The Right to Write: The Letter (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. My Wednesday book club series is a part of the journey—a way of exploring creativity during this season. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a cool giveaway.

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Dearest Laura,

What do I say? Where to begin?

When you kiss your boys good-night, you remember your childhood…how you would huddle under covers and wait for mother’s soft hands. She always came. Until she didn’t anymore. You still remember, don’t you? You hold on to that child, long for her sweet smelling skin. But it all went awry. Can you let it go? I mean, really? Not this pretend game you keep playing, but really? Why do you cry when you look at the moon? Is He not in everything you see and touch? Hold out your hand. He is yours. You are His.

But you still fear that this is not real. You think what happened in-between is what is real. Why? Why, when this is where happiness is? When the before was love? When the now is love? The in-between only. Just. But love remembers. Love hopes. That is real.

This is real.

You are not a ghost person. You feel. Touch and see. This is no dream.

Your heart is beautiful …

So it began. My letter to myself. It went deeper than I wanted it to. It got under my skin.

In this week’s readings from The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Julia Cameron urges us to write a letter. To ourselves. Not just any letter, mind you, but an Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque letter—a letter from an older and wiser eighty-year-old you.

This tool is intended to give you a higher perspective. So often our loneliness comes because we have lost the overview, the sense of the large sweep and movement in our lives. In this tool you are asked to try directly contacting what may feel to you like a mythological or archetypal character…Allow your Older Self to give you a sense of perspective, guidance, and right action…

So I stepped back. Took a look at my life. And asked myself, what do you want to say to this woman?

Turns out I wanted to say a lot.

I realized that I reacted so strongly to this exercise because I need someone to witness my life. This brought me back to that place I was years ago…that place that caused me to abandon The Artist’s Way before I even began. It brought me back to those dreaded Morning Pages.

So much of the loneliness of modern life comes because we no longer witness each other. Our lives are led at such velocity that we often feel—and are—quite alone…We need more and better witness, closer and more personal tenderness than we can offer each other long distance despite our good intentions…What writing brings to a life is clarity and tenderness. Writing, we witness ourselves…

I’ve started writing my Morning Pages, friends. Three pages of daily longhand writing, strictly stream of consciousness. When I started, I told myself I didn’t have to do it every morning—that I have my Morning Pages, they don’t have me. I have missed a couple days. I found that Cameron is right. When I don’t write, I feel out-of-balance … lonely … blah.

I’ve started writing my Morning Pages. How about you?

Three more chapters for next week: Connection, Being an Open Channel, and Integrating. See you on the page…

Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Above image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

Almost Empty

The Right to Write: I Go Alone (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. Don’t forget about the giveaway on yesterday’s post.

One lovely thing about the Almost Empty Nest is the way I feel God restoring my creativity on a deeper level during this season. This is the story of one tool he is using to do this.

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Every evening it’s the same. I feel the pull—feet need to walk. Sometimes Jeff goes with me, sometimes a friend. But many days…I go alone. These are the times I feel the breath of God, the times my restless heart feels peace. During these solitary walks I collect treasures untold—feed my muse.

Some gems from this week’s cache:

Streets glistening with memory of rain.
Air heavy with scent of fall.
Whispering creek threatening to spill.
Solitary feather floating on breeze.

In this week’s readings from The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Julia Cameron encourages “Artist Dates”— a once-weekly solitary expedition to something festive that interests us…

We must go alone, she says.

We go alone because an Artist Date is half “artist” and half “date”. You are romancing, wooing, courting your creative consciousness. This is something that requires you and your inner artist to spend time alone…

These Artist Dates replenish our store of creativity—what Cameron calls the well. The well needs regular tending, she says.

… care and maintenance of our writing muscles are necessary for our writing stamina. This means that we must take the time and attention necessary to fill the well instead of drawing on it unrelentingly and without consciousness of our inner limits. While this may sound difficult or onerous, the payoff in terms of our writing lives is enormous. Even the smallest amount of self-nurturance will have an immediate and beneficial impact on our writing. A regular and gentle program of self-care will result in a level of ease and authority in our writing that is often astounding.

If I don’t go, my well will eventually run dry. If I don’t go alone, I don’t see. I don’t see the feather drifting on the wind.

I don’t feel myself lifted with the breeze … see the world beneath me passing by. I miss the chance to shed gravity—feel the burden of earth’s bindings slip away and take flight. I become the feather when I see this way. I am cupped by the Invisible Hand that ushers the wind.

Today? My well is filled to overflowing.

This week we learned about the Artist Date, about writing as a physical act, and the importance of sketching. What spoke to you in this week’s readings? Three more chapters for next week: Loneliness, Witness, and Why Don’t We Do It In the Road? In the meantime, fill the well.

Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Above image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

Almost Empty

Image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: World Communion

Nebraska-145

This morning as I lingered in bed, dozing between sleep and wakefulness, a flock of geese flew over the house—honking an alarm. But the mornings are chill now and Bonnie and I snuggled in deeper, aware of the empty spot beside me.

Jeff has been away this weekend and the nest has felt all the lonelier. It is good to miss him.

Today is World Communion Sunday—the Sunday when we remember our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world—every nationality, every denomination, every different tradition. We all belong to the family of God.

