Remember
that the whole earth is a sacrament-
a limitless possibility of encountering
God reaching toward us.

September 2, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Cat Napping

While rifling through a desk drawer the other day,
I came across a favorite photo of a cat
Napping in the sun.

All stretched out as only cats can be,
Curled around the base of a pot of geraniums,
Looking blissfully content.
Her mouth closed in the shape of a smile.

I was reminded that long summer days,
Days for cat napping
Are passing us by
Much more quickly than I realized.

During these long, lazy days, I have been
Spending too much time inside
Working at the computer,

Doing indoor chores,
Watching summer happen outside
Through my office window.

Perhaps you are doing the same.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves
That the next few weeks are times for rejoicing
In the life that is teeming around us
Outside.

Let us breathe this season in,
The full throat and belly of it.
Let us feel it in our bones.
And thank God for warm sunny days.

Nina Bisognani

August 19, 2021

Image: Barbara Ryther

Memento Mori

Memento Mori is latin for “reminder of death.”
As a student in school, that was just a quaint academic exercise:
Dancing skeletons on medieval etchings,
Melting clocks in Dali paintings. Flies on bowls of fruit.
All to show mortality.

But now, I see mementos every day.
The wayward strands of silver hair that show up overnight,
That single bright red leaf when summer’s still in swing.
Or somehow seeing mold on berries just bought yesterday.

We could react with horror at these signs of passing time.
Rush out and buy some hair dye or wool sweaters and warm boots.
Forgetting all the very present joy.

Or…let that silver just remind us of our grandma’s hair.
Pick up that leaf and marvel at the colors God creates.
Keep the box of berries, and just toss that one with fuzz,
Before it has the chance to bring the others down.
Sit for a bowl of summer sweetness while you can.

Then when silver hair takes over and the trees are red and gold,
A different kind of beauty will await.

Melanie Kyer
August 5, 2021

August 5, 2021

Image: Kathryn Yingst

Let’s sit down, you and I, and talk.

Here, under the wheeling gulls

Overlooking the sea, teeming with life

Beneath the expansive summer sky

Trivia doesn’t matter.

Let’s go deeper.

 

What has changed in us over this months?

What have we learned?

How might the months of suffering 

Observed and experienced

Have made us different—

Transformed us?

How do we want our lives to be going forward?

 

Before the world grabs our attention again

And tries to catch us in its frantic whirl

Let’s resist.

Let’s sit down, you and I and talk.

 

Sudie Blanchard

July 22, 2021

The Painting

Remember
when the hours of summer
ran together like colors—
endless blue, grass green, dandelion—
and feeling
the breath of every wild
and beautiful thing
brush against our skin,
a visible and invisible gold?

Do you remember
being sweetly devoured
by mystery?

The fluttering of a butterfly 
in cupped hands.
The bend of a tree
calling to be reached.
The happy slumber
of a garden cat in July.

The days were steeped
in marigolds and honeybees
and the bright drip
of popsicle juice 
running down our arms.

Remember blowing bubbles,
the pink violet orbs
suspended
like our urge to burst them:
only for a moment?

After dinner
we caught fireflies
then watched them float—
our tiny lanterns
to the sky.

Do you remember
the lush silence of stars?

May it ever consume us,
this mystery,
the sheer astonishment
of being beautifully,
miraculously
ALIVE.

Kathryn Yingst
July 19, 2021

July 8, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Millions of years ago God gave us colorful, scented flowers. 
Bees, the vegetarian descendants of predatory wasps, appeared 
shortly afterward. Up to 85% of food crops for humans and 
numerous crops that feed cattle and other animals depend on bees. 
Bees are our great pollinators.

There are references to the behavior of bees in the Bible.
Bees represent industriousness, strength, and wisdom.
Honey reflects Jesus Christ’s sweet and gentle nature.
Justice and the cross are likened to the sharp sting of the
bee, which causes pain like “fire among thorns.”

As highly organized protectors of the hive and their Queen,
bees remind us to be loyal to one Ruler, to One God.
Although all bees have a particular role in their community,
scouts will die stinging intruders who pose danger to the
Queen. Drones will die to mate with the Queen, sustaining 
the life of the hive. So, too, must we protect our spiritual selves
by devoting our lives and sacrifice to the will of God and the
universe He has created to sustain us. 

