Category Archives: life basics

Time for Recess!

Everyone knows that children need a break from school work and the classroom environment. Halfway through the morning, it arrives: recess. Children get out of their chairs and head outside to run around and play. Recess brings exercise that builds a healthy body, and unstructured play that restores the mind. Just a few minutes makes all the difference. Learners return to their desks with renewed ability to learn and grow. Recess is the frosting on the cake that is a good school day, and the relief from drudgery and stress that a bad day brings.

The benefits of taking a break in the work day are well known. So why do I act like skipping recess is a better, more virtuous choice than skipping rope outside for a few minutes?

Put Your Coat On…

Every chilly school day, it’s the same. Students leave their High street homes, turn a corner, and walk down my street. As soon as they are out of their parents’ sight, they whip off the hats, coats, jackets, and mittens their parents just made them put on. Girls swap sneakers and boots for strappy sandals with three inch heels, boys take off long-sleeved shirts to reveal the T shirts underneath. Tottering on icy streets, shivering and covered in goosebumps, they make their way the last quarter mile to Middle and High school. Just after 2pm, they will reverse the process, returning to home and parents re-dressed.

I can’t say why dressing for the weather is just too embarrassing for my young neighbors, or why making a fashion statement is worth frozen toes and wind-chapped arms. Image is everything, even at the cost of chattering teeth.

Most of these boys and girls will grow past this phase, eventually wearing weather appropriate clothing of their own free will. A decade or two down the road, they will be the parents insisting that their own children put on hats and coats. Age accounts for a good part of this change, but I think there’s another essential element to this transformation. A parent knows a truth that their children may not: deep, abiding love makes all of us capable of seeing the unique beauty of every person, and incapable of valuing something so inconsequential as off-season fashion.

Seeing with the eyes of love gives us just the barest glimpse of how God sees us. It’s a rare gift, but some even grow to see everyone with such eyes.

Dear God, give me eyes to see the beauty of everything, and the heart to love without limit. Amen.

Have Some Breakfast

Dinner on the go that became the Passover meal. The wedding at Cana. There are lots of dinners in scripture, but not near as many breakfasts. Even in our day, there are so many more special occasions celebrated over dinner than ever there were over the day’s first meal. We do lunch, have power lunches, meet for dinner, and go out on the town for an evening meal: save the once-a-year Mother’s Day Brunch, breakfast doesn’t factor into the big events on our calendars. Breakfast is skipped by many in a literal sense, and also in the gathering together sense. It’s a quick bite before everyone begins the day’s activities.

I love breakfast. I look forward to granola or a PBJ rice cake every morning. Eggs, potatoes, and a yogurt parfait make a weekend breakfast a delight – add some bacon and pancakes and it’s as enjoyable as any dinner I’ve had. Some of my family’s best conversations have been over these foods, nourishment for body and soul for every one of us.

Unless I’m eating breakfast with others late in the morning, it’s easy to forget giving thanks to God for the food on my plate and for the hands that worked to provide it. I’m not ungrateful so much as unmindful. It’s taken writing this piece for me to notice this. Have some breakfast will now mean more than getting out the cereal bowls and coffee press: it will be taking time at the very beginning of the day to remember that I cannot live on granola alone. I come to the day by the grace of God, shown in the beauty of the world and the simple bounty of the breakfast table. Perhaps that’s why the risen Jesus shared breakfast by the sea with the disciples he loved so well.

Can any day begun this way be anything but a grace?

Make Your Bed

You made your bed, now lay in it…

I’ve never heard it used in a positive sense. It’s often said by someone who wants to reinforce the feeling of guilt or failure already haunting the person it’s aimed at – an additional prick for someone hemmed in by thorns.

I’m not opposed to someone accepting the consequences of bad, destructive, or unwise actions. Sometimes the best thing friends and family can do is to refuse to fix things. Mistakes faced and damage repaired require taking responsibility, and that is a necessary step in growing up. But it’s hard enough to take that step into maturity without adding an extra little bit of weight to the burden. Is it really worth a moment’s satisfaction to make such a remark? Best to keep silent.

