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My sister asked me this the other night:

“So what do you DO on a silent retreat?”

It’s a good question, one that worried me tremendously on my first silent retreat 14 years ago.

On centering prayer retreats and spiritual direction retreats (like the one I went on last week at the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, Alabama), the leaders suggest you don’t read or use electronic devices.  The point of these retreats is to be with yourself and God,  the expressions of this higher power.  Reading and checking email and Facebook and even crocheting or sewing are ways we can try to escape ourselves, just as watching television or surfing the internet or cleaning or a myriad other activities can be.

If you’re willing to let go of your habitual escapes, on a silent retreat you can go deep enough for thoughts and worries and all of the clutter in your mind to settle – at least somewhat.

It takes time for this settling to occur, though.  For me, this last retreat from Monday through Friday wasn’t quite long enough for the deep settling.  But perhaps that was partially because I didn’t feel called to the deepest parts of myself this time.

As for the initial question, what do you DO?

Well, you have time to get comfortable with being.  I like to be outside in nature, and this last week was a real blessing for that, as July in the South is usually unbearably hot during the day.  But last week was nearly perfect.

On Wednesday, the middle day of our retreat, it was very temperate and not humid at all.  So I spent nearly all day outside.  I was up at dawn to watch the sun bring light to the lake.  I did a couple of centering prayer sits.  I had breakfast on the patio.  I walked the labyrinth two or three times.  I wrote in my journal.  I reflected on my dreams and my life.  I tried to be present to what was around me, to the trees and flowers and birds and bugs, to be in my body, to allow myself to feel my feelings and not try to escape them.

And I slept a lot.

I told my sister how in each one of my silent retreats, I feel exhausted.  I’ve had leaders tell me it’s because letting go and going deeply into ourselves is hard work.  Typically on a silent retreat, I take two or three naps a day, sometimes long naps of a couple of hours.  I go to bed earlier than at home.  I dream deeply.  I always have some really interesting, involved dreams that give me a window into my subconscious self, to what is concerning me and to how I can grow.

Sometimes I do read a little at night from a spiritual book.  But I’m not reading to escape.  I’m reading for prompts, for nudges toward growth.  Because I find that the book I take is synchronous with what I need at the time of my retreat.

And I write in my journal.  On some retreats I write a lot, on some I write very little.  It depends on whether the retreat stirs up  junk or helps it settle.

On this spiritual direction retreat, I met with my spiritual director for an hour on each of the middle three days.  That gave me some input on what I was experiencing, a focusing conversation.

This retreat was much more unstructured than a centering prayer retreat.  Really, the only structure was meeting with our spiritual directors and lunch and dinner (because breakfast was on our own with food provided in the retreat house).  That openness was very inviting for me because I could follow my intuition as to how I wanted to spend my time.  We could go to services with the nuns, but I didn’t choose that.  Liturgy has been dry for me for several years now.

Yes, there were other retreatants.  This time there were six of us.  We’d see each other in the kitchen or coming or going or on the grounds or in one of the chapels.  We ate lunch and dinner in silence together.  After I got used to being in silence with others on my first silent retreat, silence hasn’t felt awkward.  It doesn’t seem it would be this way, but even in silence, you feel each others’ support.  I suppose it’s because you’re all there for the same reasons, at least at the root.

We are there to be.

And that takes me back to the question, so what do you DO on a silent retreat?

You practice being.

Not that you are present the whole time.  But you allow yourself the time and space to learn to be, to get a little comfortable with it.

And you bring some of that being back with you into your everyday world when the retreat is over.

So the retreat helps you both during the retreat and in your everyday life after it.

One day, I hope to have that presence – that being – nearly all of the time, in every situation in my life.

But for now, I’ll practice it a little at a time.  Except for during retreats, when I can take a crash course.

A crash course that I hope will help me grow in presence, that will give me some presence to bring back with me.

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Labyrinth at Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, Alabama

Labyrinth at Sacred Heart Monastery, Cullman, Alabama

 

When stray cats adopt me and gradually win my heart, I don’t expect them to leave me quickly.

But sometimes they do.

If you’ve read my posts about Cosette, the mama cat who brought me her kittens last May, you’ll know how she taught me about trying to relax and trust that everything would work out.

How finally, after five months, she let me pet her.  And how she eventually started to roll over and let me rub her belly.  How little by little she became a pet instead of a stray cat who ate at my house.

