Jigsaw puzzle

I did a jigsaw puzzle for the first time in so long that I’ve almost forgotten. Well, I helped some kindergartners do one a few months ago, but that doesn’t really count. They did most of it. I was just there to direct traffic and stop them from fighting. Something about not being able to share was part of the fight. They all wanted to work on the same parts or some were hoarding pieces.

Another lady had started a puzzle. It had 500 pieces. Most of them were green or pink, it looked like. The image was of a butterfly.


This looked too complicated for me. I think it was too complicated for her too because she left it on the table and moved to something else. She found all the edge pieces and put them together. Perhaps she was leaving it for another person to work on.


I was cruising around the tables to see if there was anything else to work on. There are all sorts of art supplies and things to work on.


There are essays and books and poems to read too.


It is all optional, but I like to take advantage of what is offered. I want to get my money’s worth, and I want to open myself up to new experiences.

I came across this cute bag. It is a recloseable puzzle for travel.


And it is of space. And it is a cartoon. And it only has 100 pieces. I’m there.

Nobody had opened it yet, so I ripped off the top. I’m glad that I don’t have a problem with this. I’ll totally go first at a buffet or a recital. I’m not afraid of claiming something as mine.

I started finding the edge pieces but then I didn’t know how big the finished puzzle was going to be. Would I have enough room? I was sharing the table with a painter. I didn’t want to get in her way. Then I started to see pieces that obviously went together.

My inner squirrel started to take over. What do I do next? Do the outer stuff or the inner stuff?

This is so like my spiritual journey it isn’t funny. Well, actually it is funny. It’s always funny how God works things out and I’m almost always the last to know.

I never have the map. Nobody does. We wander around, like the Jews in the desert, moving from camp to camp, from call to call. We go where we are sent. We don’t know where we are going until we get there.

So instead of focusing on the outside, the limits, I chose to focus on the inside, the images. Make a planet. Then make another planet. With this puzzle, as with life, I found myself heavily relying on words. The names of the planets held me together. I used them as a guide.

At times I felt I was cheating by looking at the picture on the bag.

This is the same person who complains that God doesn’t give me a map.

Here’s a map and I’m balking at using it.

There’s a lot to be understood there.

God doesn’t give me a map because God knows I’d rather figure it out on my own. I’d rather be happily surprised when I see the pattern coming together. I’d rather do it my way.

Also, it doesn’t matter if I work on the inside or the outside, as long as I’m working. It will all come together in the end. God’s got the pattern. It is just to me to work on it, and with it, and trust.

(Written on retreat, 1-18-14, 4 p.m. Finished on 1-20-14)


I had a meeting with a different spiritual director while at the retreat. She is the lady who is hosting it. I scheduled for just thirty minutes in the afternoon. I figured by then I’d be a little antsy and want a break from the whole silent thing.

Last time I was going stir crazy around 2 pm on Saturday. This time, not so much. This time I feel like I’m almost overscheduled. This time I don’t have a four hour block of time with nothing specific to do. Some of that is because I’ve got to keep going into the conference room and check on the prayer bracelet station. I’ve got to tie them and make sure the supplies are stocked.

I feel oddly calm and yet there’s more I can’t quite name. Maybe because I’ve done this, here, before. I brought stuff to work on. I know it isn’t like Cursillo. I know where everything is. I know the schedule.

But I digress. This usually means I’m trying to avoid something. So, let’s plunge on in. The best way to confront a fear is to face it.

She asked me what had I intended for this retreat. What was I trying to get out of it?

I had decided not to intend anything. I think that is part of my problem. I plan, and then either I’m disappointed or I only look for that intention.

I will set an intention before yoga and by the time the class is over I’ve learned something entirely different. I’ve received a different gift, and it wasn’t what I expected.

The last time we were together, my usual spiritual director had asked me how would I feel if I knew Jesus was standing behind a door with his arms full of gifts for me. Would I open the door?

So this lady went with that. She told me to imagine that Jesus has a gift for me right now. What is it?

We closed our eyes and I imagined this.

Here’s Jesus, all smiles, and he has a gift. It is wrapped up in shiny blue paper. No bow. Tidy wrapping job. I take off the paper. I’m pretty excited. This is a gift from Jesus, so it has to be good, right? He knows me better than anybody, and has my best interests at heart. It’s going to be awesome.

It’s a wrench. It is a used wrench, in fact. There’s oil on it. Not on the handle, but on the adjusting part.

Confused? Sure. Crestfallen? Definitely. I’m a bit hurt. What the heck am I going to do with a wrench?

Uh, thanks, but no thanks, buddy. It is this kind of thoughtlessness that is the reason I hate Christmas.

So the director asked me to sit with this feeling a bit. What does this mean? Ask Jesus why he gave me a wrench.

“It is for your heart” he says. To loosen it up. To stop being so tight and rigid. To be more playful, more childlike. To not have so many rules and limitations.