It has been suggested that when you see a bee visiting a flower,
you are witnessing a love affair that began over one million years ago.

Poet Kahil Gibran once wrote:

    “ To the bee, a flower is the fountain of life,
      and to the flower the bee is a messenger of love.”

Although bees are increasingly losing their habitats to urbanization,
farming , pesticides and climate change, we can help care for our earthly 
garden by planting flowers that attract them and ultimately feed them. 
Short-tongued bees like bowl shapes and daisy-type flowers. Long-tongued bees,
like the garden bumblebee, prefer more pendulous flowers, such as foxglove.

Last year 40% of honeybee colonies in the United States died.  Now we have
an opportunity to give back to these amazing little creatures who have given us so
much for so long.

Nina Bisognani

A Prayer for Beehives, adapted from the Orthodox Great Book of Needs

O Almighty God: You hold all creation in the palm of your hands; You possess the heavens, the earth and all that is them; You compassionately grant to all created things what is beneficial for them. We pray to You, O all-good One: As in ancient times You granted the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, and as you were well-pleased to nourish Your baptizer John in the wilderness with wild honey, so now by Your good pleasure and caring for our sustenance, bless these beehives in their apiary, greatly increase the number of bees in them, preserve them by Your grace, and fill us rich with honey. Let none of these beehives which You have fashioned be deprived of bees, but let them always be filled with honeycombs of honey. And according to Your great benefits and invincible might, let them be shown undefeated by evils and unshaken by curses. Rather, fenced round about by Your all-powerful might and defended by your host, let them always remain unharmed and in Your grasp, O Christ. For Yours it is to be merciful and to save us, O Christ our God, and to You do we send up glory, honor and worship, together with Your Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.

June 24, 2021

Image: Melanie Kyer
“Fairy Houses, Mackworth Island, ME”

Fairy Houses

Have you ever built a fairy house?
Collecting shells, bark, leaves, pine cones.
Nothing fancy, just what is to hand.
Do not compare your offering with others,
Just use what you have–
As welcome and inviting as you can.
Then leave it behind
With faith it will be found.

But you will never know.
Do fairies drink their tea at that small table
And take rest on the soft leaves?
And if they don’t,
If winds blow down your handiwork, 
It matters that you took
A moment to be quiet in the woods:
To weave spells of faith that can’t be blown away,
To kneel before creation as a child.

We never know our impact in the end.
We do our best with what we can, where we are.
And hope we’ve been a blessing on the way.

Melanie Kyer
June 19, 2021

June 10, 2021

Blessed by the Messiah

Memorial Day is far more than the celebration of the coming of summer, but also one filled with sadness for families who have lost sons or daughters in war.

As I have gotten older, I have become much more aware of that sadness. I felt especially sad this Memorial Day, and the cold, gloomy weather certainly didn’t help. The one shining event of the day was to be the premiere release of the Self Isolation Choir’s remastered, extraordinarily beautiful rendition of all of Handel’s Messiah, sung by approximately 1400 voices accompanied by a baroque orchestra—all recorded and remastered in isolation.

Our founder and director were justifiable excited by this new version. Every word and every note sung, every instrument of the accompaniment was clear. Excited to have been able to record all but 4 choruses I listened with pride. We were that good. My mood began to lighten. I figured I would rediscover some joy by the time we reached the Hallelujah Chorus.

I didn’t need to wait that long. Messiah is divided into three parts: the nativity, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus. Part II begins with the hauntingly beautiful Behold the Lamb of God and ends with the Hallelujah Chorus. Midway through Part II the tone changes from despair to hope. Hope leading to shouts of hallelujah or alleluia. One of those lesser known transition choruses is: Let all the angels of God worship him.

While listening to this chorus, and looking out at the trees surrounding our back porch I unexpectedly found myself in a thin space. A place where I am very much aware of the Divine and know that God knows me. And then these words came to me, filling my heart with gladness:

May the peace of God, which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Barbara Kautz
June 7, 2021

If you would like to listen to the Messiah recording Barbara describes here, it can be found by following this link (the concert begins at 40 seconds).

June 4, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Spring has come. A chorus of birdsongs begins my day.
Yes, there is still pain and suffering. There always will be.
But the healing touch of nature brings hope and joy to my heart.

I see birds sharing food at our feeders, and I am reminded of an ancient
image of the resurrection that shows a bird breathing life into Christ.

