Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm Still Here!

But I'm a little worse for the wear right now. I started this glorious week with what appears to be an ulcer. I'm going to take a wild guess and say my tummy troubles are most likely caused by taking Motrin over a period of two years. And I took a lot of it, lovies. My bottles of Motrin are the 500 tablet kind. I have matching ginormous bottles of Tylenol.

But the tummy trouble was actually a gift of sorts. One does not eat whatever one wants whenever one wants to when it feels like there is--and it very well could be--a hole in one's stomach. So, I've taken to eating small meals that are much healthier. Mind you, I've eaten healthier since I've been here, but I still had my awful moments. My body has said, "No more!" And I'm trying my best to listen. In fact, I'm gathering my medical records and going to a naturopath soon. Traditional medicine hasn't helped me much. By God's grace and the generosity present in this beloved community, I'm going to try another way.

I had a dream shortly after I arrived in Lexington, that I lost a lot of "weight". I put the word in quotes because I think the dream had a layers of meaning. I don't think I'm going to just lose pounds, but rather, habits that have held me down.

One habit I hope to lose is worrying. What's the point of it. It's like Peter walking on water. He was walking on water! And then he started worrying about wind, as if the elements could actually interfere with his gravity defying miracle.

It's a miracle that I'm here in Lexington. Love brought me here, but three weeks into this journey my gut (literally) ached and I wondered how in the world I was going to make it. I had heartbreaking nightmares that went straight to the core of my concerns. And then the ulcer thing, or whatever is wrong with my stomach. And then wicked migraines and sinunitis, and vertigo. Even before I got sick I prayed some desperate prayers. I told God: You bought me here to do this work for you. You have to help me. I'm trying, but I need You to provide for us. I just don't make money fast enough.

It's a humbling lesson to learn, again and again, it's not me providing, but God. I resist this notion. I want to pull myself up by bootstraps, when I don't even have boots, let alone the kind with straps so sturdy I can pull myself up by them.

And you know what? I got a miracle. God provided. Love is keeping me here, too.

Yesterday, some of the books I ordered--and don't get me started on that drama--finally arrived and soon I can actually begin work applying for 501 c 3 for The Living Room. We have more exciting projects, too! Involving the arts, the under-served and minorities. We were just sitting there talking, and someone brought up the lack of minorities in the thriving arts community here in Lexington. Another great idea and opportunity to serve was born.

For now, edits on the St. Teresa of Avila books are due. A novel is due. I have a headache, lovies, but I'm weary of having been waylaid for four days by pain, fatigue, and vertigo. I've gotten out of the rhythm of prayer that much of this work hangs on. It's time to be a writer, and urban abbess again.

And Lord, have mercy. I'm an urban abbess! Pray for our community, and heaven help us!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

God's Handmade Soul

Tonight I got an email from one of my lovies, Nadine. She'd reunited with a childhood friend and shared pictures of their joyous time together. I couldn't help but think of Keysha.

Keysha and I met at a crucial time in both our lives. I was fourteen, and she was twelve. Despite our age differences, we were best friends, and it is she who stood at the altar beside me in that little Pentecostal church on April 15, 1980. We were both "seized by the power of a great afffection," as the old folks used to say about being born again. We were also magnificently filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time, the gift of tongues pouring out of our newborn souls. I told her stories, and for hours we'd be caught up in these tales I'd spin. We got to be heroines with handsome boys who loved us in my stories, and I believe in many ways those yarns kept us safe from the horrors happening outside our ghetto doors.

Of course we drew apart. We got older. We played with boys, and the years multiplied between us. The next thing I knew we were apart for a very long time, but I loved my friend. We'd share so much, and I missed her.

We've seen each other a few times since I've been writing, and the last time I saw her was the first weekend in August, just after her birthday, and before mine. She stopped by on her birthday tour. I gave her books; she gave me a word from the Lord.

I think I may have mentioned the yoga class, or maybe I talked about this miracle of trying to get to Lexington with your help. Whatever I had to report, she looked at me, her eyes full of wisdom and compassion, and Keysha told me, essentially, the worst is over.

Both of us are far heavier than we were as lithe youth, and she'd just gotten a membership to a gym. I told her how we'd be gardening in Lexington, and sharing meals. She assured me in the end I'd be a new creation, not just in my heart, but in my body. Wow. At long last.

My lovie, Erin is becoming a new creation, too, and isn't that amazing, how God shapes us in the image and likeness He always wanted us to be in. Erin's rediscovering her life and sharing the journey. I guess I'm doing the same thing here.

Don't you think it's incredible that you can begin again the simple act of being you? You can keep the best of yourself and add to it, and drop off what doesn't serve God, yourself, or anyone else. Yesterday I dreamed I lost a lot of weight. Sure, I want to literally lose weight, and I'm certain I will in time, but I had to wonder if this dream was telling me something important.

I'm losing WEIGHT, burdens, toxins to my being.

Today at Mass, in the middle of his homily, Fr. Norman (who is AMAZING by the way) asked us to sing. The song was a revamping of the Diana Ross favorite from Mahogany, "Do You Know Where You're Going To."

Do you know, where you're going to?
Do you like the things that God is showing you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know?

And then he started rapping. I don't know about you, but I like a priest who can bust a rhyme now and then. Fr. Norman asked some good questions, though. It's a blessing and gift to know where you're going. And to be able to discern God's will in it, better still.

