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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 26: What keeps the soul aloft.

Lisa quotes Flaubert in another one of those sayings that sounds grand and echoes the emptiness of man's efforts to the the 'end-all' of wisdom and spirit. "The principal thing in this world is to keep one's soul aloft.'  Sounds as though, by dint of one's own efforts, one could free oneself. Try as one may, I believe we are endowed, by the creator, with a spiritual nature that only the creator can enliven, and that only if we can 'stay out of the way.'  Perhaps we/I try too hard.

Be that as it may, let me respond to the prompt, what makes my spirit soar? Oh, so many things:

a pleased, confident, triumphant, joyful, and or meditative song
sunshine on a newly rainwashed world
fresh, growing greenery...from grass to tree
flowers, whether graceful or fanciful in form
their fragrance...this season,  breathing in the short-lived divinity of a profusion of slender and      unexpected acidanthera blossoms, new to my garden and vocabulary
any unexpected pleasure
granchildren's hug, smile, or spontaneous expession of emotion, art, movement , achievement, yes, even creativity, in response to the world
a gentle, kind word, look, or touch
patterns in nature
a unique invention
a good story
a wry joke
eye hugs
joys expressed
unstructured time
reading in peace
fresh air
satisfaction, that CLOSURE which, in my writing, seems to elude me
unhurried, uncritical time with children, family, dear friends, insightful conversants

My second grade teacher did well to instill appreciation for beauty, poetry, well-being. Miss Narvarud rehearsed "The world is so full of a number of things, it's a wonder that all of us shouldn't be kings" until it was ingrained in our hearts as we lined up near the classroom door to go to recess or home.  When I quoted the poem to our almost eight year old granddaughter, she exclaimed, "But we couldn't be kings, we're girls!"  LOL and changing times, attitudes.  She did, however, appreciate the sentiment when I explained it was just a convention, 'we' and 'kings' representing everybody, male and female.  That sort of little clarifying exchange makes my spirit soar. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 25:: What am I afraid of?

Lisa's pep talk today is about resolutely facing and working through, or despite, one's fears.  Her own words are a good prompt:

It’s ok to be scared. Terrified even.  What if this was a sign you were headed in the right direction.  
       Now that's a new thought.  Hmmm.  Given that nothing is really preventing or warning me otherwise, going ahead anyway might just help still my fears.  "You'll never know unless you try." Like jumping into the water at the beach or the pool.  Most of us do eventually learn to swim.
     Our eight year old granddaughter sets a fine example of confronting her fears, assigning herself, step by step, to overcome:...recently, being new at her school this year, going to sleep in a room by herself at grandparents' house.  I admire that purposefulness.  She and her mother, my marathon-running daughter, inspire me anew, to take the leap, to persist, to review, revise, finalize and offer my writing for publication as opposed to just obsessing over it,  inspire me   to follow through.  Which reflects a root of my procrastination, a fear of closure, of being done,  and/or of not being well done, of missing something.  Like that sentence...I really should be able to articulate that ' 
       The question remains: What AM I afraid of in regards to 'taking my writing to the next level'?  Is it as simple as fear of being interrupted, of having another thought intrude on another very good one which is begging to be written down?  Is it fear of criticism or disparagement, esp. by spouse?  Is it worry that I'm spending precious time on work that doesn't seem to be serving any 'useful' purpose when there are household and relationship tasks I 'should' be working on?  Maybe it's just fear of the dark, reluctance to 'put myself out there.'
     At any rate, I am working on the 'resolute' part of it.  Taking at least one small step a day, and chocolate, are good incentives to go farther...Assigning myself this 30 day journal writing challenge at least results in practice, habituating myself to discipline, lack of which I have spent far too much time lamenting and little enough time battling.

Monday, August 25, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 24: Surrender in two senses of the word.

