Monday, July 15, 2013

in clover: sacred brokenness

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(This is a post that ran a few years ago...I have no idea why but it wants to post again, today.  Who am I to stand in the way of the spirit?)

In the spring of 2005, I was expecting a baby girl (little c) and a 40 foot high cube container of antiques from England and France.   The few years preceding had been difficult for my extended family…there had been deaths, divorces, financial troubles and other trying personal issues.   Lots of painful change. We had faced some hard times.
Anxious to get the new inventory cleaned, displayed and sold before the baby arrived, I was counting down the days until the ship carrying my container docked in Norfolk, VA.  The container would then make its way by truck to the shop.  Everything would need to be unpacked, cleaned, inventoried, photographed, priced and sold.  Post September 11, the import business had changed a lot but in almost 10 years we had never had any trouble getting our container through customs.   
Never say never.  First the container was detained for X-ray inspection.  Apparently my penchant for old garden and farm tools raised suspicions and so the container was completely unpacked for a physical inspection.  I was physically unable to do heavy lifting so Michael drove to Virginia. He had been told on the phone that he could repack the container.  A container, well packed, is a thing of beauty…hastily packed, it’s a disaster.  Michael drove home a week later, having never been allowed to even lay eyes on our container.
Two weeks later it arrived and we held our breath.   A birdbath…the basin cracked in two…a carton of blue and white porcelain plates shattered.  The leg of a very fine 18th century buffet, snapped.  The list went on.  As we dug into the middle of the container I came upon a pile of what had once been lovely French earthenware jugs.  I was excited that I had been able to source so many and had imagined how I would display them and how great they would look.  They were shattered inside their shoddily replaced bubble wrap. 
At the end of the day, we realized it could have been worse. The furniture could be repaired, although it would be costly.  I sat on the floor with the damaged plates and a hammer.  I broke them into small pieces and displayed the broken bits in large glass canisters.  Finally I sold the pieces to a woman wanting to learn mosaic work.  Mike glued the birdbath together and brought it to our home…we didn’t think we could guarantee it well enough to feel right about selling it to someone else.  The French jugs were a lost cause except for one that was broken across the middle.  I sat it in an out of the way corner, by my work station, and left it there.
One day, I was helping a client sketch ideas and plans for a small fountain.   She had an old tub to for the base and was looking for something for the actual font.   She decided on an urn…the water would bubble up from the center, cascade down the sides of the urn and back into the tub.  It was going to be lovely.  I had been threatening to add a water feature to our garden for years but I didn’t like the fountains I saw for sale at home improvement stores.     
I wandered the store looking for pieces to combine into a fountain.  One of the biggest hurdles to designing a fountain is hiding the pump.  I knew that my fountain would go under a dogwood tree so it needed to be low to the ground…not too tall.  A low stone trough would be great but what to go with it?
Maybe an urn like my client chose?  No, the colors were too similar.  An enamel body pitcher?  No, it would rust out in a season and the scale was all wrong. Maybe an English watering can?  No, just didn’t look right.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the two pieces of the broken French jug.  I set the top in the trough.  The angle of the break was just right…just right for a fountain!  The dark brown color stood out against the putty colored stone.  And best of all, because the bottom was missing (broken), the pump would be easily hidden.  Voila!  My perfect fountain.
Most of the time, I am able to see the sacred in wholeness. But when something breaks, I try to fix it. And that’s ok…many things CAN be mended.  In fact, in this disposable world we live in, more things SHOULD be mended.  When things can’t be fixed or we won’t take the time or the trouble to try, we often dispose of them….send them off to the landfill where we don’t have to see them anymore.   
But there is sacredness in the broken things too…broken things, broken relationships, even broken people.   It’s all sacred.  When something breaks and cannot be fixed, we have an opportunity to re-vision it…give it a new purpose.  Instead of banishing it from our sight, we can learn to live with the imperfection…the loss.  We can sit and look at the broken things…learn to appreciate them fully…even come to love them… maybe even more than we did in their wholeness. 
As a whole, perfect thing, the French jug would have sat in my dining room…a lovely display. But in its brokenness, the jug directs cool water into a basin….the water makes music …robins bath in my fountain every morning!  Children cannot resist dipping their hands into the stream.   
I am aware that the jug, in its brokenness, is much, much more fragile than when it was whole.  When the weather turns cool, I do not take a chance.  A cold snap would shatter it for sure.  I store it more carefully than I do the other summer things.  For one thing, how would I replace it? Where does one find a broken jug for sale?  The jug, BECAUSE of its brokenness, is precious to me.   In some ways, it is irreplaceable.
I wonder how it would feel if we treated the broken and chipped places of our hearts with the same care?   As a trainee to become a Spiritual Director, I am required to receive spiritual direction.  I think that so far, most of what I have been learning is just that…to accept, love and cherish those things about me that are nicked…cracked….even shattered.  When we search for the sacred, I hope we do not over look the broken things.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

in clover: technical difficulty?

Yesterday, I published a post called "Open for Business."  For some reason, my email subscribers did not receive notification of the post.  

I can't figure out why or how to regenerate the email, so this post serves two purposes:  first, to see if it is fixed (will you get an email for THIS post?) and second, to let you know if you want to read what I published yesterday, click here:

Ahhh, the universe! 



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

in clover: open for business

It's taken me some time to work up the courage to say this here but.....I did it!  I have officially graduated.  I completed a three year certification process with Sycamore Spirituality Center....first, a one year program called Contemplation in Every Day Life and then a two year program called The Art of Spiritual Direction. 

