An Ignatian approach to Letting my Sons Grow

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

To those of you who have ever followed the suggestion to take a difficult life transition and pray over it: Have you ever done just that, only to be left with the feeling of being even more exposed and mixed up than when you sat down with your (now luke warm) coffee?

That’s what happened for me just now.
Morgan and Theo gift

Rather than the familiar: “golly gee, thanks God, that was a nice little hug” type of reflection, I ended up with an unwound ball of yarn pile of emotions. I started with an Ignatian reflection by Maryanne Rouse (Creighton University, College of Business) and followed her suggestion to imagine I am a part of the first reading in today’s Catholic Lectionary.

Here is what she wrote:

Can you imagine–40 days of face to face conversation with God? That is the experience of Moses, according to today’s First Reading. We don’t know who was speaking more of the time–God or Moses? The conversation transpired behind a closed tent. What we are told is that at the end of this time, Moses comes out with the “words of the covenant,” the Ten Commandments in hand.

This First Reading cries out to be addressed with Ignatian Contemplation prayer, that is, the form of prayer that Ignatius did not invent, but popularized in the Spiritual Exercises. Imagination is a key tool.

To enter into this form of prayer, you need to set aside thoughts that you are not imaginative, that God cannot speak to you through this tool as God does through other tools, e.g. thought, feelings, senses, to name a few.

First, read the entire text, Exodus 33: 7-11; 34: 5-9. 28. Next place yourself in the scene: What do you see? What can you hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? Maybe not so much to taste in this story, though you may be aware that this entire time, Moses neither ate nor drank anything.

Then rewind the story in your mind after inserting yourself into it. When I have prayed this, I have found myself taking the part of a serving girl, totally left out of the action and not happy… Next step: what might God want to say to me through my place in this story?

I tried imagining myself as several different people – I was Moses, the wife of Moses, a pregnant mom, a too old to be pregnant mom…no matter how I read it though…I was a mom, and my son was going off to try to understand what instructions God was giving him.

Behind my closed eyes, no matter how my imagination sliced and diced the scenes, these plans involved travel for him and none for me. For days on end there would be no communication with my son the pilgrim. By allowing myself to imagine this as the time of Moses and young Joshua (an assistant to Moses) a good old-fashioned pile of letters wasn’t even coming forth.

It was me, a dusty tent, and a bunch of stars with no answers while the rest of the campsite snorted and snored the night away.

This all happened in ten minutes of prayer. Fertile imaginations are not necessarily something to envy if you struggle to let your mind wander.

After making some Eggos for our 11 year old, I went back at the reflection for another five minutes or so. It was like the maddening experience I’m having with one of our computers: we turn it on, it boots up, then boots itself back down…then, brrrzzsssuuuppt beePbEEp…it boots back up in an endless loop without ever actually starting up.

Same images, same tears, same not knowing where my kid is or what Moses is telling him to go off and do with his life.

Internet access denied, quick and easy answers unattainable.

On one hand, I didn’t need 30 minutes of tearful prayer to know that I am having trouble coping with the fact that my son, the one whose personality tends to mimic mine, is looking at colleges that are eight hours away. As in, he is waking up this morning in a hotel with his dad and is right now on campus with energetic and brilliant tour guides. As I sit here and type, a young Jesuit scholar is chirping away about how great life became as soon as he left his weeping mother, and for the first time in his boring life, he discovered the depths of his being and mind in the hallowed halls of the University of ForgetToCallHome.

I’m exaggerating. I could not be more excited for this kid. He is bored. He has been bored in school for a very long time, and I’ve been saying forever that college will be his time to shine and let that intellect of his go hog-wild.

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

So, that’s what I’m up to this morning. If you too are feeling jagged emotions that are about letting go, I’d recommend a beautiful song by Kate Rusby called “Underneath the Stars”.

It is making me feel better able to sit with the unknown. What choice do we have anyway?

Forgiveness Friday: Speaking for Myself, ‘I did that.’

“Give yourself grace,

but also hold yourself accountable.” ~ Jeff Goins

I just put my pen down from a little bit of journaling, and guess what I just realized?

I’ve mentioned that my husband and I moved with two of our three sons to Iowa. Actually we’ve, this week I think, hit our one year anniversary of living in our new house and town. We also successfully moved our oldest son to Dayton Ohio to an apartment about three hours north of our small town and country home and rural life.

The realization? I’ve not written here about how this career opportunity for my husband landed several of us smack in the middle of our personal field of dreams. Nor have I explained the extreme transition from country to city. I think it’s been more of a mention in passing.

After a year, I know that now.

As one of my son’s friends would say: “We live close to the field, for realzies.”

No. Really. The mom of this kid who is a dynamite athlete on Joe’s little league team told us that the farm that was the set for the movie Field of Dreams is about two hours from here.

So, I say myself, to me and I: “How’s come? If this blog is supposed to be about grace and you were struggling with the transition when you started this writing project, why not write about the baby foxes and magical dew on your porch? Why not go on about the early morning sound of metal scrapping the road as a cattle trailer drags down your one lane road? About how cool it was to say, with eyes closed, ‘Yup, Cluxtons are going by. Must have some calves.’ Or about how joyful it was to know that spring had come and the winter mud would soon dry?”

