Out of the Ether — OneWord 2016

On January 1st, I sent out my first Tiny Letter of this new year. This is a project I have come to love and I am grateful for the friends who have subscribed to these missives, most particularly for the much smaller number who take the time to send me a response of some kind. Thank you!!

In that letter, I said that I was still waiting for my ‘word’ for this year to reveal itself to me. I was even so bold as to say I hoped it would be an easier word than the last few have been. My word for 2015 was ‘STRETCH,’ for 2014 it was ‘OBEDIENT,’ and for 2012, it was ‘WAITING.’ (Not sure what happened to 2013, but apparently, a word never materialized for that 12-month stretch!) Not one of those was easy, in any sense of that word.

After writing that letter, as I readied myself for sleep and turned out the light, I asked again for a word to appear. And lo, out of the ether of near-sleep, a word appeared. I thought I heard it as . . . slow.

Well, yes, that surely fits. 2015 was the year of Falling Down a Lot and every time I hit the ground, I thought to myself, “Woman, you have GOT to slow down!” So slow seemed right somehow.

But that sense of rightness lasted all of 30 seconds. Because coming immediately on the heels of that word was this one: ‘STEADY.

Ah, yes. I’ll take it! I said into that ether. I.will.take.it.

I’ve been chewing on that set of seven letters ever since, trying to conjure up images/ideas/connections as I reflect on the year just past and lean into the one so recently begun. Here are some of my initial thoughts and a few recent photographs to illustrate them.

 

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After the turbulence of 2015, the entire concept of steadiness comes as a welcome gift, one that I am still unpacking, one that I am confident will be multi-layered and complex. For example, have you ever watched sea stars? They are among God’s steadiest creatures, I do believe. They only move when hungry or in danger and they cling to rocks, coral, wharf poles — anything sturdy and stationary. On top of that, they’re gorgeous — brightly colored, a pleasing shape and they have this incredible ability to regrow injured limbs. Hoping to make this a year of Not Falling At All, I want to learn from these guys and cling to the sturdy stuff. And, of course, it never hurts to look as good as possible whilst clinging, right?

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Living in a beachside community provides easy access to one of the grandest of reminders that steadiness is a virtue and gift. The waves keep on comin,’ you know? Sometimes they’re slow and piddly; sometimes they’re muscular and wild. But no matter the weather, the time of day or night, the condition of the beach (or the presence of frail human bodies!), those waves are steady. They roll on, without end or interruption. I’m hoping for NO interruptions this year, at least none of the unwelcome and/or difficult kind . . . like emergency room visits or moving all my earthly belongings across town.

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Now I will admit that some human bodies are less frail than others when it comes to those waves. We spent a fair amount of time watching surfers while we were away celebrating our anniversary last month. This particular guy was not young. No, indeed, not young at all. And he managed to catch a ride with some frequency. It’s true that a surfer’s steadiness is a temporary and usually short-lived thing. But while it lasts? Oh, GLORY. Even just a few moments of glorious steadiness would be welcome, welcome.

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Now this old codger knew how to be steady! He clambered up on the edge of the Pismo Beach pier, folded his large webbed feet underneath his feathers, sat down firmly and drew his great neck and beak into the warmth and softness of his feathers. He remained watchful and alert, but he sat there, perched on a narrow plank for a good long time. When a nearby fisherman caught a small fish, he was instantly across that pier, waiting for a taste — he got one, too. Being steady does not mean being unwilling to move. Rather, I think it implies an alert readiness to change course, as needed. That’s the kind of steady I need.

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And then, of course, in any central coast California beach town, there are the bluffs, those large, yellow-to-peachy-pink rock formations that rim almost every sandy cove between Ventura and Pismo Beach. I love them — they’re craggy, uneven, vulnerable to erosion, yet somehow one of the steadiest things in our landscape. They are ever-present, providing grand vistas of the broad Pacific, reminding us that we are truly tiny creatures with short life spans. They are a regular reminder of beauty and strength, two of the many facets of ‘steady.’

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The oak trees that are ubiquitous in this part of the world remind me of the value of hanging in, hanging on, standing strong, offering shade, and withstanding both wind and drought. They are, in many ways, the epitome of steadiness to me. We don’t have oak trees in our current neighborhood, at least not very many of them. We were surrounded by them in our former home and their presence is one of the few things I miss since our move. I’m glad they’re EVERYWHERE in our town, because I enjoy being around them. I’d love for 2016 to be a year of hanging in/hanging on/standing strong, etc. Praying in that direction these days, that is for sure.

DSC05922I did a quick biblical search for the word, ‘steady,’ and got back a grand total of four. I may reference one or two of them in the year ahead, but this one, from the beautiful book of Isaiah, seemed wildly appropriate for me at this point in my life:

Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Isaiah 35:3-5

Yes, Lord. I am relying on you to provide both strength and steadiness as needed in the year that is unfolding before me. And I relish this picture of an inordinately long-lived rainbow as a reminder of the way in which you, O God, keep your promises to humankind. As always, 2016 will be a year in which you are the steadiness I seek, the steadiness I need.

Do you have a word for 2016? Share it in the comments — I love reading what others are living with/wrestling with/hoping for!

When the Bottom Falls Out


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Lovely flowers, brought to me by my fine son while in the hospital this week.

It has been a strange and difficult week, one that I wrote about in detail in my newsletter, which went out on May 1. If you’d like to read that account, simply subscribe, using the link provided at the end of this reflection, and I’ll be sure to send you a copy.

But in this, more public space, I want to spend a few minutes reflecting on what often feels like the capriciousness of this life we live in our earthbound home. 

Sometimes things happen suddenly, coming from left field and slamming into your gut, throwing you completely off balance, leaving  you stymied as to what in the heck just happened. I cannot even count how many times in the last six days I have uttered the words, “I cannot believe this has happened.” 

