The Talisman: a Writing Prompt

I am a person who wrestles hard with major transitions in life.
I never want to move too quickly, to make big changes
in the routines and patterns I am used to
without a lot of thought, prayer, and discussion
with trusted friends and family.
I surprised myself when our senior pastor was hired in 2005,
midway through my time as associate pastor.
I thought I would retire; that had been the plan.
But then . . . he came, with his high energy,
and his working style that was so different from anything
I’d ever experienced before,
and he knew so much about the liturgical calendar,
and, and, and. . . 
I realized I could learn a lot from this man,
things I hadn’t done, in ways I hadn’t done them,
so I decided (and he graciously agreed)
that retirement would go on hold for a while.
 By July of 2009, it was becoming increasingly clear 
to me that my time as a member of a church staff 
was coming to and end. 
What, I wondered, comes next?
Who am I without this title, 
this role, 
this connection to the 
community of faith 
I’ve worked alongside all these years?

So, I took a leap of faith – gasp! –
and enrolled in a post-graduate learning
experience, this one in Chicago,
to see if spiritual direction might be what the Lord
was moving me toward in this last stretch of life.
I flew to Chicago for a very intense week.
A good week, a rich week, an exhausting week – 
“Like trying to drink from a fire hose,” 
is how I described it to my friends.
And at the very beginning of that week,
we spent a day on retreat, in silence,
with periodic worship times spaced 
throughout the day.
I took a walk around the grounds of that retreat center,
discovering a small gift shop with jewelry for sale.
Almost immediately, I spied this Jerusalem cross 

(second from left above) and snatched it up. 

Somehow that small, silver ornament became a

picture of God’s promised presence amidst all the
things that were shifting in my life.
I wore it daily for the rest of that year.
It became a sort of touchstone,
a reminder that I was not alone as I
navigated the changing scene before me.

And I began adding other symbolic pieces to the chain.
The small bee, which says, “just be,” on the reverse
and the beautiful spreading tree,
with, “free spirit,” on the back.
Both of these, plus the charm with my first initial,
reminded me – as I caught sight of them 
in the mirror or fingered them while
reading or praying – 
that my deepest need is for stillness,
for practicing the presence of God,
for sitting in the silence, 
in the Mystery.

About a year later, six weeks after my retirement
became official, my husband and I took a 
lovely trip to Hawaii,
a place of my heart for the last 32 years.
So I added the heart with the palm tree on it. 

That summer,

after being too ill the previous year to continue
the program in Chicago with my own denomination,
I stepped into training with the
Benedictines.
Such a gift. 

So the last piece added was the medal
of St. Benedict.

Taken all together,
this set of charms,
of talismen,
speak to me of who I am becoming,
of where I am finding space and gift and grace now,
without the title,
without the role,
but with a life. 
A rich, wonderful, Spirit-graced life. 

During the hardest months of

this time of change – from about October of 2010
through May of 2011 – I took it off only to shower.
Somehow, the weight of it called to mind
the immensity of this time in my life,
this move from active ministry
to a more quiet and quotidian way of doing life. 


Gradually, this way of living became the new normal,

and as it did, the necklace sat on the counter more and more often.
I still love to look at it. 

And I still tend to wear it when I’m 
feeling uncertain or anxious.
I wore it every day during my

last two weeks in community with the Benedictines
in July and August. 

And I’ll likely wear it every day that I’m on 
retreat at Laity Lodge.
But I don’t wear it to bed anymore.

I don’t wear it every day or even every week. 


Because I’m here.

I’ve settled – as much as it is possible for
a person of my personality to settle anywhere!
And I am grateful,
so, so grateful for what I’m learning,
what I’ve been invited to do,
how God is working through me
and in me and around me
even here, even now.

