See you in August!

Hey there friends,

I have the rare opportunity to go on a ROAD TRIP with my best friend this month – I’m disconnecting from everything but the absolute essentials until August.

Be present to the beauty and fun of summer.

I will be back the first week of August.

Con amor!

Cultivating Ambiente – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Twenty Second Post

Oh my, oh my, oh my.

Where to begin? With the little boy in the airport who was on the ground spinning in circles and screaming at the top of his lungs because he didn’t get what he wanted at McDonald’s? Or the two little guys in the movie theater last night watching Jurassic World – throwing popcorn AT ME and responding with a defiant “What?” after I leaned forward to make eye contact when one shouted “Damn!” in the middle of the movie. I think he was maybe three years old? Well, probably older than that, but not by much.

One of the advantages of flying in and out of countries and cultures is the ability to see more clearly subtle shifts in accepted behaviors. No one blinked an eye in the airport, people walked calmly past this little one as if throwing a fit has become so commonplace, it’s not worthy of out attention. Of course, most didn’t notice him because they were walking and navigating a phone screen, but that’s another issue not for today.  In the theater? The mom bought more candy and ignored it. Her child is shouting out inappropriate language in the midst of a public theater, and she does not respond.

Wow, just WOW.

And then this from the church bulletin on Sunday.

When we set about accounting for a Napoleon or a Shakespeare or a Raphael or a Wagner or an Edison or other extraordinary person, we understand that the measure of his talent will not explain the whole result, nor even the largest part of it; no, it is the atmosphere ( ambiente ) in which the talent was cradled that explains; it is the training it received while it grew…..the encouragement it gathered…..at each stage of its development: when we know all these details, then we know why the man ( or woman ) was ready when his ( or her ) opportunity came. Mark Twain ***parentheses mine

Ambiente lives and breathes – it is everywhere in a home, in a community, in the society at large. It is the sights and sounds and tastes and smells and touches of something more. It is elusive, it is Kingdom.

We are responsible for the cultivation of atmosphere – for the stacks of books that say read and learn, for the walks outside that say listen and pay attention, for the food served at our tables that says come and eat, for the aroma of rich coffee that says come and converse, for the hugs and eye contact that say you are known, you are the child of a King – stand up and be present, you were created for more than the floor of an airport or whatever thrill there is in flinging popcorn at a fifty year old woman.

What do your environments look like? Is your house clean and simple and filled with beauty?

What do you listen to all day?

What smells are simmering on your stove or baking in your ovens? Are the clothes in your house clean and fresh? Your sheets? Towels?

When was the last time you ate amazing food?

Are you sitting close to the ones you love? Holding their hands when you walk? Looking them in the eye? Kissing their cheeks?

I must say that in the end, while I believe that children must learn to take responsibility for their actions, I hold the adults, I hold myself, responsible. We cultivate ambiente and invite children to enter in and live life with us.

Okay.

Deep breath.

My apologies, this was perhaps a bit stronger than my typical writing.

Feel free to respond.

Con amor.

God at Play – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Twenty First Post

It’s Tuesday! I’m a bit late today – our daily rhythms are off – school’s finally out for my youngest. We’re staying up later, eating at odd times, baking cookies for dinner.

In cleaning and organizing last week, I came across these thoughts on play from the book A Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves.

God also plays. How exactly and where exactly he is playing all throughout the universe I cannot fully know. Perhaps G.K. Chesterton’s observation will be of some help: “A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.”

Yet, Chesterton suggests, God is different from those “grown up people”:

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible, that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old and our Father is younger than we.

This particular passage from this book merited a photo copy and a place in my files because I liked the way that it made me think about time and God and play and children and the act of creating daisies.

One of the invitations of summer is God at play – especially in the north – days stretch, trees expand, flowers go wild.

Soak it up.

Savor it.

Summer!

Con amor.

And so we begin again….. – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Twentieth Post

This little phrase – “and so we begin again” – always reminds me of Robert Benson, one of my favorite authors, and his deep wisdom.

It’s all one can do, yes? A new week, a new month, a new season, a new stage – we begin and begin and begin again.

Today we officially pass from spring to summer in this house – our college boys are off on their summer adventures, our youngest is taking his last high school finals – last early morning wake up call – last gathering of books and backpacks until August – and to all of this my heart says YES. I love summer.

When I’m standing in this transition space between one rhythm and another, I always follow a similar pattern. I share it with you here because I’ve been doing this for a long time and it has brought order, beauty and texture to my life.

First off? I clean. Oh how I clean. I clean the areas that aren’t touched on a weekly basis. We toss. We give things away. We scrub. We rearrange. We set the house to rights. I clean physical spaces which is a spiritual practice because my heart and soul always feel lighter when I’m done.

Second? I plan. I make a summer list and a “I’m not going to think about that until August list”, and then I don’t look at that second list until I get to August. I pass the majority of life to the next season so I can lighten the days and tempo of summer. I read book reviews and choose my summer reading. I gather together a few topics that I want to muse on over the summer and tuck them in my pocket.

Third? I get back at disciplines that fell away in life’s mayhem. Yesterday I went back to the pool and started swimming. I fell off a bike in May. Remember? My body needed some time to mend, but swimming is ballast for me and so I must do it regardless of what season I am in. Summer must also be gently framed with discipline. Ouch. It’s true. We need to be held, our children need gentle structures or summer doesn’t heal us.

So I clean and organize, I make plans, and I maintain a gentle order to my days.  So I can enjoy…..

Breakfast out with my parents.

A walk around the block on smooth sidewalks.

An afternoon at the swimming pool with iced tea and lemon.

A bike ride to the library.

A bike ride home from the library with my basket filled with books.

( I will have to be BRAVE to get back on a bike! )

An anniversary road trip with my husband.

A chance to help a friend choose paint colors and fabrics for her new house.

Blueberries.

Root beer floats.

Oh my! Here we go!!!

And then the rains come….. – Find Me Here Tuesdays – Nineteenth Post

Greetings.

Within a very short amount of time, the little jungle forest outside my windows has completely transformed. What was dry and dusty just a few weeks ago, is now filling in with more shades of green than I can count as I wash dishes and watch my hummingbirds. We were all quite weary from the polvo…..more than once I declared I was ready for the rain and now it is here.

It’s never a light switch, never a click of the mouse – the transitions of life are slow and gradual and in the end, despite knowing change was on the radar, the rains come. We find ourselves surprised by the beauty of the thunder, a baby boy now a man, a striking fellow college student now a husband enjoyed for decades.

As you know, I’ve been using this space to bring you my musings – in your comments you have been thinking and pondering as well. My month of May was a series of “change portraits” – making the jump from one half century to another, enjoying my sons as guests from faraway lands, stretching to bring weeks of thinking to my world of colleagues working on behalf of children and families.

And now the summer comes with all its many invitations, the pull of nature and seasons and time is relentless – always, always we begin again. We come around corners and find ourselves, we chase the little girl and bring her to our present.

Our dear St. Benedict wove three monastic vows into a rule of life for family and community. The first vow was a commitment to obedience and listening – cultivating a life with solid spiritual disciplines that created space for God to act and speak in our midst. The second vow was a commitment to stability – staying the course, being faithful to the promises we have made. And the third was a commitment to change – shaping a life that was open and soft to new seasons, funny bends in the road, corners we didn’t anticipate, rough edges to smooth.

And as usual, the musings aren’t completely formed, but the rough outline is there – a spiritual life listens, a spiritual life holds, and a spiritual life embraces change.

Send me an update and share your summer plans!

Con amor.