And I can’t.

Except it did — I was hit with a sudden, life-threatening condition, putting me in the hospital for 48 hours and sending me home to rest and move slowly for about a month. Say what?

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The beautiful new hospital wing I was privileged to stay in, as seen from my window.

The combined effect of the event itself, the powerful pain medications I was forced to take to survive, and the complete disorientation of being in a hospital and then coming home again, unable to do the things I do every single day of my life — well, it’s a more than a little bit unsettling.

Who am I? In my own mind, I’ve always been the strong one, the capable one, the one who takes charge and gets ‘er done. I’ve said it before in this space — I’m a large person, an increasingly confident person, have been known to be ‘bossy’ in my time (though I’ve worked on that quite a bit!), and I like to be the person who is helping others, not so much the one in need of help.

At this moment in time, that is no longer true. It is not even close to being true.

My amazing adult children rallied this weekend. Both of my daughters brought their youngest sons and they shopped at Costco and cooked in my kitchen all day yesterday. I now have two fridges full of home made chili, salmon chowder, delicious quiches and bunches of good, packaged salad mixes plus an enchilada tray from the Big Box store we all hate to love. Our son and his wife came over for dinner, bringing their lively, fun girls and I could listen to everyone having a great time together — best medicine possible. I was even able to be up with everyone for dinner, and that was a gift. But I was not the one doing meal prep or clean-up. I cannot be right now.

As I struggle to recapture some sense of balance and wholeness, I take deep joy in thanking God for the lovely slingshots of grace amidst this chaos — our son’s fine medical instincts which sent us back for a second ER visit and ultimate stay; the care of the best medical team I’ve ever seen, the loveliness of our new hospital and its nursing staff, the grace of business colleagues who have extended some deadlines for us, and the sheer fact that I am here, breathing and upright (some of the time!)

Here is the deepest truth I am learning right now: we simply do not and cannot know what is around the next bend in the road. For me, that bend was the simple act of rising from bed on a Tuesday morning. We plan, we program, we research, we scout out contingencies. But we are not in charge of our own lives, at least in any ultimate sense, are we?

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The other view from that window in the hospital room. There IS a bigger picture.

I am not downplaying planning — believe me! We have done some good, healthy planning and we are in good shape for this last bend in the road, this last leg of the journey. But we assumed it would be an easier leg than it has proven to be — and those assumptions now need to be set aside.

A good friend said to me on the phone this morning: ”This is the new normal, Diana.”

Yes, it is. The new normal is the unexpected, the sudden, the quick drop in the pit of your stomach when you realize the entire universe is shifting on a very tiny pivot. Very tiny indeed.

But what I’m trying to remind myself — sometimes from moment to moment — is that none of this is a surprise to God. And I am not alone in the midst of the terror and the pain.

I am held, I am cherished, I am seen.

And that makes all the difference.

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Something New, JUST FOR YOU!

 

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He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

This has been the greeting for this season of the Christian year for centuries. So I greet you, on this first Monday of the Easter season with the words of our fore-parents in the faith — He is risen!

This magnificent truth is something to celebrate. And more than that, it is something to live. ‘We are an Easter people’ — I’ve heard it, I’ve read it and I believe it to be true. This grand Easter event colors every other aspect of life when we lay claim to the word ‘disciple’ — Easter changes everything.

So it seems to me that this first week of the Easter season is a natural marker for new beginnings. And I am beginning something today, something which makes me more than a little bit nervous:

 

I have an eBook!

 

And I am giving it away to everyone who signs on the dotted line for yet another new thing in my life: a semi-monthly personal letter.

This small epistle will be from me to you, and will land in your in-box on the 1st and the 15th of each and every month for at least the next year. That means the first issue will show up in just nine days.

I’m calling this letter, “More Wondering. . . ,” and in it I will say things I won’t be saying anywhere else on the worldwide web. It will be an amalgam, I hope. A mash-up of personal note, updates on my book-publishing project (did you know I have one of those?), things that have caught my eye on the web, quotes I love, photos I’ve taken. A little of this and a little of that — all of it, I hope, adding up to something worth reading and enjoying.

My blog guru, LW Lindquist, has been hard at work putting the ebook together — and friends, it looks amazing! It’s an edited version of the blog series I did at the beginning of 2014 called, “Living the Questions: Reflections on the Mystery.” I’ve edited those essays for this new format, and added some questions for reflection at the end of each of the eight chapters.

An 8-chapter book — can you believe it?

I cannot tell you what a joy it was to see this thing jumping up at me from the screen of my Kindle Fire. 

It will be available as a free download whenever you subscribe to my new letter, “More Wondering . . . ” Because it’s in PDF format, the book is easily downloadable to any mobile device that connects to the internet. I just turned my Kindle sideways, and there it was, filling the entire screen! Amazing, right? 

I am delighted to be able to offer you this gift. And I want you to feel free to share this news with friends. In fact I hope you will — and please direct them back here, directly to this post so that they can get their own copy — after all, it’s FREE!

I think it looks pretty fabulous — don’t you?

Living the Questions 3D cover

You can sign up for the “More Wondering . . .” letter using the form below, or the signup form in the sidebar:

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And yes, there will soon be one of those pesky pop-ups on this blog. That’s because I really would love for anyone who reads something I’ve written here to have the opportunity to join our newsletter circle.

Can you all help me spread the word? a Facebook share or a tweet or two would be just grand.

Thanks, friends! And I hope you enjoy the eBook and the newsletter when it comes into your inbox on the 15th of this month.

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Sign up now for 'More Wondering' and as thanks, receive Living the Questions, Diana's 8-chapter ebook wrestling with some of the hard questions of life and faith.

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