays for blessings on my ministry, my soul, my family, my congregation. The words, you could tell, were called forth from deep within, words she had prayed over and over for her other pastors, for her children, for her friends, phrases that were familiar, in a candence of prayer that only a long time fervent prayer would have.
My heart caught. It broke open. I soaked in the balm of prayer in every pore of my skin and bones and muscles. Breathing in, and out...listening to her repeated phrases over and over and over. And then she said Amen, and so did I. Amen.
Instead of being the pastoral vistor, I was visited. By an angel named Gertrude.
Over at RVGP, Songbird writes: It's Friday afternoon, Eastern Time, and this is your faithful Songbird with a calendar-related Friday Five. Due to some confusion with our dates, I'm stepping in today, although I am usually here only on the 5th Friday, when there is such a thing.
Here are five things to ponder about dates. I hope you'll play! I would be delighted to play!
1) Datebooks--how do you keep track of your appointments? Electronically? On paper? Month at a glance? Week at a glance? I used to have a blackberry, but now I use an IPhone, and keeping my calendar has never ever been so fun! 2) When was the last time you forgot an important date? Hmmm. I can't remember! it seems that I forget, forget, forget...and then in the nick of time, I remember.
3) When was the last time you went OUT on a date? One week ago my beloved and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite spots....it was great!
4) Name one accessory or item of clothing you love even though it is dated. I have these beautiful droopy dangly angel earrings with beautiful blue crystals on them that I received for a gift about 15 years ago when the angel motif was taking off everywhere. I still love those earrings...but I am not sure angels can be out of date, can they??
5) Dates--the fruit--can't live with 'em? Or can't live without 'em? I love dates when they are in cookies.
wow. has it already been a week? but I am not ready! there is so much more organizing to be done, naps to be taken, books to be read, and some more organizing after all of that. it will happen (maybe not those naps...)
it has been good to be away at home. it has been productive in a nesting way...in a thoughtful way... alone with thoughts...focusing on awareness and still mind, a practise that will give me some powerful tools for what is looking to be an almost unmanageable fall line-up. breathe. be still.
I learn to be free and not afraid to go deep... I learn respect.... I learn that the best creative time comes when I settle in, ask questions, wonder, and appreciate the process even more than the product.... I learn that my work is my work, and that in itself, is pretty cool. I learn about me... and about the One who created me... I learn about my connection to the One... and I am grateful. amen.
so...today I did just whatever the heck I wanted. no schedule, no anything. I walked the dogs for a lovely long walk on the river...and prayed to just be aware...of the trees waving, the butterflies in the wild flowers, the dogs taking their time to leave doggie post cards on whatever bush, tree, post, fence they wanted...I breathed in and breathed out and so grateful to be alive. and intentional about loving the moment.
then I exercised. damn. why don't I do that more? I really love it.
and then hung out in my studio....carving tiles, checking out what I did before....here is a pic of my studio in the cellar.
it is good space. I am lucky to have it. I spent 4 glorious hours there today. here are a couple of the tiles I made. I am new to tiles, so I am not sure how they will turn out, but basically it is clay rolled out, cut, and then I painted teal blue slip on it, and then carved away the images. Then they will be bisqued, and then I will add a glaze to them. Don't know how much of the images will be preserved, but I can't wait to see!
So this week we were going to go to Durango to enjoy a week in the west. Unfortunately, the trip got postponed because of other events earlier this summer, and it felt like too much to leave for another week.
I decided to take the week off, anyway, with visions of laying around and reading and napping and watching movies in the afternoon...
Yeah. Right. The first mistake made was to decide to move our office to the attic space. In the current office, we have two giant bookcases, that hold my library of theology, religion, ceramics books along with random favorites that I can't just part with--like Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, Edith Wharton, and wicca memorabilia. These shelves are also full of CD's, paper craft and beading supplies, yarn, my yoga strap, and photo albums.
