“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives-the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections-that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for. Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.” ~ Henri Nouwen
I was sorting things into keep piles, save piles and move piles, when I remembered a dream that I had several years ago. It was actually just an image. I had shared it with some friends and one of them had drawn a picture of it and wrote down thoughts that had come to her as she drew. I saved that picture somewhere, but I don’t know where. I thought I had put in in an old journal but I couldn’t find it. When I was packing for our move, I threw two of these journals in my stuff to take to temporary quarters with me. A note about that image was in one, but no drawing. The rest of the journals, I threw away. There is a journal person’s prayer that says: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, please throw my journals in the lake.” I took care of that before anyone had to do it for me and get curious about what I had written. I was only mildly curious, myself. Randomly picking up these two has been enlightening or at the least interesting. Let me share some of them.
First, the image that I had in the dream that kept me from throwing all the journals in the lake. It was New Year’s Eve, 1997. I wrote, “I was walking around something. It seemed like the altar [at St. Alban’s in Windsor]. Nothing was on the altar – no cloth or anything. Then I noticed green succulent tiny leaves clinging to it. Behind the altar was a terra cotta flower pot. It had broken open on the floor. My sense was that it had fallen off the altar. Dirt was all around it – potting soil dirt and the plant was growing from this and clinging to the altar. Hum?” I wish I had the words my friend wrote. Today, I was thinking about how our spiritual growth and transformation (at least mine) really takes place when we embrace our brokenness and don’t try to bury it or ignore it. At those times when we lie broken and scattered, new growth comes from clinging to God. I don’t know what else to do with mine.
There are other stories, too, that I “accidently” saved – about the angels that came to collect my sister’s mother-in-law when she was dying – about saying goodbyes to many things, and about the day 21 years ago, just before Palm Sunday, when our son died from suicide and the little blue bird that came to see me before I left the retreat I was on and came home to this news. Many of these stories are about brokenness, loss and God’s grace in the midst of it all. I will read some more of them in the days to come. Maybe, I’ll share them.