Month: December 2015

Day Eighteen: Ask

ask

Photo Credit: Elias Cabarcas

Today’s Prompt: Write about asking for something

I’m going to break the “rules” of this prompt and write about not asking for something. Elias (my husband) isn’t a big fan of “on command” gestures of love and appreciation. He doesn’t really do Valentine’s Day. He acknowledges my birthday with our family birthday tradition breakfast. We don’t really buy each other Christmas presents or anniversary presents. What he does do, is grand gestures of love and affection when they are not asked for. One of my favorites is the roses he planted outside of my office a year ago. He cut them way down to almost stubs last year, and I questioned it. What are you doing?  I asked. I want them to grow big and tall. 

This is how they grow big and tall he said. 

And wow. They’re big. And tall. And beautiful.

He told me that he wanted me to think of him every time I walked by them on my way to the office. And I do. Every single day.  Even when they’re not blooming, as they are now.

Elias doesn’t like cut flowers. They make him anxious and sad. It’s one of the things I love about him. He much prefers flowers that are attached to their stems, attached to their roots. As such, he has a lot of roses. In pots and coffee cans and empty peanut butter jars. I criticize the containers. He ignores me.

His mother, Marina, grew roses. When my mom and dad left San Antonio a few weeks ago, Clayton started talking about family connections and realized that his dad had a mom, his other grandma.

When will she come to San Antonio? Clayton asked. I swallowed hard and said Well, she’s an angel.  She won’t ever come to San Antonio, but you can see her in your dreams. Ask God to see her when you go to sleep, when you dream. I bet you will. 

I thought he had forgotten about it, bur a few days later he said “Mommy, I saw my other grandma in my dreams. With all the flowers.”

You can believe that he’s just four years old and that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that he’s influenced by his overly spiritual, nonsense talking mother, or you can believe (as I do) that four year olds have a special spiritual sensitivity and knowledge and that he really did see his other grandma there, with all the flowers.

Keep dreaming, sweet one. Your daddy’s roses and your grandma, they’re all connected in your dreams.

 

 

Where are days sixteen and seventeen you ask? Well, I took the photos, but I didn’t do the writing. They’ve been busy days and I’ve had one of those nagging sore throats and dull headaches that seem to happen two or three times a year. I’ve been to bed before 10 pm for the past two nights. Back at it for Day Eighteen and ask.

 

Day Sixteen: Water #npcadvent2015

Today’s Prompt: Write about water. 

 

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It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about water… it’s that I have too much. The waters of baptism. Swimming as a kid until my toes were wrinkled. Working for water justice in Honduras and Colombia. My coffee is water, so is my tea and wine and salad. *I’m* water. How to write about water in any meaningful way? I promised myself that this writing challenge wouldn’t stress me out. If I didn’t have anything to say (or if I had too much to say) I’d let it be. These past 20 minutes have been a great daydream about water, even though I don’t have much writing to show for it.

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Fifteen: Nourish #NPCAdvent2015

Today’s Prompt: Write about what it means to nourish your soul or someone else’s soul

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One of the advantages of posting later in the evening is that I get to see what others have written. Several people have posted about the importance of nourishing oneself before offering nourishment to another. I couldn’t agree more. We have to fill up our cups before we can pour them out. There are many things that nourish my soul these days: meditation, time with friends, writing, hanging out with my boys. Recently the idea of mindfulness has come up a lot in podcasts and articles. People seem to define mindfulness in different ways and offer different ways of cultivating it. For me, it’s the discipline of noticing something beautiful I might have otherwise passed by. It nourishes my soul. The feel of my soft fluffy socks on the carpet, the extra sweet berries, the way the grey sky makes the colors on the leaves more radiant.

I love this photo. It’s a simple plant outside of Clayton’s school. It’s nothing fancy. I walk by it every time I drop him off or pick him up. Yet one day (a grey and dreary day at that!) I noticed it. No Instagram filters, no photoshop. Just a boring plant that was somehow spectacular on a grey day.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

 

 

Day Fourteen: Joy #NPCAdvent2015

 

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There’s so much to love about San Antonio. Breakfast tacos. So many sunny days. Fiesta. Bilingualism. That “big yet not too big” feel. One of the things I don’t love about San Antonio: no snow at Christmas. For one, I grew up with snow at Christmas. For me, snow = Christmas. For another, since I moved to San Antonio, I realized how many Christmas stories and songs feature snow. Let it Snow, I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, Jingle Bells, Frosty, and on and on and on… Seems petty, but it makes me homesick.