Day 24's 'inspiration ' quotes Rilke on the rootedness that would occur should we 'surrender to earth's intelligence.'  Do we allow ourselves to be rooted in/harmonious with, nature, the physical world outside us, attend to the food and chemical balance inside us?  How many of our ills would not even occur, were we so in tune.
Then LIsa suggests thinking of the effects of surrendering, in the sense of giving up, something. and imagining the result.  Not the same story as para. one, but a good thought to think, nonetheless! If I gave up procrastination, that ought to be the key to getting places on time.  No excuse, you will say, but I lack the 'wiring' to plan and participate in periods of transition.  When I think of 'the next thing,' I visualize already being into whatever it is, rather than the simple concrete steps I need, or I need/need to request help with, to get there, almost as if I expect those steps to take care of themselves. If I 'gave up" lateness, (oops, stated as a desired result, though: learned to be prompt ) I would be more grounded in groups and the agenda of whatever was going on with them/it at a given time and place...conversations, movies, church service (where the confession of sins, for instance, a central practice in our worship, comes fairly near the beginning of the order of worship)...
So let me do, by the grace of God!

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 23:

Dazzle...what dazzles me?  Why am I, this day, not particularly interested in dazzle?  ' Recently read an admonition for those who just want a little break and not really to stay up: not to turn on too much light when getting up in the middle of the night, because it triggers an awakeness.  Razzle.dazzle?!

'Reminds me of Emily Dickenson's poem, "Tell all the truth."  (Is it about writing, or communication in general?  Literally or figuratively?)  It speaks for me as well as itself:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind. 

                   -Emily DIckenson

Dazzle enough for this wee hours writing break...It's back to bed for me now, have a great day!-

30 Day Journal Challenge, Days 21 and 22: Returning to the nitty gritty

For 'inspiration' Lisa today shares a message seen painted on a wall in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico:
     Ricuerda quien eres - Remember who you are.

Ooh, now this could mean to look at the positives or the negatives. Could one just be the yin of the other's yang?  Okay, now we're getting around to another view of 'root.'  What is/are the roots of my procrastination, tendency toward impulsiveness, frequent failures to recognize how I would, could, and 'should' come across to others--visually, aurally, and in print, and failures to follow through?

This question is parallel to today's prompt:  to name and let go of a limiting self-definition,  turn it around by asserting something I want to do and/or be. Teacher/mother/self, I seem to have been both endowed with and intentional about having a positive attitude.  Looking back over the years, however, I've noticed this attitude eroding in how I view myself and my abilities, self-doubts arising from complaints and criticisms of and by me gradually taking over.  

But having recognized a problem is the first step toward 'solving' it.  By the grace of God, time and space open up in a new way after retirement from a career of teaching and years of child-raising and family responsibilities.  On the one hand, there's never enough time.  The nitty gritty of daily tasks remain: self care, meals, dishes, laundry.  On the other hand, these can be moments of stillness and awareness where one has to/is allowed to take a step back and look at what's happened, what's happening.  Even the simple act of washing one's hands, or the dishes, can be calming times of meditation.

"State desired results," I admonish others in distress.  Renewed positive thinking, the desired result. "Every day is a new beginning," I tell my children and friends seeking a shoulder to lean on. I realize anew that the same is true for me.

My own process of renewal is inevitably energized by returning to the roots of my faith journey. Chronic lateness is pulled up short by the need to join worship in a community that meets at a certain time and place, a community that begins its weekly meeting with a joint confession of shortcomings by nature and by intention, along with an affirmation of the unwavering love and forgiveness of God.

What poetry, what truth, comfort, relief, actually, in uttering those familiar words in corporate admission to our common humanity:  "We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved You with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.  Amen.

...and the 'comfortable words' of the pastor's statement of God's forgiveness:  

Almighty God, in His mercy, has given His Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sins. As a called and ordained minister of the Church of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

My desire is to tap into that love and forgiveness, to receive, celebrate, anew, every day.  Familiar verses from scripture and a lifetime of hymn-singing rise up to reinforce me when desire or attention flag. Today:  "New every morning is Thy love, my waking and uprising prove." 

My prayer is that what I write will reflect that.  Strength and confidence in everyday terms.  Peace.

These thoughts seem inevitably tied to the prompt of the 22nd:  Stillness...  We need it.  
Scripture puts it in even stronger terms:  "In returning and rest ye shall be saved..."  Isaiah 30:16.
I wonder whether this speaks to the reader as it does to me.  Or is the meaning only clear when and for whom it is the right time. And/or willing.  Never mind the negatives, I am a beloved child of God.  And so are you.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Day 20: I'm glad that I am me.

