Advent 16: Companionship

Last summer’s wren nest from the behind the light switch in the shop. Even claustrophobic people love the cozy symbolism of a nest.

Today, as we Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, a song and a poem to sustain us on this walk through Day Sixteen toward Advent. Thank you for walking with me. Only five more days until Sunreturn, Beloveds. We are going to make it.

When I compare this year’s more deliberate and careful wander into the dark of December with last year’s panicked careen, I am filled with gratitude. I know I tried last year, but I had decided that I was going to try a keto-based way of eating last fall, and my deliberations were focused on that, and less inward. It was only when I reached the growing light of late January that I realized how deeply I had sunk into winter’s numbness. Last year, I probably should have checked in with a therapist to keep me coping. This year, I am watching and ready to make that call, in case I feel myself sinking into the pool of sadness. If the season weighs too heavily, or the cold seeps into your spirit, I encourage you to be ready, too, to check in with a professional.

Funny, isn’t it? Usually, we look for the light at the end of a tunnel, meaning we’ll be out and into the fresh air, but while this journey into the well of December may bring us to a lighted chamber, we have to turn and walk out again the same distance before we get back out of the tunnel. Still, that moment of coming to center and pausing, then the turning, and setting our faces toward the return journey into the light–oh, how I long for that moment. That will be so joyful. Five more days.

Here is a video of Brian Claflin and Ellie Grace singing “I’m Gonna Walk It With You.” Whether our journey is the descent into winter’s darkness, or the determined march toward justice, I am glad of your companionship. You can support Claflin and Grace by buying their music at

I wrote this poem a few years ago, but it feels like it fits this moment, my deep gratitude for your companionship on this journey.

Stepping Toward the Solstice

We stand in the shadows.
Hold my hand.
The darkness suffocates.
Look this way,
to where the sun shines briefly
through a curtain of ice.
This. This one moment
will sustain us for the next steps.

Gratitude List:
1. I made an enormous dent in my Impossible Mountain last night. Part of my relief today is the amount of work I accomplished, but a greater part of the relief is the feeling of that dam being unclogged. Still so much to do, but I have returned to the truth that Will builds Will. An act of will creates the possibility for more acts of will. As long as I keep that energy, I should make it.
2. Great gratitude to Nancy, for listening and sharing the story. I think I needed an accountability partner, and I used our conversation yesterday as the slingshot to get me around the hardest bits of the Impossible Task.
3. A new warm thing. I stopped at Goodwill and bought myself a new warm fleece jacket-thing. It’s for wearing around the house at home, and it’s cozy, and it’s a wild cat print, so it makes me feel a little fierce. Is that a middle-aged woman thing, to want to wear wildcat print? Or maybe it’s just a Leo thing. I know that some consider it a tacky thing, too, but I’m not fussed about that. It’s warm and it’s fierce, and so Merry Christmas to me.
4. The sacred moments within the mundane.
5. The anticipation of a snow day, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s going to pan out.

May we walk in Beauty!

On the Nest

It’s not the clearest photo or the best composition, but you get the idea. Mama is on a nest. Stay away, coyotes and foxes and raccoons. May she and her nest be safe.

Some quotations for your day:
“When you teach your daughter, explicitly or by passive rejection, that she must ignore her outrage, that she must be kind and accepting to the point of not defending herself or other people, that she must not rock the boat for any reason, you are not strengthening her prosocial sense; you are damaging it—and the first person she will stop protecting is herself.” —Martha Stout
“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
―Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
―Isaac Asimov
“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” ―Henri J.M. Nouwen
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
―Adrienne Rich
“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” ―Natalie Goldberg
“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
“That story you writin’ just might save the world. That poem you throwin’ down, could end wars.” ―York Poet and Shining Woman Christine Lincoln
saw me and said,
I showed up,
Wipe your tears
and be silent.

I said, O Love
I am frightened,
But it’s not you.