Guess what? Giant bookcases won't manuever the tight corners and stairs of our 100 year old house. Can't take them apart, because they are from IKEA, and I put them together, and well...enough said.
So, yesterday, after getting the oil changed on the car, I went to Target (is that a step up or down from IKEA?) to buy one new book case. It took me ALL AFTERNOON to put it together, because of course, I kept putting it together backwards. Then, I would have to undo it, so I could do it right. Oh, and yeah, I had to carry it piece by piece up to the attic since, well, the box wouldn't manuever the tight corners and stairs of our 100 year old house.
Did I mention, also, that I have a mysterious case of poison ivy not only covering the inside of my arm, but my nose, and in my hair on the back of the head? And, I have one more SICK doggie?
Today, I have to go back to Target to get another bookcase, in spite of trying to downsize (please, people, I can't let go of Dorothy Parker or that college textbook that used to belong to Phyllis Trible (who inscribed her name and date on the inside cover)about women and mythmaking just because....I can't.) That is after I go to the doctor who will hopefully give me a shot and after I take the doggy to the vet, where hopefully SHE will get a shot.
But, hey, it is only ten o clock....I can squeeze in 30 minutes to finish that novel I started yesterday, right?
I love stay-cation!!! (even if there is more stay than -cation in it!)
I haven't done a Friday Five in forever, but here it goes! Over at Rev Gals, Presbyterian Gal writes this Friday Five:It’s August. An oppressively hot and humid month where many of us live.
I remember the Al Pacino movie though not much about the plot. Just that it was very, very hot. And he had giant sweat stains on his shirt.
As I pass through this year’s dog days in my felon ridden neighborhood (OK, just two housefuls. But isn’t that enough?), I am trying to focus on the blessings apparent around me, past and present, that I might not notice, necessarily. In that spirit, this week’s Friday Five goes thusly:
1. What is your sweetest summer memory from childhood? Did it involve watermelon or hand cranked ice cream? Or perhaps a teen summer romance. Which stands out for you? My earliest memory is when I was in pre-school and my sister and I would play in my grandmother's giant garden. We would steal the sweet raspberries off the bushes and just marvel at their delectable taste. Fresh air, good earth, make believe play, and sun-kissed berries...ahhhhhhh
2. Describe your all time favorite piece of summer clothing. The one thing you could put on in the summer that would seem to insure a cooler, more excellent day. My flip flops. Hand's down. 3. What summer food fills your mouth with delight and whose flavor stays happily with you long after eaten? Cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden. mmmmmm.
4. Tell us about the summer vacation or holiday that holds your dearest memory. When I was about 8, my family took a road trip from North Dakota to the Oregon coast where we had a family reunion with my new step-cousins, aunts, uncles. We rented a big house...and I remember seeing the ocean for the first time. And, playing in the waves for hours, and being terrified of rip-tides all at once. My other thought is moving to Florida right out of college to be a youth pastor. A very elderly woman in the congregation took me to the beach club where she donned her bathing cap and took me swimming into the Atlantic Ocean on a very hot August day. It was endearing. Oh, Oh, Oh, but also, I am remembering three amazing sailing trips with other young adults in my congregation to the Bahamas and the Keys. Living on a sailboat for 10 days at a time...what FUN!
5. Have you had any experience(s) this summer that has drawn you closer to God or perhaps shown you His wonder in a new way? My spouse's mother died unexpectedly two weeks ago. So many people have crawled out of the wordwork to send cards and gifts of love and beauty. I am so touched by the love of community in times of grief. It is complete and total grace. The other experience is the call of a morning dove outside my office window in the quiet of Sunday mornings. It is such an exquisite song that it breaks my heart open....every day I hear her.
Bonus question: When it is really hot, humid and uncomfortable, what do you do to refresh and renew body and spirit? Well, sitting on the deck with a really, really cold beer is nice. Or...heading to the movie theatre....