But make your bed isn’t the same thing, is it? Make your bed means leave the place in good shape. Make your bed means take the time to create a place that welcomes you when you return. Value yourself highly enough to put in the time and effort to create a hospitable resting place, just as you would for an honored guest. When you flatten out the sheets, as you straighten out the blankets and fluff the pillows, you are doing more than making a bed: you are loving yourself as you would a neighbor.

Dear God, help me to love you this day. In acts big and small, help me love myself as my neighbor. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Get Dressed

I’m not doing this today. I’m staying in pajamas, doing my best to get over a nasty cold that started sometime yesterday afternoon. With luck and rest, it will be on its way out tomorrow.

Getting dressed signals my move from solitary or family only time to time spent in the larger world. I am ready to invite people in, and I’m ready to walk out the door into the world of friends, neighbors, and strangers alike. It changes, depending on what will fill my hours – sweats or old jeans for yard and garden work, skirts or blazer for board meetings, black jeans and a colorful top for dinner with my husband. Getting dressed is an outward sign of what’s happening in my life; how my body is clothed is affected by my actions in this world. I think that’s true for most other people as well.

I wonder: if I had to choose an outfit to reflect the inner workings of my soul, the inner agenda of my spiritual life, what would it be? Sitting here in my pj’s, soothing a scratchy throat and headache with herbal tea, in no shape or mood to go out or invite others in, perhaps it’s a good time to take a peek in that inner closet…

Wash your face, brush your hair and teeth…

When I was a baby, my parents did them for me. When I was able, they taught me to do them for myself. When I had my two sons, I repeated the pattern. They are signs of the love others have for us, and they are signs of our self-regard. They require touch and glance, time and effort. When done with intention, they wake us up with a loving touch and give us a joyful start to the coming day. Such simple tasks, such monumental acts.

My niece and her husband will welcome their first child into the world this October. They will do these things for him, offering their love in these practical tasks. It’s a legacy worth more than any trust fund: a welcome to the day, the world, and the family.

When you rise tomorrow to wash your face, brush your hair and teeth, remember how much you are loved.

 

Another Brick…

They build walls and chimneys, provide paving materials for sidewalks and roads, and will get you to the Emerald City if they happen to be yellow. Thrown through a window, they make robbing the store a whole lot easier.  All these things are possible for a remarkably low price and a lot of hard work.

I’ve built a few things with old bricks I found in my backyard; I’ve done the same for the library learning garden with orphan bricks from projects completed long ago. Friday, I used up all but a couple of those library bricks to build a small garden bed. It’s off the broad side of the storage shed, and it’s for the groundhog who lives under it.  Two hours of digging, putting bricks in place, and spreading garden soil, manure, and compost brought it into being. What was just a patch of scraggly grass in sandy soil is now a place that will feed the groundhog and his squirrel and rabbit neighbors.

Without those discarded, forgotten bricks, the garden bed wouldn’t survive the first Spring rainfall. Small and discarded no more, they make a life giving garden possible.

