What I Didn't Know About My Mom

Book Cover of My Mom's Memories - From Booties to BootsMy two sisters, Pam and Julie and I gathered over Labor Day weekend to go through all of our Mom's worldly possessions (she died in January, 2012 at the age of 76).  My dad wanted her belongings used - either by us or someone else through donations. The closets, dressers, cupboards and bookshelves were filled with the stuff of life that she loved and used over the years.  It's been touching to find pieces of jewelry she wore in the 70's, favorite recipes flagged in her dozens of cookbooks, the linens she used for entertaining and dinner parties, and her collections of angels, bunnies, and travel souvenirs.  

But even more momentous than these familiar items, is what we're learning about her that we never knew - that even our Dad never knew! We found a box full of coins that she collected which my dad had never seen.  We found out that she had thought about being a physical therapist, especially for children - a dream she never pursued while raising her own four children while her husband traveled for work.  We found books on writing and becoming published.  Our mom wrote her own cookbook in the last decade of her life and she loved to write poems for Christmas cards and scrapbooks, but I didn't know she wanted to go into Creative Writing in high school, and that as an adult, she wanted to be published. We found a notebook full of journal-entries written at the end of December as a summary of what had happened over the previous year.  These summaries included travel, time with family, holiday celebrations, her children's milestones, and "purchases for the home."

In addition to these journal entries, her writing was the most treasured gift she left us for  we found a book she wrote after graduating from high school that told her life story in 12 chapters complete with pictures we had never seen.  It's called, "Booties to Boots" (since she was 2 years old, her nickname was "Boots" - a name given to her by her dad whose big galoshes she loved to wear when he came home from work). The pages are type-written and taped to large sheets of black construction paper.  We found out that she spent the first 3 weeks of her life in the hospital, that she and her brother received live bunnies for Easter one year (thus explaining her figurine bunny collection which I never quite understood!); we discovered that she was a cheerleader in middle-school and she and her friends called themselves "The 7 Dwarfs". We saw pictures of all 8 houses she lived in while growing up and moving with her dad's job. During her high school years, she had a group of 17 friends and we saw a picture of her on a double date with Dad and another couple who are still married!  Mom wrote a whole chapter on "My God and Me" which described in detail, her experience of being Confirmed at the Bethany Lutheran Church in Lakefield, MN. This deeply spiritual side of my Mom is something I perceived and glimpsed at times, but it was not something she easily talked about.  Her spirituality came through in her books, in her jewelry (crosses and angels), her many years as an active volunteer, the sacred way she wrote about relationships and church activities, and her fierce loyalty to many friends across the country who spanned every stage of her lifetime. 

I'm grateful that we waited this long to go through her things.  Because we were not  racked by immediate grief, or under time-pressure to get it done for an impending move, we could take our time, savor memories, laugh and cry. I am left feeling more awed than ever at what a remarkable, faithful, amazing, smart and generous woman my Mom was and still is to me. The melancholy I feel over the parts of her I didn't know well, is balanced by gratitude for the chance to know her more fully and more deeply than I ever have before. She is still influencing me, shaping me and helping me grow up in how she reveals herself in what she left behind. I am closer to her than I ever have been and she continues to love generously and fiercely. St. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians make more and more sense; of course love never ends.



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The River

Photo of a Wide River with a TreeThis will be my last post from the reflective, spiritual writing workshop I went to this year (see Well-come and A Conversation with Myself). The second day of the workshop, we focused on the water image of a river. The river evokes many nuances and directions: the image of movement and journey, many streams feeding into a river, the varied ways rivers flow due to rocks and plant life, different speeds like rapids or gently moving. In addition, all rivers flow toward unity with the ocean - another lovely image for God. We were given a list of sentences as prompts. I have been struggling with chronic migraines for a year, so I adpated one of their prompts to form this question, "Where is the current of migraines taking me?" What follows is my response to this reflective prompt: 

When I resist migraines with a mighty effort, the pain worsens, the process lengthens. The body wants relief, rest, release – to flow with ease down the River of God rather than being assaulted by every stone, tree, log, or boulder. Can I just float past these obstacles and distractions? Can I acknowledge they exist, but feel no need to pick them, take them into my raft, my heart and soul? I am not the Source; all belongs to the River. I am a drop with an over-blown sense of responsibility for what does not belong to me. "Give back what belongs to me," the River beckons, "and float along your merry way." I am no one else's life raft. When I get caught on someone else's snag, I might miss what is in store for me – joyful rapids, swirling fun, splashing play, and oneness with the great ocean of God. I keep my hands and mind to myself, tending to my own raft, embracing God's river dance for me.

