I am a (somewhat) frustrated contemplative. I had a taste of the unfrustrated contemplative life for a couple of months in the summer of 2010. I arose early and performed the Yoga Sun Salute, then sat on the floor trying to keep my mind focused on nothing (not all that easy) until my 20-minute timer went off. Then I would luxuriate in reading one chapter/section from eight different books. Then I would write in a journal. This took hours! It was heavenly. I loved it.
But then I volunteered to be a fulltime nanny for my newborn grandson. He was born in January 2010. “I was there to hear his borning cry.” It still brings tears to my eyes. Excuse me while I get a tissue, so I can see what I am writing. Somehow, after my own long and painful labor and birthing of my son in 1982, my image of a “mystical” birthing experience was shattered. (My second birth experience for my daughter was MUCH better due to the constant personal coaching of a nurse midwife.)
However, the birth of my grandson involved no suffering on my part! So I was able to bask in the miracle of his birth and thank God for this tiny new human being, flesh of my flesh (once-removed). This happened on the cusp of my retirement (which I am certain was personally arranged by God), so I was able to volunteer to care for Max for six weeks when my daughter-in-law had to return to work.
Newborns tend to sleep a lot, but they wake up frequently. I wasn’t able to establish my “contemplative self” during that time. But I did establish a relationship with my grandson. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being dropped off at daycare everyday when his mom had to return to work at the end of the summer. So I volunteered to come back and care for him during the school year ( with time off during school vacations).
My husband was supportive of this decision for the same reason. We Skype several times per day, and our reunions are excellent!
My grandson is a toddler now. He needs constant attention to (hopefully) prevent him from eating dog food, paper (including unpaid bills), cat toys, remote controls, cell phones, books, magazines, etc. Thankfully, he usually takes a morning and afternoon nap, so I can get dressed and perhaps accomplish a task or two.
I carry a tote bag filled with my books. I was introduced to The Rule of Benedict: Insight for the Ages by Joan Chittister many years ago during my introduction to the Community of Hope http://www.episcopalchurch.org/26769_74909_ENG_HTM.htm. It is my first “go to” book when I have a moment for a short reading. I haven’t read it for days, but I picked it up this morning and read:
The first step in humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all. Because of the holy service they have professed, or because of dread of hell and for the glory of everlasting life, they carry out the orders of the prioress or abbot as promptly as if the command came directly from God. The Holy One says of people like this: “No sooner did they hear than they obeyed me” (Ps. 18:45); again, God tells teachers: “Whoever listens to you, listens to me” (Luke 10:16). Such people as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will, and lay down whatever they have in hand, leaving it unfinished. With the ready step of obedience, they follow the voice of authority in their actions. Almost at the same moment, then, as the teacher gives the instruction, the disciple quickly puts it into practice out of reverence for God; and both actions together are swiftly completed as one.”
This has put a new perspective on my missing contemplative time. Max is my concern now. Contemplation can wait. I trust that God understands.
This is a new time in my life. In October 2009, I was an unhealthy, stressed out home hospice nurse who was literally stopped in her tracks when she arrived home from work one day last year without her voice. After working for two days feeling a little like a cold was coming on, I suddenly had NO voice. I guessed it must be laryngitis, but it meant that I could not do my job, which involved talking with patients and their families all day long.
I saw the doctor and started treatment and accomplished little with each passing day. I was SO tired. Exhausted, I guess, from working long hours and pouring my heart and soul into my work. I LOVED my work, but my life was way off balance.
My voice did not return with antibiotics, so I was seen by an ENT specialist. After more antibiotics and further procedures, I was found to have cysts that were preventing my vocal cords from closing. The only treatment left was surgery. This was performed in January 2010. After weeks of healing, I finally had a voice back. Not the voice I used to have, but one that works.
Because I was off work for my surgical healing, I was able to attend the birth of my first grandchild, a boy, at the end of January. By the time I was released to return to work, I was eligible to retire with a pension from the US Army after 20 years in the active Army, Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.
Because I could retire, I was able to offer to care for my grandson when my daughter-in-law had to return to work as a teacher. I cared for him for 8 weeks, which led me to offer my continued nanny service when the new school year started.
One thing leads to another. This is just one of the paths I have traveled in my maze of grace.
Today’s meditation from “Forward Day By Day”: “Procrastination is one of our greatest temptations- ”I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Tomorrow may not come, but we are in the valley of decision today.” Margaret Cropper 1973 (reference Joel 3:9-17)
I have been thinking about writing a spiritual blog since July. Initially, my stumbling block was a name. I wanted it to be “A Maze of Grace” after a great song by Avalon. Unfortunately, that name is copyrighted, and I had no second choice. So no blog.
Then a friend suggested changing the the first word to “My”, which was not copyrighted, so I could use it. End of problem. I also thought the new title was better. This isn’t just a maze of grace, it’s the maze I’m going through to get where I am. As to why it has taken me so long to get started? That brings us back to today’s reading. In my maze, I just stumbled into the Valley of Decision. So I choose to begin now. To begin to tell the story of my maze of grace.