The more I decide how things have to be, the less I’m allowing them to just be the way they are.

It is like a bonsai. The more you force a plant into a certain shape, the less you are letting it grow the way God wants it to grow.

Something about organic and trust is in there. Not resisting. Acceptance. Being open to possibility.

I wasn’t really happy about this to start off with. Jesus should love me as I am, right? This sounds a little mean, giving me a wrench. I felt it was like going up to a friend and saying that she isn’t pretty enough, so here’s some makeup.

Nope, it isn’t that at all. True friends want the best for you. They want you to grow into your full potential. They challenge you. They call you on your BS too.

If I truly believe that Jesus is my friend, then I have to believe that he wants the best for me. I have to believe that this is an awesome gift, and exactly what I need, and in fact exactly what I’ve been looking for but I just didn’t know it.

So, a wrench. Why? I asked.

Because a seed doesn’t grow into a flower unless it is watered. It needs work. The seed is great as a seed. Jesus isn’t saying that I’m broken. He’s just saying that if I want to be better, then here’s the tool, and here’s the part that needs work.

So why is it oily and used, I asked?

Because he’s already broken it in for me. It is ready to go. Smooth action.

Then I get silly and realize that wrenches are used on nuts, which are just beads after all. They are hexagonal metal beads, with spiral holes.

Now I want to make a bracelet with nuts and wire.

But it isn’t about that. It is important not to iconize this. It isn’t about the symbol but what the symbol points toward.

While writing this I got a snack of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows, and honey graham crackers shaped like teddy bears. I think this is a good start.

(Written on retreat, around 3 pm on 1-18-14)

Poem – eggs, and books, and words.

We already have an egg.
It is us, becoming.
What if we don’t need to work so hard?
What if we are fine as frog’s hair,
fit as a fiddle,
chicken and egg at the same time?

It is another time for the chosen.

As for me the danger of that is
what I was
because I used to think
that past is just prequel.

I should just leave well enough alone
and leave the future to itself.
It will keep on doing what it wants

There is nothing more sad than seeing your own body
broken in pieces.

Our bodies are books
written by God
in the margins, in the gutter, on the spine.
Scribbled notes or glittering manuscripts
hastily written or lovingly preserved
makes no difference to the One
Who wrote us.
There are no withdrawn
no remaindered
no dog eared copies
In God’s library.

We are all beautiful and all needed.

These books are dry patches of a church.

Every day we walk alone.
Each person is a silent building.
Everything that is beautiful is lonely.

Right now you are not awake.
Really, won’t you take my words?
They aren’t even mine any more.

(A predictive text poem, using the letters in the word “water” as a prompt. Written on retreat, 1-17-14, at 8:30 pm.)

Bucket at the well

I’m at a retreat, and the theme of it is the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. This is found here –

John 4:4-10 (the Message translation)
4-6 To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

In the retreat, we were asked to put ourselves in the scene. Pick a person or an object, and see things from its perspective. The words we were given were the town, the field, the well, the disciples, the Samaritan woman, bucket, and living water.

The word that stuck out when I was reading that list was “bucket.” What a funny word! Who would ever think of the bucket? It isn’t a character, certainly. But it is. Everything matters. So even though it seemed silly, I worked with it.

We were to think about how we need to nourish ourselves too, and refill from the well that is Jesus.

I’m the bucket by the well. The water is on me, soaking into my wood, slowly rusting my iron bands. I’m glad that the cooper made me so well that I don’t spill a drop.

I’m constantly giving out water, and I’m never drinking it myself.

I love it when I get forgotten. I love it when I’m at the bottom of the well and I’m resting in the water. I love the safety of the rope, ready to pull me up to the bright sunlight again.

Yet I can’t stay in that water too long. My wood will swell. The iron bands that hold me together will corrode past a point of ignoring. In short, I’ll stop being a bucket. I’ll start being something other than useful, something other than needed.

Is that a problem?

What if I go too far, soaking up the water that is God?

I’d love to live in this world. I’d love to stop wading in the ocean that is God and just jump right in.

Well I say that and then I remember that I don’t swim very well. If I was confronted with a hypothetical lake I’d pray for an actual boat to cross it.

I forget that babies breathe liquid. They are liquid. The percentage of water in the human body is the same as the percentage of water on Earth.

There has to be a way to be a mystic in the world. If I retreat fully from the world my husband would have to take on the responsibility of the house all by himself. That isn’t fair.

Jesus didn’t call us to escape from the world. He called us to live in it, to be healers, teachers, repairers. Now, he spent a lot of time alone too. Maybe that is the secret. Do both. Schedule time away, to listen, to replenish, to revive.

How can you constantly give if you aren’t also constantly receiving? You’ll run dry.

In Jewish tradition, water is seen as Torah. Every time water is mentioned it really means Torah. Water is life.