While I sit outside in the warm fresh air of a June evening,
I am drawn into everything that surrounds me: the sound
of the ocean in the distance, the soothing feel of a warm breeze on my arms,
the sight of flowers blooming in the garden, the scent of new
mown grass.

The sky above is an endless dome of blue. The peace of it all.
This must be a bit of Heaven.

– Nina Bisognani 
 

May 27, 2021

Image: Barbara Ryther

Repotting

An hour spent at the plant nursery is a better hour than most!  So many plants, each one an old friend or a new possibility. 

The first thing I grow in a new garden is questions….Where will the sun shine?  Where will the squirrels dig?  Where will the cats prowl?  Will the plants I chose get along together or will some thrive and some struggle?  Which will try to take over the container, and which will be crowded out by its neighbors?

Even rejuvenating an old garden with new additions has questions and possibilities.  The moments before transferring them to their containers, everything is still What Might Be, unshadowed by What Could Have Been.

I remember reading that when you’re repotting, it’s important to gently disturb the roots of a rootbound plant before you place it in its new, larger pot, or it doesn’t realize that it’s in the new pot at all and the roots just continue to grow inward, blind to the potential of the new soil around it. Instead of growing and thriving it continues to be stunted.

It’s time to head to the plant nursery, to find new plants and add them to my garden, after gently disturbing the roots.  

Perhaps my own roots need gentle disturbing?  Will it help my spiritual growth?

– Barbara Ryther
 

May 20, 2021

Image: Ryan Mails

Spirit’s Comin’

On Sunday, May 16th, the St. George’s choir sang together in person for the first time in over 14 months. Since we are all now fully vaccinated, we were able to not only sing in the same room (Thank you, CDC!) but also give REAL hugs! Most of us have been singing “together” virtually through zoom rehearsals through the past year, and likely you have heard the fruits of our labor (and Ivan’s technological wizardry), but if you have ever been part of a singing group, you know nothing beats the spirit which fills the room when you are singing in person with others.

Multiply that by ten for singing with others when you have not been allowed to do so for a year.

Multiply by another ten for singing with close friends with whom you have shared births, deaths, moving of house and many other life changes remotely over the past year.

Multiply that by a hundred when the music you are singing is in preparation for Pentecost, the celebration of the holy spirit entering our hearts and sparking the birth of the church.

As I stood under the solid wood beams of my dear church, feeling a warm breeze through the stained glass windows, listening to the sparkling resonance of our beautiful grand piano and singing “There’s a spirit coming from the heavens,” words from the anthem “Spirit’s Comin” (Frombach/Raney) which we will record for Pentecost Sunday, it truly did “shine on every face.”  

Our last song of the rehearsal was the Russian Orthodox piece “”Blagoslovi, dushe moya, Gospoda” — “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (composed by MIkhail Ippolitiv-Ivanov, 1859-1935).  A few members of the church reopening team came in while we were rehearsing, and they must have felt like those observing on Pentecost hearing us sing in Russian! Though it was an unfamiliar tongue to all of us, I am quite sure the spirit of the text still came through as the notes rose to heaven:

   “Bless the Lord, O my soul.  Blessed art Thou, O Lord.
    Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.
    Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
    Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases,
    who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with
    loving kindness and tender mercies.”  

There will be lots of new and meaningful “firsts” for us in the coming weeks. I pray you can take the time to give thanks for these blessings and bask in the spirit which comes with them.

– Melanie Kyer
 

May 13, 2021

Image: Sudie Blanchard

The poem below was written for a poetry workshop here at RiverWoods in Durham. It speaks of the shedding I did last fall, when Peter and I said goodbye to our home in York. I hesitated to share it here, because it is so much about my own experience. But now I am wondering…maybe you, dear reader, have been shedding too. What might you have let go of in the last year? Where might new life be calling you? What, as a church, have we shed in the last 13 months, and how might that draw us, as a congregation, into new life with the risen Christ?

Shedding

When a lobster sheds,
Its hard shell cracks and falls away to the sea floor.
Then, the lobster,
Soft and vulnerable,
Hides and waits
For its new shell to harden
And a new life to begin.

Last fall, like the lobster, I shed too.
Not a shell, but stuff.