I am preaching at a little church nearby and will preside over the table. We will take the bread and the cup together this morning, being made one with Christ and one another—all who belong to him, united with the church in every time and place.

This morning, I remember my brothers and sisters all over the world as we commune together. But I also feel the presence of those I love the most, those gone from our nest for now.

And I give thanks that we are one.

I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: The Not-Alone Alone

Before Jeffrey was born I worried love would become a thin vellum. His brother wasn’t quite yet two and he would stick his plump lips up against my belly and say, “Little Jeffrey, come out and pway wif me!” I wondered how I could possibly love another little being this much. Wasn’t all of my love spoken for?

But when he came, with his blues eyes, those dimples, that crazy hair … I learned the truth. Love really is the only thing you receive more of when you give it away. Love was voluminous, pages and pages of stories filled with moments of proof, evidence of love’s supernatural increase written into our days.

A house built on love gives when most of life takes. I tried to explain this to Jeffrey the other day. “If your dad and I do one thing well, I hope it is loving you. When a child knows he or she is loved, it changes the way they look at themselves. It changes the way they look at the world.” We talked about love as a foundation and how, when a child has the security of love to return to, he or she will carry that out into the world—give freely out of love expecting nothing in return.

Sometimes, life can squeeze that out of a person, that soft beginning. But when one is planted in love from the start, it becomes a way to resilience, a way of seeing.

The other night, when he returned from band practice long after the sun had set, Jeffrey walked in the house and came straight to me. We were alone for the evening, just the two of us, as often happens in the almost-empty nest. He sat down beside me on the couch, his shoulder touching mine, and laced one of his legs over mine on the ottoman. Then he started texting all his friends, with me but not quite. This happens a lot too, in the almost-empty: the not-alone alone.

I found it mildly humorous, like I was some kind of security blanket. But then, all at once, awareness washed over me and I was in kairos time. I was suddenly aware of the presence of the Holy, right there on the couch with us, legs tangled up in ours.

Time. It’s a funny thing.

In my book I talk about the mythology that gave us the words to name the awareness of the holy moments. According to Greek mythology, Kairos was the youngest son of the god Zeus. He is often portrayed as having wings on his feet, showing how quickly he rushes by. Ancient artwork also gives Kairos hair on his face but not on his head. This symbolizes that he must be grasped as he is approaching, because once he has passed, the opportunity is gone.

Kairos. When my eyes are open to knowledge that each moment passing is unlike any other, and so I grab each one by the beard … slow it down and look it in the face. Those are the moments when time stands still, when beauty seems to speak in ways that make my heart weep, when I feel the presence of God like a second skin—the days my sons were born, staring up at the night sky, sitting beside the hospital bed, watching a single leaf fall to the ground… ~Playdates with God, Laura Boggess

And sitting on the couch with a texting teen—studying the curve of his cheek, the long reach of his legs, the still-crazy hair. In the almost-empty nest I have more time to observe my life, to be with my one little chick who still waits to fledge. In this time of girlfriends and hanging out and driving, God sweetly allows the not-alone alone. He is giving me practice—training wheels in solitude.

He is holding on to the back of my bike until I am ready for the full letting go.

To listen to the audio of this story, scroll down.

I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. 

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost-Empty Nest: Dizzy

The sky is white this morning and outside the leaves of the maple sway to invisible music. The weatherman tells me showers are on the way but all I need do is step outside and taste the wind to know this. Rain is my love language with God—the steady unspooling of the sky always comes as invitation to burrow deep into his heart.

I am trying to let go of worry but sometimes it ambushes me. The calendar is filling up quickly and all I want to do is sit and study the sky. I was remembering yesterday how, as children, we would hold our arms out and twirl and twirl until we fell down from the dizzy. Now I avoid that wavery feeling of out-of-balance as much as possible. How was falling down ever fun?

I keep remembering Teddy’s first day of kindergarten. Jeffrey was only three and he and I were driving past the grade school in the middle of the day. There was a lot of road construction and traffic came to a dead stop with our minivan square in front of West Teays Elementary. Suddenly, I looked over at the building and realized my baby boy was in there; that for the first time in his life I had no idea what he was doing, or thinking, or feeling.

I said a prayer for him, for me, right then and there, in the middle of that traffic. Out loud. Little Jeffrey piped up from the back seat, “Hey! You can’t pway in the cawr!”

“Oh, honey,” I said. “You can pray anywhere. Any time. All the time.”

I’ve been praying a lot.

At night, I take Jeff’s hand and we pray for our boy together. We pray for our family. If we do things right, change is a certainty in life. This is part of our design. How can we grow without changing seasons? Outside, the first red colors of fall are kindling the fires of my heart. I feel I might burst into flame any moment. This dance of flames is not unlike the twirling I did as a girl—the tizzy, the dizzy, the danger … Do I trust that gentle hands will hold me if I fall? Will I laugh as I the flames lick my ankles; will I delight in letting go of control?

I am learning to walk through this strange out-of-balance feeling. I am learning to open my hands and let joy fill them, even as I still carry that soft ache of missing the days when my name was forever on their lips.

To listen to this story, scroll down. 

Almost Empty

I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. 

Listen to this story: