I notice anew that this is the season the Maples let go of their seeds. When we walk lately, it is in a whirling, twirling ticker-tape of spinning helicopter seeds. Bonnie tries to catch them in her mouth and I cannot shake the feeling of a parade. Somehow the walk becomes a celebration.
I’m still thinking about the Jumping Tandem Retreat. Before I flew to Nebraska, I spent a few days weeding out my flowers, mulching over wild violets and honeysuckle, planting the garden, dreaming of color. The lilac bush was in full bloom, leaving the air heavy with its heady scent. And I was tired.
I landed in Nebraska to open arms, strong and tender shoulders, and grace. Words cannot capture the sound of a room full of women lifting their voices in praise; words cannot capture the way tears cleanse, how a slow-spreading smile lights up a face.
We are made to be in the presence of one another.
We began with the story of brokenness. Our first keynote speaker was a Willow, bending before us, giving herself in offering and making the space we shared an altar. Grace. Her name is Grace. And she is beautiful.
The first workshop I attended was called “The Art of Truth Telling: How Grace Unmakes Bitter Fruit.” Listening to Alia Joy speak of meeting God in suffering was the best place to start. She spoke of how the hard circumstances strip you bare, leave nothing but honesty and an acute awareness of God with us. She said she felt ill-prepared, due to more unforeseen circumstances, but this is a safe place to fail, she said. She didn’t.
My Bible study sisters and I have been reading Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. This morning I read this:
In Christ Jesus the freedom from fear empowers us to let go of the desire to appear good, so that we can move freely in the mystery of who we are.”
Yes. This is grace. This is what I felt at the retreat: freedom to move freely in the mystery I am.
I listened to Kim Hyland, that Winsome Woman, speak about freedom. About how a quest for perfection can suffocate a life. I listened to her and loved her and felt a love for every woman who is doing the best she can in this broken world.
Dr. Helen Fagan shared her story in the second keynote. This woman’s heart is so brave and beautiful. “We grow the most when we are around people who are different than us,” she said. And her story is one of constantly growing, always seeking truth, endless curiosity.
I listened to the poet John Blase speak about “Bearing the Burden of Nouns,” his good words transcending poetry and encompassing all of life—gently prodding me to tend the nouns in my life better. I would pay John to read me poetry all the daylong.
And then there was Michelle, whose humility and grace and self-deprecating humor moved us all to such a warm place of communion I thought my heart might swell out of my chest.
Words cannot capture, friends.
I returned home under moonlight to find the lilac blooms on the wane and I told my boys all the stories I gathered in my head with words, all the stories gathered in my heart.
“Don’t you love God’s people?” I said to them. “Don’t you just?”
The Maple seeds spin and blow in the breeze and this aging woman feels the freedom of a new sowing; and everything old is new again.
Move freely in the Mystery, Beloved. There is always grace.