First, the family treasures left for auction:
My grandmother’s dressing table…
     Her snuff-box collection
          My other grandmother’s sterling tea set
               The big oil painting with the gilt frame–and more…
I cried when this first lot left.
It was the hardest.

Then came the great give away….
The “good” china and crystal,
     Kitchen stuff,
          Our big four-poster bed,
               The dining room set,
                    Pictures and books,
                         Rugs–and more…
Family, friends, ReStore and Savers got the loot.

By the end,
All that was left was an empty house.

I walk into the future,
Soft and vulnerable.
Carrying just enough.
Enough to begin this new life.

– Sudie Blanchard, April 19, 2021
 

May 6, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Time

Time is everything. Time to grow. Time out.  Poor timing.
We spend most of our time waiting: for the children, the future,
A better year.

Time passes. And yet, we continue to wait.
We wait for the pandemic to end; for economic relief
And social justice.

The time has come to step from the shadows into the light,
To reflect the gift of the risen Christ in our own lives.

What choices shall we make?
Shall we choose love over hate?
Peace over violence?
New growth over decay?

Love is as simple as taking soup
To an ailing neighbor,
Smiling at a stranger.

Peace is an open mind, a prayer for
What is just and true.

New growth is happening all around us,
As we welcome the season of spring.

Now is the time for us to follow nature’s example, to sew new seeds
Which form new shoots. And give birth to new life .
To give ourselves to others as Jesus gave himself  to us.

– Nina Bisognani
 

April 29, 2021

Image: Kathryn Yingst

The Hike

I am attempting to defy an idiom.

My current project is introducing my 13 year old schnauzer-terrier to a backpack. The kind that carries HIM, not vice versa.

I imagine the dog people are reaching for popcorn. Even the casual dog enthusiast understands that a terrier comes straight from the womb convinced of their place in the world as The.Boss.Of.Everything. Suggesting a new way of doing things to a terrier—especially an elderly sort—well, at best it may be naive. Add schnauzer to the genome, and it becomes a bit like interactions with your uncle Eugene: lots of hairy eyebrows raised in bored contempt.

The thing is, with my dog having reached a ripe old age, he isn’t able to prance through our regular adventures like he used to. Instead, there is arthritic hobbling. And for a little guy who desperately wants to be living his best life, staying home instead of going on the usual walks is a real downer. Hence the introduction of the dog backpack.

I’m putting the idea out there slowly. It’s hard for my friend not to see new modus operandi as threatening. He likes doing things the way we’ve always done them. Trust issues. We have clues that before he came to us, he had to pull through some pretty scary situations. He made it, though. Mostly.

Some fears linger. He sits like a sentinel against my calf to guard my back when I do dishes and the teenagers are making too much noise upstairs. He has completely taken out a Mighty Mite vacuum on my behalf.

My dog means well. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult for him to discern danger from A.New.Idea. I’m meeting him where he is.

So far, I’ve brought the backpack out and we sat with it while eating treats. Some of the treats were well inside the bag, and apparently worth retrieving.

The next day he ate his treats while sitting on the backpack.

We had started a new routine, and I guess he decided it wasn’t half bad because by day three my dog was nudging me to start backpack time. He even sat, zippered, inside of it.

I know what people say about an old dog learning new tricks, but I am hopeful. It might be awhile before we get to the trail, but we’re working on it. Together.

– Kathryn Yingst
  April 21, 2021

April 22, 2021

Image: Nancy Davison

Hot Date

“I gotta go,” Nancy said at the zoom coffee hour after church. “I got a hot date in an hour and a half.”

The hot date was lunch with me, at Norma’s Restaurant.

Before the pandemic Nancy and I went to Norma’s after church almost every Sunday. Norma’s is a friendly place; they know us there. 

Fifteen months ago, we would have been peeling off choir robes, chatting with friends, daring ourselves to eat muffins and cookies, then leave coffee hour by twelve, always issuing an open invitation for anyone who wanted to join us. 

Covid changed everything. Norma’s closed. Everyone stayed home, worried we would get sick. We refused invitations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It just wasn’t safe.

Then, on Advent I, I watched the first of the Pfizer vaccine being loaded onto trucks. Tears rolled down my face. We still had a way to go, but I could see the end of this long tunnel.

And then, vaccinated, it was safe to reenter the world. Still socially distanced, still wearing masks. It was winter, too cold to be safely outdoors. Who, at my age, wanted to chance it?