I envisioned us having a long time together.  I was sure she’d work her way into being an indoor/outdoor cat instead of just an outdoor one.  I wondered what it would be like to have her white fur all over the house.  And I wondered when she’d finally jump up into my lap to snuggle.

What I didn’t envision was that she would have only a little over a year with me.

But that’s how long we had together.

Friday evening I found her dead a few feet from the fence in my back yard.  She had been fine that morning.  She and my other cat had breakfast and then were at the door later for a second breakfast – which I gave them.  Nothing seemed amiss.

So I was stunned when I found her body in the back yard that evening.  I don’t know what killed her.  She looked as if she were sleeping on her side.

This was the cat who taught me about birth and cat motherhood when she brought me her kittens.

And now she’s teaching me about death.

When I got up Friday morning, I had no idea I’d be burying her before dinner.

Life and death are like that.  As much as we like to think we have some control, we don’t. Control is an illusion.

I’ve had this death put into perspective, though.  In the last two days I’ve seen posts on Facebook about unexpected deaths.  Daughters who died suddenly.  Daughters who left husbands and children and parents and siblings and grandparents who never thought they’d be burying a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a grandchild.  These survivors are more than heartbroken.  They will grieve deeply for the rest of their lives.

And it’s not just daughters who die.  Sons do.  Husbands do.  Wives do. Grandparents do. Aunt and uncles do.  Friends do.

Everyone does at some point.

I leave tomorrow for a silent retreat, and with me I’ll take the knowledge of death.  I’ll let myself be with that inevitability – that I will die one day.  That I will experience the death of loved ones, of friends, of pets.  I’ll be present with the fact that this world brings us both life and death.

Yes, it’s both and.

We live and we die.  Even though we don’t like to think of the death part.

Does the fact of death diminish life?

I don’t think it does.  Paradoxically, it enhances it.  We know that life here on this earth is finite.  That we are not assured tomorrow.  And neither are those we love.

So we need to love well now.  We need to be present now.

That little black and white spotted cat reminded me of a lot of truths.  Her last lesson is painful.  But I don’t regret knowing her.

I’m grateful for the time we had together.

Thank you, Cosette.  I wish you Godspeed over the rainbow bridge.

And because I know I’ll join you on the other side one day, I’ll try to be more aware now.

More attentive.

More present.

More grateful.

 

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IMG_6033You know the feeling, like you were in the movie Groundhog Day - you run into the same situation over and over and over . . . . so many times that you thought you were in an infinite loop?

I’ve felt like the Bill Murray character in many different areas of my life, ones in which I seemed to be repeating the same day over and over, stuck in an infinite loop.  Some loops were ones that I knew were very significant.  Others were ones that seemed meaningless at the time.

But since my mind naturally looks for patterns, now when I run into one of these recurrences, I’ve learned to ask myself what is going on.  What is the pattern?

And more importantly why, and why now?

I mean, why would I encounter situations over and over?  Surely there is something significant beyond what I’m seeing?

My thought now, after many patterns of recurrence during my life, is that these recurrences are opportunities.

Opportunities for me.  Opportunities for me to change.

I seem to draw to myself the situations (and people) that are trying to lead me into my next area of growth – and the seemingly infinite loops occur when I refuse the invitation of that new path.

What happens when I turn down that opportunity?

Well, then I get opportunity followed by opportunity followed by opportunity.

Spring & summer 2007 107Sometimes that old path, the one I’ve worn so well, the one that feels so very comfortable with its wide expanse and mostly flat terrain, the one with solid footing and only a few rocks, ones that I can easily step over or around, the path with very gradual incline – it’s the one I need to leave . . . . so that I can take another trail.  I need to leave that familiar path to take the one that’s perhaps a little grown up, where maybe there might be a snake or two hiding in the weeds or perhaps some big spiderwebs I’ll have to walk through.  Or maybe it’s that trail that is really rocky, the one that is steep with slippery footing, the one that disappears around a bend that seems to be a narrow ledge, the one with huge boulders I’ll have to climb over.

I’m not naturally going to choose those trails when my nice, safe, comfortable trail is right here.

I mean, really, why make it hard on myself, right?

So I have a recurrence to help nudge me into an area of growth, onto that new trail.

And when I ignore that recurrence, that nudge, then I have another.  And another.  And another.  Then the nudge becomes a push.  And when the push doesn’t get me onto the new path, I get a shove.  Sometimes a big one (like cancer).