I have a certificate and everything!

I graduated early in May.   I traveled to Cincinnati by myself on a Friday afternoon.  It poured absolute buckets of rain the whole way!  When I arrived at the retreat center on the convent grounds, it was still raining but, despite the downpour, the gardens were absolutely stunning.  I was not willing to get out my nice camera but I snapped these shots using my phone from under a large, black umbrella I found in the stand by the door.  (I NEVER have an umbrella. I am sure that says something about me.)

After dinner, my friend Margaret and I took a walk around the grounds.  We didn't mind that it was still misting rain.  We had a lovely chat with one of the sisters who was taking the convent pooch for a walk.  As we made our way around the grounds, I felt very drawn to this gate.  I do not know why but I really wanted to take a photo of it.  I don't think it was locked.  Maybe I should have tried to open it....

Later, after everyone had arrived, we gathered in a circle and spent time together, quietly and reflectively, in this beautiful space.  


All the things in the middle of the circle have special meaning.  I found the circle of light even more beautiful and inspiring than usual.  It was quite emotional.

The next day, after spending some time in gratitude for one another, we changed our clothes and got ready to greet our families and friends and was time to graduate! 

Michael and the children drove up from Lexington and my sister and niece came too.  It was nice to have family there.  My spiritual director was also there which was a lovely surprise.  

During the ceremony, we were asked to rise and our family and friends layed hands on us.  I can't even begin to tell you how special that was. 

Each one of us received a blessing.  This my mentor, Steve, blessing me.  It was one of the first times in my life that I have been in "the center of attention" and didn't mind at the past, nervousness and anxiety have spoiled special moments but not this time!

We were also given a white "khata."  A khata is a ceremonial Tibetan scarf symbolizing purity and compassion.  The khatas we were given bears the image of a lotus blossom.  I especially loved this because of the symbolism of the lotus flower.  ReligionFacts website states:

"The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.
Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface."

Michael took this photo of me in my khata shortly after the ceremony. 

And my sister took this photo of my family. 

So, my training and internship period have come to end.  I know that the work I have been doing for the past three years, both internal and while sitting with on one and in small groups...has prepared me to go forward confidently with this work.  

Recently, I was a co-leader of a beautiful, contemplative Service of Healing.  It was very powerful.  The day before, I led a group of 12 women in a Contemplative NeedleArts Retreat.  I loved the experience and I am getting very positive feedback from those who attended.  Last month, I led a Personal Mandala Meditation for a group of women who serve others in the Stephen Ministry program.  And the month before that, I worked with a group of social workers and therapists from the Kentucky Center on Trauma and Children, based on Jon Kabat Zinn's work in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.  I have even put together a brochure about myself and spiritual direction.  The one thing I had failed to do was announce it here.  


my spiritual direction and retreat leadership practice is officially:

And to all of you, I am going officially on record to say that I am available for individual and group direction work.  If you want to know more, email me at   If you are part of a group that would like a contemplative experience, send me a note. My emerging specialty is providing creative, contemplative experiences. 

I am qualified, prepared and eager to do this work! God willing, I hope to be doing this work for a very long time to come.

Namaste,  Lisa

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Monday, July 1, 2013

in clover: Vulnerable Joy

I had something written for today but I've just gone to let the chickens out and found one of my hens, a pretty little Rhode Island Red, dead in the coop.   

Emmy Lou was the friendliest of all my girls and the one I would most often hand to a curious child who wanted to hold a chicken.   

This is me with a teenage Emmy Lou the day she came to live with us. 

 And here's a shot of her on the roost with Nancy.

 Back when when had six...sunbathing together.  Emmy is right up front.

I have been dreading the day that I would find a dead chicken.  Honestly, it made me feel sick to think about it.  It made me feel terribly vulnerable.  My friend has kept chickens longer than I have and she told me that every time one of them dies, she says to herself, "I just can't do this anymore.  No more chickens!"  

She also has said to me many times, when wrestling with some difficulty, that she seeks out the calming presence of the chickens.  "What did you do then?" I ask.  "I sat with the chickens."  I do it too.  I call it my chicken meditation.  I have recently made two new friends, both of whom are chicken keepers.  And they report the same sense of peace when they are with their chickens, which seems to be proof that the feelings of vulnerability are worth it, even though it's terribly difficult.  

When I was a single girl, I had a sweet little cat I called "Bubba."  He acted a lot like a dog, greeting me at the door.  I LOVED that cat!  When I was very pregnant with Big C, Bubba died.  A neighbor, trying to stop birds from eating his garden up, had put out poison.  It was awful for me and for over a decade I refused to have another animal. I swore I would "NEVER go through that again."  This makes me laugh now...since I was only a couple of weeks from giving birth.  Seriously! 

We took in my dad's elderly cat when it needed a home but I refused to get very close to him.  And he wasn't very friendly anyway, so it worked for us both.  It was only because of Little c that we have a dog and two cats now....although the chickens are on me.  Sometimes, in a quiet moment, I marvel at how I have exposed myself to vulnerable feelings by allowing animals in my home again.

Brene Brown has this to say about vulnerability: 

"When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding."  

I am certain, for me at least, this is absolutely true. 

Sometimes, like this morning, exposing myself in this way sucks.  But most days, it's totally worth it and full of joy. 

Maybe I will write a book...."Everything I Needed to Know About Vulnerability, I Learned From a Chicken."



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