I chose to stay home. I was cautious. Why risk my health –and  my family’s– when we were almost to the finish line?

Friends began to say, “Chance it. Go.” And, I  did. Lunch with one of my oldest friends, dinner inside a restaurant with Jim. Hugging an old, vaccinated friend. And  lunch at Norma’s with Nancy. And today,  my equally cautious children sat outside together for a meal at York Beach Brewing. It is the first time in a year they have met for a meal in a restaurant, and only the second time they’ve all been together –at our home. 

So it wasn’t a hot date Nancy had in mind. It was a smart date. At a place where everyone knows our names, what we like in our coffee, or might choose to eat.

I suspect this is how it will be when St George’s opens. Slowly. Cautiously. Carefully. Faithfully.

Gratefully.  

– Barbara Kautz
  April 18, 2021

April 15, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

The Journey Ahead

In this ‘in-between time’ we walked with Christ and each other with self-reflection, simplicity and forgiveness, through tears, hope, joy and grace.

We experienced the festival of Palm Sunday and the emotions of Christ’s passion, until finally we celebrated an empty cross, an empty tomb, the resurrection.

Now what? 

Where does our journey take us next?

How will we continue to walk on this joyous and difficult road toward a relationship with God?

As we slowly come out of the pandemic, who else, what else will we lose before it is over?  What will the world be like when we emerge?  Will we live our lives differently because of what we went through?

As we witness or experience social injustice in our communities, our country and around the world, how will we respond?  How will we use our voices, our actions, our lives?

C.S. Lewis, the writer and lay theologian, once wrote “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

The sun has risen. The Son is risen. The resurrection is a light to us.  As we continue our journeys, may we not only walk in the light as he is in the light, but also reflect that light.  May people see the risen Christ in us.

– Barbara Ryther

April 8, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Thoughts of Easter

A pure white bunny

Shiny new shoes 

Eggs in baskets, or hidden outside.

 

Worshippers filling the church

Spilling over into empty spaces.

Heady perfumes

Mixed with the scent of lilies.

 

Hearts filled with prayerful gladness

And songs of the season.

Family gatherings 

Celebrating the risen Jesus.

 

   *    *    *

This year, we are creating new Easter traditions.

 

Though the church door is locked,

We celebrate outside or online.

We share food with friends and neighbors 

While social distancing.

 

Our gatherings at home may be small,

But our church family fills our hearts to overflowing.

 

A community of believers 

Praying around a firepit

In the dark.

 

Taking communion outside

Keeping music alive

Through the virtual  choir.

A hand crafted cross at St George’s door,

Adorned with flowers we offer in celebration

On  Easter Sunday.

 

– Nina Bisognani

Easter Sunday, 2021

Images: Barbara Ryther and Nina Bisognani

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.

Mark 16:1-6

Good Friday, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

“Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.”

Mark 15:22-27

Maundy Thursday, 2021

Image: Sudie Blanchard

The Feast of the Windblown Wafers

No, it wasn’t really a feast day.
It was Lent. Mid-Lent.
It was cold—New England cold—
Brilliant sun, bitter chill and windy.
But it felt like a feast day

After a year-long fast from
Our regular Sunday gatherings,
We were meeting again
On the first day of the week
To share the Body of Christ 
With the Body of Christ!

We were all still masked, in the parking lot.
Alas, several precious featherlight wafers 
Fell victim to the wind.
But there were tears 
And there was joy
As we shared Jesus and each other.

No it wasn’t really a feast day,
But like a single yellow crocus spotted
Peeping from last year’s dead leaves,
This chilly gathering held the promise of 
More feasts, more joy to come.

– Sudie Blanchard

The Sixth Week of Lent

Image: Nina Bisognani

Sculpture by Gustav Vigeland, “Wheel of Life” series, Oslo, Norway

Forgiveness

One night I believe an angel came to me.
She appeared as a blinding white light

Hovering in the corner of the room.
Just moments before, I had prayed, even begged,
For her to come.

Yet, when I sensed the nearness  of intense love
I covered my eyes and begged my angel to leave.

“No,” I cried out. “Go away.”
Daring not to look into eyes that could pierce my soul.

For I had sinned.

A sin that left me feeling guilty, anxious, undeserving
One that had been hiding in the cobwebs of my mind. 