I couldn’t.

I just couldn’t.

I think I can now. Now our family of five has made it through a year of transition. We still have all of our limbs, the sky hasn’t yet fallen in, and apparently our entire hearts didn’t break with the fear and sadness, just little parts. Even the little parts of broken heart seem to be healing for each of us as we settle into the corners of our individual field of dreams.

Speaking for myself,

I did that.

I did that work of grief that is almost all about personal accountability. It’s like how our son who is a runner quickly dropped his mile per minute time last summer and fall. He’d not met a soul. And yet, Will didn’t do it by just meeting some cool guys and cute gals that ran with him. It certainly wasn’t the hundreds of dollars that running shoes demand. It’s not like other sports. Runners don’t run plays or pass balls on the running trail.

They run.

I can start to wax sentimental about what I was sure for years, 20 years actually, that I could never leave behind.

I can now, because I got up and ran my mom miles this spring. I can look back on some unexpected difficult trail turns and say, “I did that.” Pardon a brief brag, but you know, I didn’t make it through this particular spring with my eyes closed. Our youngest son seemingly suddenly, started having some transition troubles at school. It created, for me, yet another (thankfully temporary) heartbreak.

For me as a mom, it was like what I would guess a trail runner would feel if when on an unfamiliar trail, just when you start to get some relief in the form of an end of the run high, suddenly a unicorn butt pops up in the form of crappy mud mile.

When our little guy Joe started having some hard days coping at school this spring, I was on the verge of getting my “I’m a writer” badge in gear. I joined a local writing group, announced to the budget committee that mom is going to writing camp this summer, started writing two books, and generally said to myself,

alrighty then, here I am. Game on.

Did I resent and whine and groan that my needs and dreams had to go on the shelf again over the needs of one of the kids, for, I didn’t know how long?

Does Kevin Costner still make many America’s middle age women say meow? Umm. Yes. They do.

So, yeah.

It took a lot of work, but last night when our little guy was kicking up dust after the game I was glued to the chair with exhaustion, it was okay.  He was with new Iowa best friend #3, after having played for a bit with former bests friends #1 and #2, and with potential other neighborhood best friends #4 and #5.

And I’m not sure. But I think I agreed to let them all come over this afternoon to play.

Game on.

Forgiveness Friday:Easter in Iowa

“…in the real world it may take you many years to find out that the stranger you talked to once for half an hour in the railroad station may have done more to point you to where your true homeland lies than your priest or your best friend or even your psychiatrist.”

~ Frederick Buechner,

as quoted by Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird

I read this quote by Anne Lamott just a few minutes ago. The book is a “why to” and “how to” book for writers. The reason I highlighted that passage that is in her chapter on character was that it hit home on another level first.

Moving sucks.

Beyond the joy, excitement, and surprise of how great life has become in the past year (that’s how long it’s been since we started working on our move from Ohio to Iowa), now that the moving part is over and the visiting part has started, I’m not sure if the hard parts are over or just getting started.

You know, the whole, making friends thing. “I would hate that” a friend from years ago told me on the phone the other night, and she is at the tippy top of my most friendly and extroverted peeps list.

Don’t get me wrong…over all even the friend making part of the process is going well. In my family of five, I’d say that two of us are fairly introverted, and the other three extroverted. When I take an objective look, we are all moving along in this department at a healthy pace.

The extroverts have been out there doing their gregarious thing which is paying off in the form of being less worried about joining three versus five different groups – it’s all good and layers of bestest friends seem to have potential in days to come as I see it. Half-court shots, new baseball hats, and lazy days of frisbee golf were beyond my imagination a year ago. Couldn’t of thunk it if I tried.

And the normal people my more introverted son and I are doing just fine as well. We’ve scoped out our environments, our assessments are fully filed in our mental file cabinets, and what the heck, we’re accepting invites to coffee and pizza anyway. Why not, right?

For me, I’m fairly adjusted to the reality that for many friends and acquaintances that we left behind in Ohio, out of sight is out of mind. It’s just life. The first few times we went back for a visit we got some reactions like, “Huh? We thought you moved? Git along little doggies.”

Now, what I hear is “So you still like it out there? Good. We miss you, but we’re glad you are happy -that’s what counts. Don’t worry. Nothing has changed here…” (Which is true…we were in a Mayberry type of community, so no worries on corporate take over or closed highways).

I can choose to sulk and analyze this out of sight/out of mind thing, or just roll with it and be honest that the same is true on my end. I’m already forgetting names, connections, scuttlebutt, and am getting mixed up on big events like divorce and illness and new-found love. That’s me though…I’m the know the forest not the trees person, so it fits. But, even if I was a detail person…the energy that it has taken to adjust to our new surroundings would have me mixing up the oaks and pines on occasion I’m sure.

So, Forgiveness Friday. It’s the week after Easter, and that quote from Buechner fits just right, as this is the week that we hear readings about a lot of walking and talking with the resurrected Christ. Indeed, at this point in the Gospel story, strangers on the journey become a source of truth and clarity with as much validity as the original disciples.

Who knows, maybe strangers are more objective and therefore quite wise.

How interesting that mourning, and fear, and surprising moments of joy get all jumbled during these type of days and phases of life.

‘Scarcely take it in sometimes, you know?