…such wonderful possibilities to come from finding what was lost…

photos by Jared Fredrickson, March 2019

Fixin’ to get ready…


“Fixin’ to Get Ready” Tomorrow

A previous rector at our parish had a picture of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) of “Gone with the Wind” fame with the caption of the last line in the 1936 Margaret Mitchell novel: After all, tomorrow is another day. He was a procrastinator.
There are lots of quotes about tomorrow – the most famous, I suppose, is Shakespeare’s from MacBeth (spoken by MacBeth):
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 
To the last syllable of recorded time…
And then there’s that wonderful song from the musical, “Annie,” with the refrain: Tomorrow! tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow! You’re always a day away!
It seems many have come to the obvious conclusion that tomorrow never comes. It may be another day, but it never arrives. Can you imagine saying Hooray, tomorrow is here? Or more like whoops, tomorrow is here? Of course, Notomorrow is always today when it arrives.
Growing up in Tennessee we had an expression that called out the acts of procrastinating, wishful thinking,  suffering from paralysis of analysis. We said that during those times we were fixin to get ready not actually getting things done but thinking about doing so. Making plans is a good thingmaking plans to make plans, maybe notthat’s like fixin’ to get ready tomorrow.
Present-centeredness, living in the moment, the now, being mindful—whatever we call it, doesn’t come easy. Sitting with my retired friends in Florida during lunch, what is often the topic of conversation? Yes, you know, what are we going to have for dinner?
There is an old story about the clock who was depressed thinking about all the ticks it would have to tick during its life and the clock psychologist who told it  just tick one tick at a time. 
Most clocks I know dont even tick anymoreall that time spent on something that is no longer even exists. As Mark Twain said: I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
Sometimes (often), I need to insert another expression into my thinking; carpe diem! Today I posted a quote from a prayer by St. Francis de Sales when I sent out the daily prayer list: Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving God who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day.
In this new year may we seize the day.
Offered by Bill Albritton, child of God, maker of plans, rarely procrastinates.

Finding Ourselves

A few years back, the book club I joined read two books by women whose first books had sparked marvelous discussion and admiration. One was autobiographical in nature, the other fictional; both were full of pain, difficulty, and loss – but infused with a hope that difficulties can lead to greater understanding and love. The same could not be said for the second books by the same authors. Both were autobiographical, but without a larger love that could offer generosity to the great wide world. Both authors “woke up,” convicted by the belief that only by putting their wants first could they mature into the people they wished to be. Families were left, temporarily or permanently. Friends and lovers were notable for their shortcomings, not their attempts to overcome them. Women who grew in different ways were discounted as immature or sleepwalking through a world not of their own making. Neither book ended on a particularly good note as neither women seemed to feel embraced by their own lives.

Many of the book club members saw the authors as only selfish, self-promoting, and defined by anger. The writing was admired, the women’s conclusions contested. The conviction both authors professed – that women whose life paths went a different way were immature or somehow inferior in their understanding of the world – didn’t set well. Many decided they wouldn’t bother reading any more works by either author.

I understood how the book club members felt, and I also understood the authors’ newfound acceptance of the importance of their own stories and voices. The world is not a fair place, and women’s contributions have been undervalued and suppressed. Waking up to the injustice of it is not an easy experience. The question is whether this waking up inevitably leads to a single interpretation or stance for all women (not much is said about men in either book).

I believe the authors were women who were growing into their potential, and that their second books were autobiographies of a transition rather than of a final resolution or destination. Rejecting what demeans the self and limits the soul is necessary, but not something that can support a good and holy life by itself. The next step must be taken: loving the brokenness of others as much as our own shortcomings. Unless and until love and joy define how we see self and others, we aren’t yet where we need to be. Or, as Joseph Brackett put it:

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Lord, help me love everyone who comes my way – and love the person you made me to be! Amen.

Elder Joseph Brackett, Simple Gifts, The Carols of Christmas: A Windham Hill Collection; Windham Hill Records, 1996; Liz Story, performer, recorded at Luna Recording Studio, Prescott, AZ, 1996

What you can fix…

Today has been a day of getting things done. I spent time in my library’s learning garden, dividing perennials for families attending story time. After that, I was on to prepping and painting the bathroom ceiling and closet. Both of these activities have been a lot of work, and will require many additional hours of work to complete. But there’s something immensely satisfying about seeing the changes that my work brings – changes that will last well beyond this season. The garden is much improved for the weeding, pruning, and dividing; the new paint on the walls and ceiling refresh the whole room. Such tangible results for a day’s work!

But there are changes that will come from today’s efforts that are well beyond what I will see. The perennials I dug up today will grace many yards in this town and beyond – who knows how many times they will be divided in the coming years, growing out of a few plants hundreds more. The new bathroom paint is likely to last for years, providing a clean and bright space for family and guests.

Perhaps that’s why Proverbs was included in our holy scripture: to remind us that our daily actions and choices affect the world around us in ways that just may go beyond our own little communities and life spans. It’s not the only message that helps me honor God, self,and neighbor, but it certainly reminds me to do improve what I can through work and action as well as through thought and contemplation…