Today I decided to take my boys to the Zoo Lights. In the car on the way there, snow was a topic of conversation.

C: “Santa comes, only when it snows, right?”

Me: “No, Santa comes on Christmas, no matter what the weather is like.”

C:  “So it will snow on Christmas?”

Me: “Probably not, it doesn’t snow in San Antonio.”

C: “So it will never be Christmas in San Antonio?”

Me (wanting to cry) “Of course it will be Christmas in San Antonio. Santa lives with the snow all year, he loves to come to San Antonio where it’s warm. That’s where he sees the sunshine!”

C: “oh, ok.”

When we got in to the zoo lights exhibit there was this 3 foot area where they had “snow.” — I don’t know what it was, but it was some kind of amazing machine. I’m certain it’s what they use in hollywood, because it fell and looked like snow. It felt cold to me, but I’m not sure if it was the power of suggestion or not.

Joy.

 

 

 

Day Thirteen: Reclaim #NPCAdvent

Today’s Prompt: Write about something you wish to reclaim

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For me, Bible art journaling has helped me to reclaim the wonder and joy of scripture. Because it’s Sunday and I’m exhausted, I’m not going to write any more, but I’ll refer to other posts on Bible Journaling HERE, HERE and HERE.

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Twelve: Perspective #NPCAdvent2015

perspectiveupsidedown

Today’s Prompt: Write about perspective 

 

I’m embarrassed to say that when the above photo was taken, I would have rather stayed inside. I was snuggled in our cabin, reading a book, drinking some tea. We were about to eat dinner.

Mama can we play outside? Mama? Maaaaaaammaaaaaaaaa! Can we play outside?

I got outside and couldn’t believe that I wasn’t already out there. The sunset took my breath away. I closed my eyes and gave thanks to God for the beauty of nature, and two little boys who weren’t content to stay inside.

Oh, and since this day is all about perspective, I’ll tell you: I turned that picture upside down. (the sky is on the bottom) 🙂

 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

 

Day Eleven #NPCAdvent2015 #Burn

burn

Today’s Prompt: Write about a time you were burned.

 

Stared at the screen for five minutes trying to decide if I wanted to write about being physically burned or burned in that other emotional sense. Decided on the physical sense.

Mama always says Don’t forget the sunscreen.  She means it literally because our skin is so, so fair. But she means it in a more figurative sense. Be prepared. Bring what you need.  When I went to Nicaragua in college for a work trip, I’m certain I brought sunscreen. Problem is, I didn’t expect the van to break down. (Maybe it was a bus, don’t remember).

I remember sitting on the side of the road feeling the sun on my bare shoulders knowing that it was burning me. I remember looking around and there being absolutely no shade. No trees. No structures. Just open air. In retrospect I wonder why I didn’t get back in the vehicle for shade, but maybe I couldn’t. I don’t remember.

What I do remember is how much worse the burn was than I thought. It wasn’t just red, it blistered. I was burned on an oven in college, too, and burned from putting my foot on the edge of a campfire ring, and this was worse than both of those. I couldn’t sleep. Didn’t want to shower. Couldn’t decide the next day whether to wear a sleeveless shirt and expose myself to more sun (how could I put sunscreen on the blisters?) or endure the pain of having a shirt on my shoulders. Can’t remember what I chose.

I’m not sure what lessons there are in this story, I’m just following the “rules” I made for myself and writing about the topic at hand. I’m almost out of time. I will say this: never, ever, have I been sunburned so badly as I was on that day. I think it was that awful burn, not mama’s reminding, that causes me to never forget the sunscreen now.

— 

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

 

 

 

 

Day 10 #Ancient #NPCAdvent2015

Today’s Prompt: Write about something ancient.

ancient

The words of scripture are ancient. Two thousand years old. Yet I read them, and paint them, and seek to understand them. These ancient texts, these old, old words. What do they mean?

