“And the sun and the moon sometimes argue over who will tuck me in at night. If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet, you are absolutely correct.”
photo from Pinterest
This has been my third Christmas in Asheville and my second in this apartment. Having moved to a new city three years ago, I am still very intentional as I build friendships and create memories/traditions. These are the things that make a place to live into a home to cherish. There are some new annual ‘happenings’ that have begun to feel like traditions and then there are the traditions that have followed me throughout life. They are somehow connected making a bridge of life’s story. During these last three years my bridge has been well-traveled.
As I look at my home decorated with new and old, this year I have enjoyed taking time to remember. While opening boxes marked ‘Christmas’, I uncovered my childhood stocking. Mother made that stocking. She sewed stockings for each of us when we were young and seeing its simple design reminded me of our family traditions. Painted cookies on the tree, Christmas eve services late into the night, waking on Christmas morn to find the crèche complete with ‘baby Jesus’ lying in the manger, these are memories that created the foundation of my life. A foundation that has been tested throughout the years and remains trustworthy.
While laying this stocking under the tree, I am always taken back when I remember there are two. To my annual surprise my grandmother’s stocking is found lying underneath my own. These two stockings were tucked in a box of decorations given to me by Mom some years past. Another moment to stop – my grandmother, Grandmarney, as she was named – seeing her stocking always brings sweet memories. She was my ‘lap’ grandmother. Held close in her arms I can remember rocking and feeling happy. I always looked forward to getting out of my wheelchair and into her lap. Her home always smelled of apple fritters and fried chicken. These days there are not many houses that surround me with that smell. I am very grateful for that memory.
Hand made and filled with memories I placed both those stockings under my tree in my home. When the tree is lit and holding ornaments from then and now, I am once again that child. I am happy to taste the painted cookies, held close by my grandmother and bundle to go out in the cold air of Christmas Eve. Standing on the edge of a new year, these memories nudge me on, with gratitude for my past and curiosity for what lies ahead.
Was it a normal day? How would she ever remember? One minute she was sweeping the floor or brushing her hair and the next… Angels arrive. Maybe there was bright light, maybe her ears rang with music – certainly she felt her ground shift.
The angel knew her name and shared God’s greeting. She was blessed and God’s beloved. What did this mean? She was confused and could not understand why the angel stood before her. In turn she was comforted and told not to be afraid (something angels often need to do).
Mary was awakened in the middle of the day, when sleep was not a part of the schedule. Before her stood an angel, an archangel, proclaiming news too remarkable to fathom. Her eyes were open, yet what she saw and heard must have felt like a dream.
This ‘announcing’ visit filled her with a brilliant awareness. As quick as she was visited by this angel, she was once again, alone. She could only comprehend this news with the strength and courage one gets from acting on faith. She did not know the story’s end but was willing to be this important part of its beginning.
These “visits” are filled with the mystery of God’s movement. There is little logic, for we, like Mary, are asked to use our intuition – to step forward in faith.
Our practice is to find our true home. When we breathe, we breathe in such a way that we can find our true home. When we make a step, we make a step in such a way that we touch our true home with our feet. ((Thich Nhat Hanh)
with our heads held high and minds at work to navigate our way home. we are constantly seeking a place to belong – a place we can call ‘home’. during this life-long search, there is often little awareness of the ground beneath our feet. this is the ground that has been our home since the dawn of time.
Rumi (image: Bess Hamiti)
So many speak of feeling lost and alone. The world continues to threaten our sense of peace and safety as we search for ‘home’. The world’s threat is not truth. It may be fact but it is not truth.
We are created as beings, already known and connected to one another through a web woven by the sprint of love and care. There is no promise this journey called life will be easy — much of the path requires our own determination to place one foot in front of the other, following the light in our heart.
Be encouraged to know that others are walking their own path, one determined step at a time. Each by their own light, each finding their own way home.
I share this with you knowing that each reader will have their own image of taking these steps. Most often moving beyond our comfort zone fills us with anxiety and distress. The “place we have occupied for so long” is familiar and safe.
Yet these words are filled with an invitation – honest and comforting. The steps may not be easy but they lead to freedom and compassion. Our perspectives need to change in order to hear the gentle answers of our hard-earned questions.
Once again I give thanks for Bishop Stephen Charleston. His words are wise and rich with imagery. May these words offer safety and compassion as they call for change.
Come stand over here, just a step or two beyond the place you have occupied for so long, where you have worn the earth smooth with your pacing, where you have spent so many hours fighting the problem you cannot seem to solve. Take a break. Catch your breath. Come stand here, where you can catch a freshening breeze and see far into the valley below. Let the distant clouds carry your worry for a while, see how the sun empties the world of shadow. The answer you seek may be just a step beyond, a higher place where the view is clear of all obstructions.
I write as the sun is setting. More noted because the sun was visible today! We have had much rain and snow during these past few weeks. The blue sky is turning dark but not before it gives small rainbows to the clouds, revealing colors bright against the winter sky.
Saturday evening has always been a time of preparation. The Sunday schedule for a priest is packed with details often unexpected. Having those things you “think you can control” in place before Sunday morning can be crucial! Things such as locating copies of bulletins, having sermon complete and where it can be found, checking the hymns posted on the boards in the sanctuary. Like preparing for guests in our home, this is a time of preparation to greet the people who will enter the red doors on early Sabbath morning. Perhaps to help with balance or to feel in control, whatever the reason, that last walk-through the sanctuary often brought moments of gratitude and quiet peace.
My Saturday evenings are very different now. Retired, I often find myself a bit unsettled as this day’s sun begins to set. Old habits are hard to break especially when they are an important part of one’s spiritual journey. As life changes so does living and adapting to this change takes time. Finding a way to express one’s vocation as a retired priest, takes discipline and a sense of ‘being-in-place’. The weeks move ahead toward the date marking my first year in Asheville and these mountains. Roots have barely taken, yet my sense of place and home, is certainly more heartfelt.
As I settle into this home and community, I find myself longing for a sanctuary. The past holds my practice and foundation. Opportunities for creativity and growth are before me. Short on patience, I eagerly look to the future and gratefully rely on the past.
The prayer below is meant for the closing of the day. Within, it offers words of comfort and challenge for any time of transition. May it inspire each reader in your own spirit’s journey.(found at Sacred Space )
In God’s loving presence I unwind the past day,
starting from now and looking back,
moment by moment.
I gather in all the goodness and light,
I attend to the shadows and what they say to me,
seeking healing, courage, forgiveness.