I walked by round bales of hay yesterday at the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. And of course I thought of you.
Round bales of hay at Denver Botanic Gardens — Chatfield on July 1, 2015.
I recalled the phone calls you would make each fall. You LOVED when the hay was cut and baled on the rolling hills of your Tennessee property.
“I just think it is all so lovely,” you exclaimed.
I didn’t take notice of this kind of beauty back then.
Now I do.
Your absence has taught me to
I am slowly learning that there are gifts in winter. This has required me to live a mentored life, receiving all that my mentors have to offer me as I experience what I call earlier a “figurative winter.” This is a time when loss, sorrow or suffering is experienced in a rather intense fashion. I hate that life involves this. But it does. These figurative winters are often very harsh. Oh who I am kidding! They are not OFTEN harsh. They ARE harsh. And yet, if we have the character to get out into the winter and not avoid it, we can find a gift.
While at first we may only see the frozen layer of sorrow, something lurks there that is beautiful. The beauty may be underneath, it may be to the left or right. The beauty may be above, but it is there. “Open my eyes Lord, I need to see the beauty in the midst of this horrendous winter.”
I have been fortunate to have key people who have helped me see beauty in my figurative winters. I wish I could talk about all of them. But here I want to highlight two in particular: Parker Palmer and Dan Steiner. While I’ve never had a chance to meet Parker Palmer, I have read every one of his books. But I have met Dan. I wish all my readers could meet this remarkable man. He is one of my students at Denver Seminary. And, I suspect he will be a life-long friend.
Both Parker and Dan don’t know this, but they mentor me. Parker mentors me as I read his books and Dan mentors me as I gaze at his photography (and listen to his brilliant ideas in my office). As the mentee, I intentionally engage each of these men as a mentor.
I have received permission both from Parker Palmer and from Dan Steiner to share with you their art here on my blog, art in word and art in images. As you read here,
There are certain days one must make time for tea. But since not all like tea, I should relent from my strong opinion! But I bet everyone reading would agree that there are certain days that one must make time for a friend. Just a few weeks back, I made time for my friend P and she made time for me. All we had was tea. We ate no cookies or cake. We simply sipped tea. It was a rich time. She brought out her glass tea pot and the jasmine bloom tea. She placed this tightly packed bulb into the pot, soaking it in the hot water. And then, tada!! It ended up looking like this. Gah! I had never seen anything like it. It delighted P that it delighted me.
Prior to our tea time, the text message went something like this:
Coaxing a beautiful bulb towards it’s beauty is what I will call, from here on out, Amaryllis Soul Care. Call me silly. Call me quirky. I don’t care. But when you are moving through a period of pain and suffering or a season of waiting and watching, when you are dealing with a time of barrenness and nothingness, one needs to take care of her soul. And in these past seven weeks I have been in such a place. So I decided to help bring this beauty to life…….
….and in doing so I have been cared for…..
…and as a result, I have been able to pour into the life of a friend whom I love, who needed me more than ever.
So as I sat alongside her,
My mother still knows the meaning of the words she hears. This is true even in the mid to late stage 5 of her Alzheimer’s journey. Thus, on a certain Sunday morning, she was gripped by the words she heard. A song she had never listened to prior to this particular morning.
Here is a very short entry from my journal I’d like to share with you.
The culture in the West has messed with some beautiful words: extraordinary, spectacular, miracles, awesome. This list could go on. Some think we should stop using these words. Apparently they are so overused that they are no longer useful. For example, we shouldn’t use the word spectacular unless we can describe the elements that make it so. We shouldn’t say something is “awesome” and stop. We should go on and describe the actual qualities that makes it so awesome.
Part of me disagrees with this all this. It appears far too cynical for my “joyful bent.” And yet, I do love words. And words convey meaning. And if we throw words around, we can lose so much.
Faithful is another one of those words. “God is so faithful.” I hear this A LOT. Or anger about the lack thereof. “Where is God when you need him? I’m losing my home due to years of unemployment!”
Faithful, faithfully. These words are drowning in a puddle of overuse.
You see signs of God not abandoning the world in Jean Vanier’s L’Arche movement.
You see signs of God not abandoning the world in the catholic worker.
You see signs of God not abandoning the world in Martin Luther King.
You see signs of God not abandoning the world in the everyday work of Christians which are not in any way calling attention to themselves, in the family who cares for the child who will never be a success…in the people who think they have all the time in the world to teach children who have trouble learning how to read.
Our world is filled with God’s presence through people who do the small things, the neighborly things that help us discover what God’s peace looks like.
Excerpt from video: What is a “Christian?” Stanley Hauerwas reluctantly defines Christianity and talks about the signs of a baptized life and identity. – TheWorkOfThePeople.Com
There is a lot we can learn about mentoring from observing the dormant wood on a clematis vine. Mentors grow weary. Yes, I am afraid it is true. So do teachers, pastors, CEOs and parents. There are days when we all find ourselves on the verge of losing heart. Coming alongside the people God gives is a call to be a servant. And last time I heard, being a servant is hard work. That is why I am drawn to my backyard garden. It is there I often discover rich metaphors that help me better navigate the call to love and serve others so that they and I might become more fully human.*
One of my clematis vines grows a community of beautiful purple flowers in June. The vine itself is over six years old. At the end of each season many gardeners cut their clematis vine to the ground, which for some varieties is a mistake. It took many years of my studying this particular vine to know about its way. For the first two years I cut it to the ground at the end of each summer. For certain, new shoots would emerge from the soil the following spring, but the growth was not cumulative nor was it prolific.
This is me and that vine after I learned to NOT cut it to the ground. This was in 2007, the year my sister died from cancer/suicide. This plant reminded me that I can still hope in the midst of grief and death.
Yet, this particular clematis is of a variety that requires that the gardener allow the vine to go dormant and the old wood to cling to the fence over the winter months. Come spring, when the weather warms, new growth will emerge from the dormant wood of last year’s vine. Through trial and error, I learned that my vine preferred to be left intact; desired that its old wood be understood and experienced for its life. So I stopped cutting it back. I allowed the vine to be as it wanted over the winter months. And in the spring it brought forth branches and blooms in ways I would have never imagined.
My most treasured verse in scripture comes from the book of