And so finally I leave the well-worn, safe, easier path.

I’m learning to identify the nudges toward an unexplored path when I encounter a new situation – or person – that feels very familiar.  Like I’ve been here in this very new place before – even though I know I haven’t been.  Or like I already know this person – even though I’m sure we’ve never met.  In the past my rational mind would tell me that this feeling of familiarity isn’t significant, that it’s not meaningful, that it’s totally a coincidence.

That I don’t need to pay any special attention to it.

But now I know better.

I’ve had enough of these nudges happen to realize I’m running into a pattern, a recurrence.

And I know now that recurrences are meaningful.  That they are significant.  That they are opportunities.

Not that I always know what the opportunity is.  At least not yet.

Sometimes it takes a while for me to figure out the message, to discover just what it is that I need to change about myself.

I can see the patterns much more clearly in others – see the recurrences in their lives and the opportunities for growth.

But the recurrences in my life?  I see them a lot less clearly.

That’s one reason I keep a journal that includes a record of my dreams.  There I can see the patterns more easily.  I can see the recurrences.  They might be in situations I encounter or in people I meet.  Or they might show up in a series of dreams.

Usually they show up in all three – situations, people, and dreams.

Once I realize the recurrence and the opportunity, that doesn’t mean I’ll have an easy new path.  I still have to negotiate the snakes and weeds or the rocks and the ledge.  But at least I’m on the new path, the one with the opportunity for growth.

And I’ll have gotten out of that seemingly infinite loop of recurrences.

 

 

At least until the next one . . . .

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“Atmosanctum” by Evan Lewis in Chattanooga’s Bluff View district

 

 

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Who wants to acknowledge her faults?

Not me!

“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

- Carl Jung, “Psychology and Religion” 

I’m less good than I imagine myself to be or even want to be?

Me?  Is Carl Jung talking about me??

Really?

The truth is that the answer is YES.

That’s a hard truth.

And it’s not just me.  It’s everyone.  It’s all of us.

I can see it much more clearly in others, of course, but I know it’s true about me.  It’s just that on most days I don’t want to deal with this truth.  I want to live in my world of illusion – the one in which I’m a good person with good intentions.  Always.

Or mostly always.

About others, I can see the truth.  I see their meanness, their lack of generosity, their narcissism, their judgmental nature, their snide intellectualism, their dishonesty, their hypocrisy.  The list goes on and on.

As for me, those characteristics aren’t true . . . can’t be true.

Can they?

I’m sure my friends and family could point out each and every trait I listed – in me.   Plus some.  Plus many.

That’s a hard truth.

But it’s one I’m trying to acknowledge.

Because how can I correct my flaws if I don’t even acknowledge them?

I can’t.

Jesus says in the Gospel of John, ” . . . then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

That sounds good, doesn’t it?

Freedom.

Who doesn’t want to be free?

I mean, we’ll be talking about freedom this week, what with Independence Day coming up and all.  “Freedom” is a word we’ll hear a lot.  We’ll probably think it means freedom from tyranny, which we’ll think means the government or big business or whatever group we think exemplifies tyranny.  But honestly, the biggest tyrant any of us will encounter will be ourselves.

I myself am a tyrant??

The truth is yes.  I am.  I keep myself from true freedom by what I refuse to acknowledge about myself.

It’s a hard freedom to acknowledge my faults.  To see them, own up to them.  And to try to change them.

It’s a hard truth.

But if true freedom is what I want, I have to deal with hard truth.  I have to give up my illusions, look at my shadow, and choose to change.

That is the road to freedom.  One that I need to take.  One that I must choose to take.

Now.  And every single day for the rest of my life.

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Lately I’ve had several dreams of escaping.  I’m being chased by people I can’t see – but I know they’re there.  And they’re about to catch me.

What will happen if they do?

If they actually do catch me?

I don’t know.

And I don’t want to find out.  So I run, I hide, I even fly.  To get away.

But I bet that’s the absolutely wrong approach.

According to Carl Jung, “What you resist persists.”

I’m sure that’s true.

I’d be more wise to welcome those who are chasing me.  In fact, I should stop running, turn and face them – and ask for their gift.

Because I feel sure they have a gift for me, something I need to know, to see, to be.