At my request, my guardian angel left softly,
With a rustle of gossamer wings.
Unknown to me she passed on a heavenly gift

It was at breakfast the following morning
That I came face to face with the previous night’s encounter.

I realized that forgiving is not forgetting
The memory that had haunted me was still clear, but no longer a burden. 

Over time, I have been able to understand we, as scarred beings,
are still worthy of forgiveness. 

With God’s grace, we are able to pray with open hearts.
We can learn the art of forgiveness, of others and of ourselves.

– Nina Bisognani

The Fifth Week of Lent

Image: Barbara Ryther

Simplicity

What would it be like to simplify my spirit the way I’ve simplified my living space, my schedule, my daily routine?
If I looked behind me, would I see a trail of discarded, tattered “shoulds” and “musts?”
Piles of cast-off, frayed “could haves” and “if onlys?”
I don’t even remember where and how I accumulated them all, yet somehow there they are, clinging to me.
Have I outgrown them or did I never need them in the first place?
Would their loss make me lighter? Brighter? Softer?
Would it change the way I walk through my life?
These things that made me think I was in control of my life — they weighed me down, held me back from having the life God wants for me.

What would it be like to simplify my spirit?
What do I have to lose by trying?
A lot.
What do I have to gain by trying?
My life.

– Barbara Ryther

The Fourth Week of Lent, 2021

Image: Nina Bisognani

Liminal Space

Now. 
No longer here…
Not yet there…
Restless.
Uncomfortable.
Not my choice!
I’m not in control!
How can I live?
Will I die?

Then I hear it. 
In the quiet, a voice.
     Let go.
     Let me.

I pause.
I breathe.
I do let go.

The panic…the fear?
Gone.

In this in-between time
All will be well.
Now.

– Sudie Blanchard

The Third Week of Lent, 2021

Sunflowers

We buried our mother on Saturday. She was 69 years old. While we knew her illness would take her early, we were not prepared for it to take her soon. That is, if there really is any way to prepare oneself for a parent’s death.

I watched my husband, brother, cousins, and nephews carry the coffin, and thought how heavy it must feel for a grandson to shoulder his nana while mourning her loss at the same time. They placed her, gently.

My godparents walked with me from the car to the gravesite. I felt like I was 8 years old. We don’t realize the pillars holding up our foundation until life starts kicking them out from under us. We didn’t hug because of the pandemic.

The priest was compassionate. I didn’t hear his words because I couldn’t focus enough to listen. But his voice was kind and his eyes were soft, and really that’s what I needed. 

My sister and I walked to the left of the coffin, where the priest had spoken. We had been here before, she and I, over the years having buried the parts of our childhood that weren’t meant to be. But on this day, the black coats were for our mother. 

Our mother. I looked at the garden roses, the sunflowers, the long trailing greens we had chosen for her and wondered, how could it be that she is here and also not here? We put people in these boxes, but people don’t fit inside of boxes. Not really.

Sister and I acknowledged our grief, offering our brokenness. We shared memories—collective and personal—and made space for mourning. We tried to convey with words things that are impossible to convey with words. 

Then, silence. 

A path had been cleared in the snow from our mother’s casket to our maternal grandparents’ gravesite, eight plots across. A groundskeeper had done this without us knowing, when he discovered that they were buried nearby. He had opened the way for us in case we needed to let words fall away with our grandparents, too. It was an extraordinary act of mercy. I wept.

I don’t yet know how to shoulder this grief. But I know that even pain—especially pain—is an opportunity for even deeper grace.

– Kathryn Yingst

Second Week of Lent, 2021

Image: Barbara Ryther

The Journey

This year I think I’ve given up enough
To last at least a decade’s worth of Lent.

And yet the calendar goes on.
The journey asks: who are you now?
Who are you called to be?
Facing mortality, taking time to be quiet,
Looking ahead in penitence and hope.

But giving up? Not now.
I am not giving up…
And I do not need to sacrifice to remember.

Instead, I will give, and leave the “up” behind.

I’ll give…
A loaf of homemade bread,
A second chance,
A word of encouragement,
A phone call to a lonely friend.
A bag of outgrown clothes.

I’ll give..
My time. My talents, My treasure.
Not just for now. Not just for forty days.
I hope…

– Melanie Kyer