"I'm glad that I am me, that's who I want to be;
though there are changes I must make,
I'm glad that I am me..." So goes verse one of a kindergarten social studies song, which goes on to say that acting like someone else is foolish.

Today's challenge, a greeting card verse by Lisa herself, is to "Enjoy your presence."
One of the prompts is to tell what I enjoy of my 'gifts.'
Still fussing over Lisa Sonora's 30-day journal exercise as being excessively self-serving, I remember that that was the point...getting at the root of what is freeing and creative; I suppose it makes sense that, if I am going to be rooted, the root needs to reside in and with me. I recall old Shakespeare's line, "To thine own self be true'  Thence it follows, sure as night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.*  "Physician heal thyself." The airlines' admonition to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.   And the 'gifts' idea, of course, is very Biblical, so I am familiar with that.

OK, Lisa, I'm 'in.' Vis: Health limitations notwithstanding (and I work on renewing that, too) I am:

Music, singing, speaking, reading aloud, reading poetry aloud esp., cooking, washing dishes, laundry, listening to someone who needs/craves an ear, speaking a word of peace, driving for clarification of meaning, writing, reading to/talking with little children, teaching little children to read and /or write/journal..."These are a few of my favorite things."  Oh, and did I say potatoes?  I eschew the 'faves' question, but I really like spuds.

In terms of freeing the creative spirit, the intention of this month of journal challenges, I do deal with it from time to time, have done for years, sometimes for a dedicated time and space, solo or with others,  most recently a study group of the book EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY, by Peter Scazzero.  A tour de force of spiritual practices, good for anybody, but requiring truth and 'grit' to do that kind of work.

*(LOL; to another man-term maxim I share with my seven year-old granddaughter today, she immediately responds, "But we're not men, we're girls." Gotta love it! How times have changed.  I explain to her about the archaic usage, where 'men' is used to refer to all humans.  She is nonplussed.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

30 Day Journal Challenge, Days 18-19 Sorry

Here we are on the 20th, working on the entry for the 19th...a not uncommon delay...but hey, I'm working on it!

A flash storm swept through town, suddenly all the appliances shut down, and writing time got swallowed up in the panic and drama (isn't that what sturm and drang means?) of getting the circuit boxes checked, flipped and flipped again until everything was back on, relieving anxious moments imagining what might have to be done with thawing food in the event that things did not work out.

But the frig was evidently the (or part of the) culprit.  It took more tries, and "Just one more try" by an ever helpful neighbor, to get it going.  So the fix is only temporary..we've been knowing for some time that the frig is singing its swan song (the freezer actually chirps when overloaded, and the light is irreparably defunct). So this is a wake-up call to get busy and look for a new frig again ('went through this last year and abandoned it for other pursuits when the chosen model didn't fit the space), this time concluding with a purchase that works for both senses of the term.

And then there will be bonding time with whoever is willing to accept wilted/wilting food when we empty this one out in anticipation of the new one.  Affirmation of neighborliness, frig re-started, determination to follow through on search for much needed replacement frig, reminder of need for plan B for food have been brought to mind, in all, not a bad record of results for one brief storm. Thank God for all!

Not that I'm a 'pollyanna' (one of my bff's is a real Polly), but I do believe good comes out of difficulty, if we can recognize it, and an attitude of gratitude beats dwelling on the struggle that eventually led to the good.  It may come later and in a way we don't even recognize; may God give us the grace of retrospective recognition.  'Ah, that's why that happened,' or 'If that would not have happened we may never have _____________." You fill in the blank.

All of which in a way addresses yesterday's prompt and 'inspiration' nicely, vis:

Day 18's  Inspiration:
Storms make trees take deeper roots. - Dolly Parton ,,,
The 18th's Journal Prompts: (do one, some, all, or none, as you wish)
The storm that made me stronger was…
          I learned that…
               The gift I possess as a result is…

Admittedly, my example is simplistic compared to the nitty gritty introspection Lisa may be prompting.  But it addresses the basic attitude, which is to expect good things.  Examine things for the good.  Adknowledge them when they happen.  And be thankful. As an evangelist named Oral Roberts was fond of saying, "Expect a miracle."  And (was it?) one of the many co-queens in "The King and I" sings, "A Hundred Thousand Miracles are happening every day."  Where will I, where will you, find ours today??