There’s a prayer that I’ve been taught at many retreats.  It’s called the Welcoming Prayer. Here Richard Rohr explains it:

Rather than resisting or fighting our addictions (to thoughts, things, behaviors, etc.), admitting powerlessness is the first step toward healing and freedom. A simple prayer brings this practice into the day-to-day circumstances of life when we are drawn into habitual reactions. While a set-aside time for meditation is truly valuable in rewiring our brains, Welcoming Prayer helps us find serenity through surrender in the midst of messy, ordinary moments.

When triggered or caught by something unpleasant, begin by simply being present to your feeling, experiencing it not just mentally but also emotionally and physically. Don’t try to rationalize or explain the feeling, but witness and give attention to this sensation.

Welcome the feeling, speaking aloud, if you can: “Welcome, [anger, fear, hunger, longing, etc.].” Repeat this as many times as you need to truly sense yourself embracing and receiving the feeling.

Finally, let go of the feeling, perhaps speaking these words by Mary Mrozowski, the originator of Welcoming Prayer:

I let go of my desire for security and survival.
I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire to change the situation.

Yes, I need to ground myself into whatever I’m feeling.  To be present to it.  And welcome it.

Along with whoever is chasing me in my dreams.  Because they’re likely the feelings I’m trying to escape.

Maybe writing this post will help me be aware in my next dreams.

Aware enough to quit trying to escape.

To say, “Welcome.”

And to ask for the gift.

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In the South, even grownups often call their fathers “Daddy.”

My sister and I were no exception.

Our father was always Daddy – until the day he died.  That was more than 15 years ago, and it seems that every year I discover more lessons that I learned from Daddy.

One of the most important of those lessons was to be an active part of our community.  His example is probably one of the biggest influences in my being a teacher for so many years.

Being involved in my community seems second nature because of the example that Daddy set.

He was always active in our church, the one he attended his entire life.  Jerusalem Lutheran Church, also called Ebenezer, was our second home.  Our roots there go deep, all the way back to 1749 when the first Seckingers arrived by boat after crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

When he died, Daddy was the bell ringer and treasurer of the church.  He was treasurer of another organization or two as well as a hospital volunteer.  Along with several other community involvements.

He felt that as a member of a community, you were called to serve.

And so he did.

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He also showed my sister and me the importance of family.  He went to all of our ballgames and concerts.  He played softball with us in the backyard.

He was at every significant event in our lives.

We grew up surrounded by extended family.  We lived across from Daddy’s mother and sister and catty-corner to another sister – who lived next to another sister.

On Sundays the families from our crossroads gathered at Grandma’s, and Daddy’s other sisters and his brother and their families came, too.  He was one of eight children.  Being close to aunts and uncles and cousins seemed the normal way of life.

I didn’t realize until later what a blessing it is to grow up surrounded by family, how grounding and safe and comforting that can feel.

Perhaps being a part of a large family was a motivator for Daddy to be so involved in his community.  Maybe working with others came as second nature because of that.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad that it was.  His example made it easy for my sister and me to be involved in our communities when we left our country crossroads where we were surrounded by family.  It made us both able to move away and become a part of communities in Northwest Georgia and Chattanooga (for me) and New England (for her).

That sense of community certainly was a big part of helping me through my breast cancer journey a couple of years ago.  Being surrounded by caring, compassionate people here was much like growing up on our country intersection in Effingham County.

Daddy’s involvement in his community showed me that I’m a part of something larger than myself, a part of others who live and work and play and pray with me.

He and my mother taught my sister and me so much more, but his sense of community and service to it is one of the greatest of those lessons.

He was one of the first to show me that we are all connected.  And that sense of connection became the foundation of my life.

It was nothing spoken.  Daddy gave no sermons on service, no speeches on the importance of being involved in your community.

What he gave was example day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

For his entire life.

Thank you, Daddy, for showing my sister and me how to life a meaningful life, for being love in action.

Your example is a part of every single day of my life.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Have you ever tried to force yourself to relax?  Were you struck by the absurdity of that?

It makes me think of when I was a kid.

We were at the beach, and Mama was trying to get me to float in the ocean.  I wasn’t very good at floating.

It was hard for me to let go, to let the ocean support me, to put my head back and let my body soften into buoyancy in the salt water.

Plus, my feet seemed always to sink.  I was a skinny kid – not much body fat to help me float.

But Mama was convinced that I could float – if I’d just relax.