I’m glad I took that particular route as I walked around 
the grounds of that retreat center in 2009.
And I’m glad to have this tangible reminder
of God’s faithfulness in the midst of major life changes.
It’s just a necklace.
But it’s also a story, an Ebenezer of sorts,
a marker of how the LORD has been here,

right through the shifting sands of change.
I look at it and say,
“Thus far, the Lord has helped me.” 
And I say, “Thank you. Thank you.”

My thanks to Amber Haines and her new writing prompt each week. The word this week was ‘necklace.’ I cannot write in poetic majesty as she does, but I very much enjoyed thinking about this one. So, thanks, Amber. You can click on this sentence to find her beautiful reflection and to find links to others who have taken up her challenge.
I will also link this to Jennifer’s, Emily’s, Duane’s, and Ann’s gatherings tonight.

 


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Comments

  1. So marvellous to have a symbol of the journey like that! It sounds like, in the end, it’s been a really great transition, though – a beautiful story.

  2. The LORD be with you and keep you.
    The LORD make His face to shine upon you,
    and give you Peace.
    Thank you again Diana. Your story ministers into ours.
    Love, Judy and Jim
    P.S. Thanks for the ‘new’ word – quotidian

  3. smoothstones says:

    Really, really wonderful. Especially that last bit: “Thus far, the Lord has helped me.” Me, too. I need to focus on that more often. My heart wants to be like that of David: praising God for delivering me from the lion and the bear, trusting that he’ll deliver me from this giant, too. Thank you, Diana. You make an excellent you.

  4. Thanks, Kati, for stopping by and leaving a comment. Yes, it has been good, on lots of different levels and I am grateful.

  5. Thanks for the blessing, friends. And so glad I could add a great new word!

  6. Thank you Brandee. And we all need to focus on that small verse, I think. Praying for you and Chip as the end of this part of the journey draws ever nearer!!

  7. Having grown up in Protestant churches where I’d not been acquainted with the rosary, the whole idea of seeing and touching beads as a kind of prayer seemed really foreign to me.

    My friend Ethel made me a beaded bracelet last year which had a charm which said Believe. It was an important reminder during a year when I was tempted not to. Her daughter wants a bracelet (or maybe it’s a tattoo–I forget) which says All Things. You know how often those two words are used in Scripture? A lot.

    Looking forward to seeing you and your Ebenezer soon.

  8. Yeah, I know that feeling about rosaries as a kid – but I see their value now, a whole lot. So glad you’re coming next week. Somehow, it just wouldn’t be right without you there. I’m already missing all the others who won’t be around this time – Linda, Jennifer, Lyla, Ann, Cheryl, David, L L, Laura….:>(

  9. Glenda Childers says:

    I always love hearing more of your story. How nice for your husband … he knows you need a little extra support when he sees the necklace reappear.

    I have my computer back, so I can comment on your blog again.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  10. Well, you know, Glenda – I don’t know if my husband even knows all these details about this necklace. Maybe I should tell him! And I’m delighted you have your computer back in action – you are always missed when you’re gone.

  11. I have these pieces, too. I don’t always wear them, and in fact, I’ve lost one entirely, and it was my very favorite. It was a ring with the Hebrew letters for YHWH. I thought that I might sob for days after losing it, but I didn’t. I needed the ring for a time, but after I lost it, I was surprised at how quickly I realized how it wasn’t the ring I really needed most.

  12. I think talismen are like that – they are really helpful for a season. I did, however, cry a little over two pieces that were stolen: my wedding pearls (which I wrote about here: http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com/2012/08/an-african-journal-post-one-beneath.html )
    and a small ruby pendant that my dad gave my mom on their 40th wedding anniversary. She gave it to me soon after he died. Those were hard, even though I didn’t wear them very often anymore. I just liked knowing they were in the box, you know?

  13. I love this. What an amazing way to take that prompt! I, too, have been through a pulling away and stepping down from ministry — the only life I ever knew — and filled with the same thoughts of who am I without this title, this position.

    Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey. How comforting it is to know that we are not alone!