I guess I'm rambling like this because Nadine's pictures made me think of Keysha's lovely benediction. All the bad things--the weights pinning me to the ground--she assured me are behind me, and life, brand spankin' new and shining, is spread out before me.

I think I know where I'm going to. I'm loving the things God is showing me.

Now, I still have my struggles. Becoming new, rediscovering my life, whatever I want to call my great awakening, comes with challenges. Something has to happen to the old me, and things are indeed happening. I'm making adjustments, body, soul and spirit, but I can face the difficulties with courage, trusting God to know the blueprint of who I truly am, and to mold and make me, with His own hands, into this very beautiful soul.

And He'll do the same to you.

“We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which he has preordained for us to walk in.” Eph. 2:10.



Friday, September 11, 2009

Little By Little

"What I want to bring out is how a pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words, and deeds is like that."-- Dorothy Day

A few days ago, I hung my icons on a small, east facing wall by the red sofa of love, but I placed my picture of St. Terese, the Little Flower on the wall beside the front door. God is the head of this little house, but I've dubbed her its patron saint. My friend Bethany gave me the portrait of her cradling a bouquet of roses. The picture came to me just after I saw one of St. Terese's books in Borders, and was moved to pray right there in the aisle, "St. Terese, the Little Flower, send one of your roses to me. Pray to God for me."

The very next day the picture was in my mail box.

Did I tell you I fell in love with this house the first time I saw a picture of it on Craigslist? It's odd, but from that moment on I called it "my little house". Sure, I flirted with other houses, but none gave me the feeling this one did. And here I am, sitting in a miracle typing this.

We still have too many boxes. Honestly, that Ken Burney is a bigger pack rat than I am! Don't think tempers haven't flared as we've dealt with this radical change of life. But there is still love in the walls here. And we are changing. Change isn't always easy.

I've spent these eleven days changing my rhythm. Actually, I've spent them creating a rhythm out of the chaos that was my life. I'm now, unbelievably, a morning person. The long gone "breakfast" meal I so dutifully prepared as a newlywed, has returned. Breakfast was the first meal to go, lovies. But before the food gets cooked, I trudge down the street in the dark at 6:30 am for morning prayer with Lisa, every day except Sunday. At 7:00 I wake the kids for school and get them out by eight. I do whatever chores are necessary, and then I write. Three nights a week my family shares meals with the Samsons. And you know what, living in an intentional, new monastic community is far simpler than I believed it would be.

It isn't very romantic, though there are days, like Labor day, when we are fairly enamored of one another. I don't always feel like going to morning prayer, but Lisa and I are faithful. Shared meals requires that you come out of self-imposed exile and give of your time and self. In fact, so much of community is just that, giving of yourself. We don't always know what to do, and in those cases, we choose to love the best way we can.

But I've noticed it's the little things that are changing us. The big, dramatic movement is over. We are settling into the dailyness of this existence. We pray. We eat. We love. We watch for Christ's coming through the broken. We are Matthew 25 people, waiting to serve Christ the prostitute. We are pebbles tossed carelessly in a pond, amazed by the wonder of ripples.

It's a wonderful little thing.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Happy New Mercy

Yesterday was terrible, and that's really all I want to say about that. But I will add how remarkable it is that a day full of hope can also be a harrowing day of stress and high octane anxiety. And surprising anger. We made it to Lexington after midnight. I cried a little when I finally found myself in Lisa's arms. I did not go inside of The Little House. Instead I came to Lisa's, which is home in every sense of the word to me. Or maybe Lisa is home. I'm not sure, but it really doesn't matter.

Despite my many blessings, I ended up crying myself to sleep. And isn't that how life is? Joy mingles with sorrow, and often we feel sorrow most deeply. I finally fell into a fitful sleep around four a.m. I woke up at six.

And here I am, in this quiet house, where the only sound I hear are crickets outside and the soft din of appliances. The sun is rising on W Third Street, washing the sky in baby blue. Like it always does, light dawns. God hears my prayer, "Lord, I'm sorry," and the other prayers I whisper in this morning, prayers like, "Lord, I'm thankful." Mercy was already waiting for me when I rose, and I'm sitting with her, and a cup of tea, and you.

I am thankful for this morning. Today I am 45 years old. I have far too many gray hairs to be such a sprightly lass, and too many wrinkles around my eyes. Don't get me started on my mid-section and epic behind. There are many years of failure behind me, but mercy has a short memory and bad eye-sight. She doesn't remember my faltering years, and all she can see is my contrite, but grateful heart, and she finds it so very beautiful to behold.

Most years I think about the little treats I want for my birthday. I drop massive hints, and I give to myself as lavishly as my budget will allow. But I have everything I want this chilly September morning. It's hard to even imagine anything lacking. This year for a treat I think I'll simply wear my dress with the butterflies--the one I wore to the Christy Awards. I'll make an effort to remember to watch more sunrises, and savor more moments, be they perfect, or imperfect. I'll spend as much time as I can with mercy; she's a good teacher, and lovely companion. And most of all, I'll trust in the Lord; not in myself, and certainly not in my own righteousness. And I'll say "thank you," when it is proper to do so.

Thank you.

Thank you for sharing this life and journey with me, and the new mercy God grants just because it pleases Him to share them with us every single morning.

I love you so.