So she’d be holding me up as I lay on my back in the ocean.  And she’d let go.

I’d start to sink.

And she’d say, very forcefully, “RELAX!”

I’d just tense up and sink more.

It never worked.  I never floated.

That’s how I feel lately.  Like I’m telling myself, “RELAX!”

But I’m adding, “DAMMIT!”

It’s not working.  Even though I’m trying so hard.

Go figure.

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I wrote a post about “re-” words back during my breast cancer treatments.  And lately I’ve been thinking agian about how there are a whole lot of both positive and negative words that start with the prefix “re.”  So I’m going to try a series of posts dealing with some of those.

Today I’m starting with review.

I spent some time this morning reviewing my journal from a year ago.  So much has changed. So much has not.

My primary focus early last June was on cats – and kittens.  The cat I now call “Cosette” was “Mama Cat” then.  She brought me four kittens, and I felt great responsibility to them.  Too much so.  So much that I couldn’t enjoy the kittens and their playfulness.  I had to find them homes.  Then I had to get Mama Cat spayed before she got pregnant again.

Then I worried that she’d run away and not come back.

I was consumed by this other “re-” word.

Responsibility.

I felt its weight.

Even though I knew things would work out – that I would find homes for the kittens, that I’d get Mama Cat spayed, that she’d probably choose to live here. . . I still worried.  Too much. Disproportionately.

That is one thing that hasn’t changed.  I still get stressed over responsibility.  And I worry. Disproportionately.  That has been my M.O. since I was a child.

But my whole life has shown me that things work out, that I can handle what comes.

Yet still I worry.  I get anxious.  I feel stressed.

I know I need to relax.  (That will be my next word focus for a post).

My review today showed me that I continue to carry anxiety and worry.  Even though, even though I know that things work out.

It’s a lack of trust, isn’t it?

For now, I’ll show you how things did work out.

First, you see Mama Cat nursing her kittens a year ago.  And then you see her incarnation as Cosette, the spayed cat who didn’t run away, the pet cat who lets me rub her belly now.

Proof that things work out.

Maybe, just maybe, I can be responsible and relax.

At the same time.

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When I plan a day trip, I try to choose the day with perfect weather. . . . you know, as if Goldilocks were planning – not too hot, not too cold. . . . just right.

Well, my trip to Gibbs Gardens did have some just right – along with a fair amount of too cool, a couple of minutes of too hot, quite a bit of breezy, some short spells of rain.  Just about everything but snow, sleet, and hail.

And you know what?

All of that turned out to be just right.

I’m learning that all of my planning doesn’t really matter.  That I can just enjoy what is.

My friend and I had the loveliest day exploring the gardens.  The flowers and reflecting pools and sculptures and bridges were all happy with whatever the weather was.

And so were we.

We arrived just in time for a patio lunch of tasty sandwiches on local bread, and then we meandered in the sunshine to the Waterlily Gardens and Monet Bridge, which is an exact replica of the bridge in Monet’s Garden at Giverny.

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Monet Bridge with a few early waterlilies

You can see from the reflection on the pool that it was a little breezy.  With temperatures around 60, it was a bit chilly at times, and the sunshine felt good when it peeked out.  But honestly, I actually enjoyed the cool – because I know hot is on its way.

Gibbs Gardens is the perfect place for meandering.  There are benches everywhere, and if you take a notion, you can sit and soak in the scene of manicured grass and perfectly shaped trees along with the sculptures or whatever other treat Mr. Gibbs has prepared for you.

After looking at the Monet Bridge from each side, my friend and I went on through the Grandchildren’s Sculpture Garden, where Mr. Gibbs’ grandchildren are busy with their favorite activities.

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From the grandchildren, we chose to go to the Japanese Gardens, supposedly the largest in the nation.  The weather was shifting again, fluctuating from sunny to cloudy, and the pools beautifully reflected the changes.  I loved the many Japanese lanterns and sculptures and decades old bonsai.  So much beauty in one place!

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We looped around the Japanese Gardens as a rain shower dropped in on us.  We were making our way up to see the Manor House Gardens.  And just as we needed it, we came upon a covered structure with seating.  We talked with two couples who chose the same rain escape, and the shower ended shortly, so we recommenced our leisurely walk up the hill to the house.

It seems unbelievable, but the Gibbs family lets visitors walk all around their house to enjoy the abundant flowers there, along with the views.