Then I remember my favorite animal is a salamander. It was born in water, but lives on land. It has to stay near water to live. This symbol means more and more now. In order for me to be who I am, I have to stay close to the Water that is Jesus. I have to replenish my soul. Yet to immerse myself fully in that world isn’t healthy either. Salamanders drown. I’d drown.

Balance is key. Return to the well regularly. Remember my roots. Don’t fall in. I’m a little bit of both worlds, all mixed up. Accepting my difference is a good start. I can’t define myself by normal rules.

(Started on retreat, 1-17-14, around 8 p.m. Finished 1-20-14)

Jesus chose everybody who was nobody. So should we.

Jesus was constantly breaking the rules. He especially broke the purity rules. Nobody and nothing was unclean or unworthy. His arms were wide enough for everybody.

He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews and Samaritans never talked to each other. He actually asked her for water. He didn’t obey the traditions that had been part of their upbringings.

He touched a woman who was menstruating. This was unheard of. Even today in Orthodox Jewish culture, women and men sit separately just in case a woman is on her period. Even married couples will sleep in separate beds during a woman’s period and for a week afterwards. For Jesus to touch a woman at all was unheard of.

Jesus touched lepers. Nobody touched lepers. To touch a leper is to become a leper. Lepers had to live outside of the camp for fear of infecting everybody.

Jesus didn’t only touch the untouchables, he hung out with them. He hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He hung out with everybody who was nobody. He picked untrained people to be his disciples.

Jesus didn’t choose the educated, the upper class, the elite, the well to do. Jesus didn’t choose the best of the best. He chose the leftovers, the forgotten, the ignored.

Jesus chooses us, too.

Jesus chooses you and me. With our embarrassing laugh and weird fashion sense, he thinks we are cool. With our cowlicks and acne, he thinks we are beautiful, just like we are.

And we, Jesus’ chosen, are to do the same. We are to see the beauty in others. We are to include the excluded. We are to welcome the stranger, the misfit, the weirdo.

There are no misfits with Jesus. He loves us all, and we are to extend that same love and acceptance to everyone. In the same way that we are loved and chosen, we are to love and choose others.

(Written on retreat, 1-17-14, 7:45 pm)

Yoga out in the wild

If you want to get some strange looks, do tree pose in the middle of the hardware section of Lowe’s.

It isn’t like I was doing warrior three or pigeon. I’d chosen a pose that was fairly normal, something that is recognizable as a yoga pose. Sure, it isn’t a normal place to do it, but it is a normal yoga pose. People who don’t do yoga would know it was a yoga pose.

I’ve not been able to practice yoga properly in a while because I’ve sprained my wrist. I’m having to rethink everything. I don’t know a lot of poses, so not being able to use my hands has cut down my already small repertoire to very little.

Plus, I’m kind of bored with yoga.

I’ve noticed I’m making less and less time for it. I’ve noticed that I don’t look forward to it. The weekly class isn’t a challenge anymore. The music and the moves are the same. Even animals in a zoo get different activities every now and then to keep their interest.

Sometimes I think that I’m using all of this as an excuse to not do something I know to be good for me. But then sometimes I think that maybe there is more to yoga than the poses, and I’m tuning into that. Why keep practicing something when you’ve learned the lesson?

Now, sure, I need to stretch. Every body needs to move. And balancing poses are good not only for the body but the mind.

So there I was, doing tree pose in Lowe’s. We’d already looked at a stove and some cabinet handles. Things need to get replaced every now and then in older houses. My husband had gone off to look for something else and left me with the cart. I was getting bored and had already checked Facebook and my email. In all reality I wanted a nap but I knew I couldn’t get away with that.

I’d pulled the cart out of the smaller aisle to not be in the way. I decided to take my coat and hat off because I was getting hot and that was contributing to my lethargy. I was alternating between wanting to be ignored and wanting to stick out. This is a fairly normal space for me to be.

I was standing behind the cart to not be too obvious. I had my hands in prayer position. If I’d wanted to really not stick out I could have left them down. Or I could have done mountain pose or forward fold.

I even announced what I was doing, quietly, but I said it, so perhaps it wouldn’t seem so strange. No luck there. The clerk in the window replacement section sort of glared at me and shook his head. He had a glum expression on his face the whole time anyway, so maybe he’s just somebody who can’t handle individual expression. I can tell he represses himself a lot. He’s faking being something he’s not, and it makes him stiff.

Maybe that was the reason I did that pose right there and then. Maybe of all people, he needed to see someone being different.

Who am I kidding? It was fun to be weird. It was fun to be childlike. I did it for me first. If someone else got a benefit out of it, cool.

I think I’ll do it again. Some of my favorite pictures in yoga magazines are when people do their poses out in the real world and not on a mat. I love it when they match their pose to whatever structure is around them. Now I’m going to go on a quest to find places that fit the poses. Then I’ll have to convince my husband to not only not laugh at me, but to also take a picture so I can share it.