The Blessings of Friendship

Many years ago, I received a compliment from Anne Wilson Schaef, author of many books and someone with whom I trained in Living in Process, a spiritual way of life. After observing me during a weekend workshop, she called me over and said, “You do friend well.” I have never forgotten that and I try as best I can to live up to that. Of course, I sometimes fail, but I do my best to make amends and change my behavior. Because I have so little family, my friends are very important to me.

Last Friday I was treated to a delightful day with a significant friend I met while I worked at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. Pam coordinated the Harriet L. Miller Women’s Center while she was a student. After she graduated, she went on to Union Theological Seminary in NYC to earn her Ph.D. in Christian ethics and then to teach at California Lutheran University. She has written three books:

  • She Hath Done What She Could: A History of Women’s Participation in the Church of the Brethren
  • Women Don’t Count: The Challenge of Women’s Poverty to Christian Ethics
  • Globalization at What Price?: Economic Change and Daily Life

While all of this is impressive, that is not what I value the most about Pam. She is a down-to-earth friend for whom I have a lot of respect. Visiting with her is a delight. We hadn’t seen each other for many years (our memories are different about the length of time). I found her on Facebook a few months ago and we reconnected on-line. That’s what I love about the internet, helping us find friends with whom we have lost touch.

Yes, Pam and I did talk about our concerns for the future of our country and the world, how we see what is going on, our fears as well as where we find hope. But for me, those were not my most meaningful exchanges with her.

I feel safe with Pam and believe she feels safe with me as well, because our from-the-heart conversations inevitably go deep. On this visit, we shared our experiences of aging, the losses we are mourning and how we deal with loss, travels and experiences that have enriched our lives (my life was enriched visiting Pam in NYC while she was working on her Ph.D.), the ways in which life for us personally hasn’t turned out as we imagined and how we’re dealing with that, the ways we are managing retirement and life as it is, and what we are looking forward to at this time in our lives.

Pam & Linda at Cox Arboretum

We started our day with an early walk at Cox Arboretum, hoping to miss the heat of the day. A man noticed our taking pictures of each other, approached, and asked if we’d like him to take a picture of us together. After taking this picture, he said, “Remember, Jesus loves you.” We smiled, gave each other a knowing look, and affirmed, “Yes, we know that.”

After returning to my home, washing off the sweat and changing clothes, I gave Pam several choices for lunch. Because she had never eaten at a Bolivian restaurant, she chose Nelly’s.

I was thrilled when the waiter sat us in a secluded corner. We had a lot of catching up to do. Before long, their house specialty, Nelly’s slow-cooked Charcoal Rotisserie Chicken, arrived. Nelly’s has a reputation for serving the best chicken in Dayton and it doesn’t disappoint. Pam said it was the best she has ever eaten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knew when we scheduled this day, it would be over way too soon. These are precious moments for me. I’m blessed to count Pam as a friend and ever so grateful we are planning future re-connections.

Rummaging Around in the Darkness

When I was a teenager and for many years thereafter, I had a recurring dream. I was moving into an old house. Whoever lived there before me had left a lot of stuff behind, especially in the attic. I rummaged through what was left to see if there was anything I could use. I found the process enjoyable.

Attic

These past few weeks as I’ve adjusted to my daughter’s moving in with me, I’ve been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. On Monday of this week, I felt a sudden burst of energy and cleaned my house. It had become cluttered with so much of her stuff that I didn’t yet have a place for. Decluttering and organizing are activities I enjoy and my spirit was bright as order and beauty re-emerged.

Then on Tuesday, I was in the doldrums again. It looked like depression–I didn’t want to get out of bed, I had no energy, I went through the motions. My daughter and I kept the appointment with the independent living facility that is a possible future home for her. The appointment went well but I could tell I wasn’t up to par. The application lacked information needed. I am usually quite thorough about paperwork, even though I detest filling out forms by hand. I was not at my best.

Face in Dark

Wednesday I attended a meeting where a spiritual teacher outlined eight characteristics of what he calls “our soul’s bill of rights.” He spoke about being stuck and finding a path to return to flow. I don’t have his exact words here because inside I was full of negativity (darkness), figured I was stuck, and was quietly resisting moving out of that “stuck” place.

My writing partner was in the group and in the restroom, during the break, she commented on how what the spiritual teacher was talking about was my story…the one I have been writing about in my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace. I jerked my head backward as though hit by a tsunami and exclaimed, “Yea, but I’m stuck again.”

ocean wave

Even though I said that I was stuck, it didn’t feel quite right and I continued to ponder that the rest of the day.

“But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” ~Luke 2:19

Mary pondering

Then yesterday morning (Thursday) I had an epiphany. While my resistance looks and feels like depression, while it seems like a lack of trust in “everything being in Divine right order,” and while it appears to be a lack of gratitude for my many blessings, it is actually the Spirit working in my life. When I resist platitudes and disingenuous gratitude and ponder instead, I am actually trusting my process of spiritual growth. If I rummage around in the clutter and darkness (stuck places?) long enough, I’ll find useful treasure…a message meant just for me for the growth that is being called forth in that particular circumstance and moment in time. Rummaging and pondering is actually me trusting my process.

cosmos

With that revelation, I was back in the flow. The blocks to my writing dissolved. The message I need at this time in these circumstances moved into the light of my awareness.  And that will be the subject of my next blog post.

As it turns out, my recurring dream was a metaphor for the way the Spirit works in my life. I am in awe.