Love said to me,
there is nothing that is not me,
be silent.
“Be here. Let your wild self fly free.” ―The Crows

Hummingbird in Rumi’s Field

Female Rubythroat

My personal spiritual narrative has universalism as a fairly central theme.  One of the tensions I try to keep in balance within me is that of seeing the broad picture while also aligning myself with the church of my childhood and youth, the Mennonites.  Even as my own sights have taken me into far fields, something always holds my identity firmly in the soil of Anabaptism.  Separating it all out into Either or Or has always felt limiting and counter-intuitive to me.  Especially as I have grown to claim my spiritual story as my own, I have found that I don’t want to spend time saying, “I’m this, but not this, or this, or this.”  Instead, what feels right and best to me is to say, “I am this, and also this, and this, and this.”  So when my Mennonites are in a time of crisis, I can no longer say, “But I don’t really care, because I don’t really belong there anymore.”  Because I do.  These are my particular people.

Today, the word came out that the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, a large and historic group that belongs to the Mennonite Church USA demoniation, is considering pulling out of the larger denomination.  We have a history of such divisions, but this one is big, and it affects a lot of people I love.  My own church is not part of this particular conference, so it does not directly affect me.  If I am honest, this impending church divorce between Lancaster Conference and MC USA pains me more than I let on.  If I don’t touch that painful place, then it just boils out as glib snark.  When it was just me sitting on the fringes, I could pretend not to care.  Now, though: Now I have stepped onto a web that includes so many tender young people.  Now I love so many of the teenagers who stand to become the most lost in the wake of this divorce.  Just this week, at Mennonite World Conference (where many denominations of Mennonites from around the world gather together every six years), Remilyn Mondez of the Philippines spoke of growing up in a church in conflict: “Remember, there are children and young people who are trapped in the midst of church conflict,” she said.

Today, as I was outside with my Chromebook, writing with a friend about some of my worries, especially for the youth, the hummingbird reappeared.  This time, she moved from the corner of the building, right to me, at eye level, only a foot or so away.  If you listen to such things, hummingbirds are messengers who travel between worlds.  I choose to believe that this one had a message of comfort and hope, and also a task–to commit to the work of caring for these who may be caught in the middle of the mess.

Before I read the letter that announces the proposed “divorce,” I had spent some time with Parker Palmer’s reflections on Rumi’s poem:

“Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down
in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language
– even the phrase “each other” –
do not make any sense.”

I see us out there, with Hummingbird, in that field, keeping our heart-eyes on the fragile ones and the young ones, opening our ears and our palms to listen, to lie down in the grass where “ideas, language–even the phrase ‘each other’–do not make any sense.”

Gratitude List:
1. Rumi’s field
2. The nest Josiah made in his room by spreading blankets and pillows over the floor–Fredthecat approves.  He has found a new favorite napping spot.
3. Hummingbird
4. Molly Kraybill’s 100 Women photography project.  From 1 to 100.  I began at 100 and worked my way back through the spiraling decades to 1.  Then I went back again to 100.  All those faces.  All those changes.
5. Tonight. We’re going back for the final Mennonite World Conference service tonight.  More singing.  More thoughtful words.  More time with these thousands of loving and messy Mennonites.  More holding one foot in the center and another on the fringe.

May we walk in the fields.


I cast a line from me to you,
to you, to you.
Catch and weave,
catch and weave.

And I receive
the lines you cast my way.
Catch and weave,
catch and weave.

Until we have a bowl,
until we have a net, a nest,
a net of hearts for one we love
to rest in, to be held.

Spiders in the corners,
we watch and listen,
we hold the lines
and tell the story
as it unfolds.

Gratitude List:
1.  Net, web, nest
2.  Dyeing–watching the new color emerge
3.  The blue eye of cornflower
4.  The way my children enter literature.  I thought The Hobbit was perhaps too much for them, but they listen and ask questions.  Now they want to venture in to The Lord of the Rings, and who am I to tell them not to.  Here we go: A Long-Expected Party.
5.  The way Jon WK keeps me laughing.  Sometime I’ll tell you the pumpernickel story.

May we walk in Beauty!