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Another little rain shower came as we walked back down into the gardens, but the paths are so wooded that few drops actually got through the foliage.  The rain stopped as we wandered back toward the cafe, so we decided to try a slice of the tempting desserts we’d passed up at lunch time.  Why not enjoy a little more time in this beautiful setting?  The lemon bar was the just right way to end a just right day.

My friend asked a couple of times, “How did I not know about this place?!”  My sister is the one who told me about it first a couple of years ago when she read about the daffodils. There are huge daffodil gardens with more than 20 million daffodils that bloom from early March through mid-April.  Yes, you read that right – 20 MILLION!  I’ll be back some year to see that.

But this trip was too late for daffodils – and too early for hydrangeas.

But it was just right for so many other flowers.  And ferns.  And trees.  And pools.  And sculptures.  And sandwiches and lemon bars.  The just right excursion with a friend.

Did the unseasonal cool and little bit of rain dampen our time at Gibbs Gardens?

Nope, not at all.

It was a day of variety, from the unusual weather to our meandering path through the gardens to our routes there and back.

None of which I’d exactly planned.

But all of which turned out to be just right.

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Mother’s Day Reflections

My mother never wanted to be called “Mother.”

She was always “Mama.”  I think she thought “Mother” sounded pretentious – and that’s one thing that she was not.

Her father owned a store in a small town near Augusta, one that he lost during the Depression.  When I’d tease her that she was “small town society,” that made her mad.  Being a part of “society” was never one of her goals.

She was a college graduate, starting at Georgia Teachers College (now Georgia Southern University) where a math professor encouraged her to major in math.  She declined and went on to Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College, where my sister and I both earned degrees) and majored in Home Economics.  She loved her two years in Milledgeville, and based on her stories, it was the happiest time of her life.

From Milledgeville and GSCW she went on to her first job in Darien as the McIntosh County Home Demonstration Agent.  She loved being so close to the beach, and we have lots of pictures of her there, smiling and laughing as a 20-something who was full of life.

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Paddling on a lake we call “The Big Sea”

After a couple of years, she moved to Effingham County to be the Home Demonstration Agent there.  I doubt she realized then that that would be the last county she’d live in for the rest of her life.  There she met my father.  After a six-month engagement, they married.  Two years later they built a house, and two more years later had me, and three years after that had my sister.  It was a busy time, one that the two young folks enjoyed immensely.

When I was born, Mama quit her job, and from then on she devoted her life to her new role as a mother.

Mama helped make a good life for us.  We never lacked for anything and were surrounded by loving extended family and church family.  She took her mother role very seriously, trying her best to provide for us all that we needed.

She taught my sister and me to be honest and independent and helpful and considerate.  She taught us never to be pretentious.  She taught us that we were better than no one.  That’s one lesson I especially appreciate, because it’s one that comes to me over and over.  I know that we are all connected, that we all matter, that we all are human beings with loves and fears and shames and joys.

Mama loved us fiercely.  She had the Robinson temper that I saw in her brother and sister and which we’ve been told comes from our great grandmother, the one who was so fearsome that men, women, and children all stepped out of her way when she walked down the street.

One of my life lessons is to learn to be fierce and compassionate, to be both brave and loving.  It’s not easy finding the balance, that place of and.  It was a struggle for Mama, too.

Almost 10 years ago Mama finished her struggle on this earth and made her passage to the other side.  And these 10 years later, I still find myself thinking for a brief second every now and then that I’ll call Mama to share some news or some thought.  Then I remember that she’s been gone from this world for almost a decade.

And I’ll also remember that she already knows what I’m thinking I’d like to tell her.

Because she’s always present to me.  She lives in me, in both my good and bad qualities.  She and Daddy gave my sister and me both genetics and home environment.  They formed who we both are today.

But they did not completely determine who we have become, who we will ultimately become. They were our foundation. They gave us a launching pad.

But reaching the stars is up to us.

I’m grateful for that solid foundation, for the lessons I learned and am still learning, the ones that began in my first home.

I’m grateful for a mother who taught and exemplified independence and fierce love.

I’m grateful for my down-to-earth, non-pretentious Mama.  I’m still learning what she taught me through words and even more through example.  I’m still growing, still becoming a better person – a person she helped give every advantage.

Could I have been more blessed?

Hardly!

And so much of that blessing came through my mother.

Thank you, Mama.  And Happy Mother’s Day.

 

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