  14. Thanks for coming by and commenting, Lindsey. I hope your ‘pulling away and stepping down from ministry’ was your decision and not anyone else’s. It’s tough to find your way for while, isn’t it? Hope the way is coming clear for you.

  15. We need these kinds of reminders in our lives. Kind of like the Israelites stacked rocks, “so your children and their children will remember. ” And never forget…

  16. Exactly. And when we had a fire in our community, THESE were the things that people wept over. Photos, treasured gifts from small hands, reminders of our story. Amazing how much intrinsic value they carry, no matter what the price tag might be.

  17. Diana, you said you’ll probably wear it at Laity…just after you said you wear it when you’re feeling uncertain and anxious. Is that how you’ll feel? I hope not!

  18. Ah, you picked up on that! Yes, I always feel anxious when a.) I travel alone; b.) I enter situations that are not totally familiar to me (and after one year and now a whole bunch of people I felt comfy with not returning, it is not totally familiar); and c.) having to talk out loud about writing, which is a deep insecurity for me. But that is why I go – I always know that if I’m a bit anxious and fearful about trying something, that’s a sign I should definitely push through and do it. Kinda like a sign from God or somethin’.

  19. I love how the Lord will give each of us exactly what we need – how He gave you these charms in a season of sifting ground – “without the title, without the role” – a season I’m well acquainted with. He knows our personalities and how we will hear Him and I KNOW He uses tangible objects to assure us of His love…and remind us that He is holding us in His hand and that’s why He gave me a camera and a perspective about things in nature. Some people think it’s idolatry – that we are worshipping an object instead of the Creator when we mention these objects of affection…but that is so not true. We treasure them because we are aware of how God has used them to speak to us. He is so, so good to us. May your weekend…and the beautiful week to come with our High Calling friends…overflow with more tangible reminders of His love and goodness and kindness toward those He calls His own. xox

  20. Thank you so much, Patricia, for these good and kind words. I feel much the same way you do about my camera, too. It is a means of grace in my life so many times.

  21. Thank you for sharing your heart, Diana. To me, you seem like the kind of person who makes so many others feel comfy. Maybe everyone feels nervous at first? I know I do. Maybe I need a necklace? 🙂

  22. Maybe so, Ann. :>)

  23. What a neat idea to have a writing prompt! I haven’t done that in some time, and yet it always takes us somewhere we need to go. I loved the idea of how the necklace spoke of your steps, and I am heartened by your leap, especially as I only knew about certain links in the chain. Fun to get to see the entire development, and why it is so precious 🙂 I read this while up nursing tonight – your words are always soooo good, Diana! xo

  24. Thanks, Caro. I am imagining that you’re up A LOT these days. Sweet times, but tiring. Amber Haines is one of my favorites out here – she and her husband are both wonderful writers and she is busy raising 4 little boys. She was working on a master’s in creative writing and lit when she started her family and now she writes for two online mags as well as her own blog. The prompts are on Mondays at the Runamuck. (I’ve been invited to write for one of those mags myself, which was a total shock and has been really fun so far. Heading to a Writer’s Retreat in TX next week – at Laity Lodge. When you’re kids are bigger – you would LOVE that place. Love to all of you fabulous Webers – thanks so much for stopping by tonight.

  25. Yes, it is an Ebenezer, isn’t it?

    I just think you’re going to be a wonderful spiritual director. I’ve done counseling and I’ve done spiritual direction, and the latter always has yielded more lasting fruit.

  26. Thank you, Megan. I’ve got so much still to learn – which truly can only be learned by doing. I’ve been meeting with about 4-6 women over the last 2 years and hope to add 2-4 more over the next year. It’s a very different animal than pastoral counseling or therapy, although it has pieces of both. And I’m still trying to find a director for myself since the death of my much-loved one in March. There are some possibles, so I’m trying to stay open and wait on God’s timing. Which is exactly how Abbot David and I came together in the first place…

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