 

PS – I used my 20 minutes yesterday painting this, not writing. I don’t regret it. Some days have too many words, already.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day 9: Delight #NPCAdvent2015 #Advent

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Today’s Prompt: Write about a great delight.

It has been a spiritual challenge for me to reflect on the word delight today. Today I’ve felt much more pensive, even sad, than I have delighted. Today there was a hearing in Austin about licensing family detention centers as child-care facilities. It felt so sad to me because I remember last advent feeling this certainty that family detention was not long for this country. Certainly, I thought people will learn about how awful this is and shut it down.  It hasn’t been shut down. The government is trying to institutionalize it.

I started out the day trying to write down some feelings about all of the hate-filled anti-Muslim speech that is flying around the twitterverse. I stared at the screen and wondered how scared my Muslim neighbors might be in these days.  I plunked out some words that felt wholly insufficient.

I had a lot of work to do today and I worked through it steadily, but I needed a break.  I kept getting distracted by the enormity of the world’s grief. (I know I’m not the only one who experiences this, amen?) Something reminded me about the fact that the Sandy Hook Massacre happened during my first advent in Texas. I cried through the entire sermon and my parishioners did too. My boys were both still drinking from bottles at the time. Sandy Hook + immigration detention + hate speech = Monkey brain. I decided to re-arrange my day and pick up Clayton from school, pick up Sam and Elias and go walk the Salado Creek trail. I figured I could come back to work late to finish up, which I did. It was the best decision of the day.

We let the boys run a few feet ahead of us and we saw them stop and point excitedly at the sky. When we caught up, we heard them saying “Rainbow! Rainbow!” It wasn’t a rainbow, just some wispy clouds streaked across the sky in an arc. They skipped along. We saw deer.

I thought about my responsibilities here on earth. Can’t I just ignore the fact that the world is full of hate and injustice and walk outside instead?  I wondered. I was reminded of this famous rabbinical phrase: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” In other words: we do what we can do. I can’t ignore the fact that immigration detention is still here, even though I want to. I can’t ignore all of these other things weighing on my heart this day either. But it’s not my responsibility to solve it all.

Today my delight was in seeing Clayton and Samuel skipping ahead of me, finding rainbows in the clouds and grabbing each other by the neck. They inspire me to do what I can do to make it so for other children too.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.

Day Eight: Fearless #NPCAdvent2015

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Today’s Prompt: Write about a time when you were fearless.

This is one of those prompts that has me staring at the screen, blankly.

The times that people have called me fearless have been the times I’ve been the most scared.

My friend Kyndall taught me a lot about the relationship between fear and strength. When you corral your fear and focus it, it becomes your superpower. She told me a story about that one time. It had a werwolf and stairs and an attic for sure. I think there were wings involved as well, and maybe a mirror. I think she will publish it one day.

It’s hard for me to write about a time when I was fearless, but it might have been the first time I ever read a poem I had written out loud. I didn’t think it was very good at all but I wanted Kyndall to read her poems, so I proposed this crazy idea that we do a poetry event together. It was magical. The people loved the poem. It was about my son Clayton and something he said to me when he was getting dressed. I’m a pastor and so I speak to people every week. It’s just a poem I said to myself. Just words on a page. But they aren’t just words on a page. They’re my words about my little boy and what if everybody thinks it’s a stupid poem. 

At the end everyone said “awwww.” They loved it. It was the moment I transformed from a person who plunked out awkward writings on random files in my computer to a poet.  Fearless.

I’ll always be grateful to Kyndall for writing such beautiful poetry that I would risk throwing my mediocre poetry up alongside it just to have the opportunity to speak in the same space as her. She’s fearless, but I am, too.

This post is a part of the 25 days of advent writing and photos that I’m doing with my church Northwood Presbyterian Church, San Antonio. For the writing portion, I’ve just set a timer for 20-30 minutes and whatever I have at the end of the time, I post. No editing past the time limit… no worries if there are errors or if I stare at the screen for the first 15 minutes. Giving it a try.