 Photo taken on my phone.

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At the reflective writing workshop I attended this past spring, Joyce Rupp and Mary Kay Shanley used the metaphor of water to invite us into reflective exercises designed to help us access our inner wisdom - insights that are not readily available to our conscious mind in the course of our daily busy-ness.  For Christians water is a sacramental image that evokes divine presence at creation, at the parting of the Red Sea, and at Baptism; water speaks to us of cleansing, rebirth, liberation and daily sustenance.  

The first day, we used the image of a well - of digging deeply and pulling up nourishment for life.  A participant who grew up on a farm with a well as their water source pointed out that sand and sendiment can seep into the well creating the need for it to be cleaned out and filtered. We also spoke of the water table deep within the earth - that if we dig deeply enough, we access that water table whcih is the source of all wells - a wonderful image for God. Here is one piece that came from this reflective writing exercise:

My true self has been dehydrated and buried under the sediment of expectations, needs, fears and admonishments of others. Be yourself, but not that much. Turn it down. I am tired of the energy exerted to squash the feelings, wisdom, inspiration, innovation, intelligence and fun of my true self. I dive deep into the well of my soul where Divine energy washes over me and sweeps away the detritus of death that would bury me alive; the never-ending search for acceptance and approval from my mom to motherchurch. I touch the depth of my best and highest good from the very essence of God who swirled me into being. I am here and I am not going away! The Divine says, "yes!" to a world full of "no's". Yes to the me-ness of me. I soak in the courage to accept God's acceptance of me. Floating in the fullness of presence, I drink from God's water table where I am always welcome.



Well? Come!

Well-come – all is well, come!

The well is full – come!

Come well – come whole!

Come as yourself!




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A Conversation with Myself

I attended a Spiritual Writing Workshop last April with Joyce Rupp and Mary Kay Shanley. Our last assignment was to have a written conversation with our inner self as a tool for accessing our own wisdom. Having suffered from chronic migraines for a year, I chose this issue as my topic for this exercise:

Dear Migraines:

I am so tired of you! I'm trying to do the right things so you can feel good, but you never do! I've said I'm sorry, I've thanked you, and I've sent love to you. I walk outside, breathe fresh air, have cleaned up my diet from dairy and sugar, I exercise, I sleep a lot, I give you ice, meds, and meditations – What do you want and need from me? What's so hard about having a pain-free day?

It's the pursuit of control over all of this that you must let go.

But it seems that routine, schedule, daily habits are supposed to be good and helpful.

It's the control over outcomes you wish to exert over your body that's the problem, not the habits themselves.

So I'm supposed to care of myself without the expectation or goal that I will feel good and healthy? That doesn't even make sense. That's why I do them.

Yes, but it's the tit-for-tat, the immediate response, the iron-grip on your daily life and habits that doesn't' work. It's an organic process; you get mad at yourself if you don't get the results you want from whatever you do – all that does is put more stress on your system rather than release stress.

I don't like accepting limitations; I was raised to produce to outcomes by controlling my actions.

Yes, but life is really the opposite. Accept how you feel, accept what you can do today rather than what you think you should do. Start with acceptance and love of what is, without an agenda or a "have to".
Why is this so hard for me?

Because it's the opposite of what our culture promotes and it's not the path of perfectionism. All these exercise programs say, "don't quit, don't give up on yourself, push harder" but every time you blow past your own body's wisdom, limits, and what's possible for today, you "give up on yourself" – your true self.

So you're saying I need to listen inward rather than outward?

Yes! It's easier to be healthy and pain free when you don't have an adversarial role or a conquering attitude toward your body.


Photo Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_pandawild'>pandawild / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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The church does not have a mission in the world, God's mission has a church in the world.