How to…

What caught my attention was the shape, an inverted right triangle of words nearly perfect on the page. I admit that I read it several times to appreciate what this poem held for me.  Could I?  Would I do that? 

To borrow Eugene Peterson’s insight about the poetic language of the Bible, I’d like to say that this poetic language also “both means what it says and what it doesn’t say.”  The first time I read the poem, I relished the actual words becoming the shape. I had a hunch that there was a how-to-lesson for me hidden in what the poem doesn’t say.  Are these lessons I learn over and over, troubling things I do over and over?

How to Do Absolutely Nothing – Barbara Kingsolver from How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons)

Rent a house near the beach, or a cabin

but: Do not take your walking shoes.

Don’t take any clothes you’d wear

anyplace anyone would see you.

Don’t take your rechargeables.

Take Scrabble if you have to,

but not a dictionary and no

pencils for keeping score.

Don’t take a cookbook

or anything to cook.

A fishing pole, ok

But not the line,

hook, sinker,

leave it all.

Find out



I remembered and responded:

If I have on sandals will I be able to hike where there are rattlesnake warnings?  I walked the length of Whiffin Spit in the same shoes I wore to the wedding party.

Do I want to have lunch where there is a dress code? My favourite jeans have ink marks and bleach spots and my happy pants (the real name) have baggy knees.

I lived 40 years without a cell phone or the internet. But, what if a Tsunami is coming or democracy fails?

I do need a dictionary. I don’t always have to keep score. I let go of many cookbooks because “close enough” recipes are online. Is that just more work? I don’t fish but I do ponder my need for the “hook, line, and sinker” on most days.

The real trouble is I think too much.

In Where I Live Now, Sharon Butala writes about what I believe is true for me.

I think too much, I go over and over events from the past as if by re-thinking and re-thinking them I can finally tease out from between the strands of memory, intertwined as they are, the real meaning, the answers to the questions that I don’t even know how to ask.

I go over events before they happen in addition to rethinking what has already happened.  I anticipate what someone might say or think or do and what I could say or think or do.  My strands of memory are laced with future speculation or, perhaps, wishful thinking.  What am I looking for?

There are moments I think I do nothing. Except, I cannot-not think about it.  How do I stop all those words that pile up in not-so-pleasing arrays? 

The truth is; I’m not sure. I will find out what is left when I leave the words behind. 

Watching for the full moon as the sun sets near Willow Beach. I hope my mind was watching.

Beyond Words

Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret,

and in exchange gain the Ocean.

Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honour,

and in the arms of the Sea be secure.

Who indeed should be so fortunate?

An Ocean wooing a drop!

In God’s name, in God’s name, sell and buy at once.

Give a drop and take this Sea full of pearls.

Rumi, translated by Kabir Helminski and Camille Helminski

Language does have its limits.

Eugene Peterson was talking about the poetic language of the Bible when he said,

A metaphor is a really remarkable kind of formation because it both means what it says and what it doesn’t say, and so those two things come together, and it creates an imagination which is active.  You’re not trying to figure things out, you’re trying to enter into what’s there.

For me, Eugene’s wisdom fits my experience here. Perhaps metaphors reframe what is right in front of us from a different perspective.

On Saturday, before Palm Sunday, I attended a contemplative wisdom retreat at the University of Victoria Multifaith Center. I’m not a note-taker so my remembering might or might not be exactly accurate, but it is true for me.  Heather Ruce, our teacher, used the imagery of the ocean and the water inside our bodies as she discussed our conflicting human and divine nature; our physical bodies and spiritual being that we separate or see as two different parts of us. How does this water naturally flow together?

I thought immediately of the ancient prayer I say many mornings, “I awaken in Christ’s body as Christ awakens my body…” as a way of expressing this reciprocity. We say that we are not alone; yet, we speak of our divine companion in another reality. Our language belies the truth. 

When I learned to paddle board, I was instructed to look toward the horizon when I stand up on the board.  If I look down, I was told I would probably fall. This isn’t intuitive. 

Even after I’m standing up, when I gaze ahead and take in the spaciousness, I see the world differently.  When I steal a quick glance down to see if my feet are where they should be or notice the dark deep cold water and remember I’m far out from the shore, fear and uncertainty separate me from the grandeur.   

Then on Monday of Holy Week, after Heather’s words activated my imagination, I read Rumi’s words,

Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret, and in exchange gain the Ocean.

Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honour, and in the arms of the Sea be secure.

Perhaps the Ocean was wooing me. On the cold and windy Monday, I copied Rumi’s poem on a scrap of paper and headed to Willow Beach.  I walked down the first residential street with “beach access” to begin my communion in the water on the quiet end. 

I sat down on a rock and took off my wool socks and hiking boots, rolled up my two layers of pants, and walked in at the water’s edge.  The sea was clear and shockingly cool.  When I walked looking out toward the horizon, I won’t say I didn’t notice the cold but the shock faded as I took in the expanse before me.  Every now and then, I met another brave soul whose feet numbed in the wetness.  Every now and then, a seal popped up to remind me of the abundant life here.

Repeating one line at a time, I walked into Rumi’s call to me, the drop, to listen to give myself without regret in exchange for the Ocean.  Listen and receive this honour to be secure in the arms of the Sea, this Sea, that I could know in my physical body, the blustery refreshment for the worries I brought along.   

This same water stretches across the earth. I, too, am part of that expanse. In her memoir, The Perfection of the Morning, Sharon Butala writes about these moments, “This is the place where words stop.”  How can I keep looking out to the majesty and vast unknown and embrace the promise that holds me, that surrounds me in the same moment as the danger I perceive?  Sell and buy at once, surrender my drop, and accept the abundance.

Listen, O drop, enter in the metaphors that are beyond words.


Here I am—in all kinds of angst this morning, selfish angst, not knowing how to be right now.  It doesn’t matter the circumstances that I am so tempted to lay out before you. Those reasons for my discontent will be replaced on another day by other woes.

The redeeming part of this story is that I know to sit in my red chair and open to another way. Just the day before, I wrote in my notebook how I am here in the midst of lives around me that are making their way through.  I wrote that I have seen the “obscure glimmering through of grace” in the lives of those I hold close. However, I seem to cave in to the news of the day, to an imagined outcome, to a real concern.  I know I’ve been here before, more than once or twice.  And I know what is needed: to surrender to the life force around me, to take a day at a time, to not feel such consequence, to let the click and clack unfold, to know I am not the fixer of anything.

My view from the chair at McNeil Bay

So on this day, I open what I’ve been reading and see the title, “Until,” before a few verses from Psalm 73.  That Psalm begins,

Truly God is good to the upright,

   to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;

  my steps had nearly slipped…

Clearly this day, I am stumbling. I certainly don’t see myself as any version of upright or pure in heart.  I just had a conversation with someone about their struggle.  I thought I listened until I recognized that I was jumping into the exasperating narrowness of trying to explain my own (mis) understanding of things.

Until.  In the middle of the Psalm, I listen,

If I had said, “I will talk on in this way,”

   I would have been untrue to the circle of your children.

But when I thought how to understand this,

   it seemed a wearisome task,

My life seems precisely like a worrisome task, overcrowded with thoughts of how and why and when and, oh yes, what if.  And the things that are cluttering my way are of little consequence to the whole.  I cannot see around the corner of my own self-interest.

Until I went into the sanctuary of God;

Then, I perceived their end.

Outside my dining room window, I see green.  A large evergreen and prickly holly leaves shelter my view.  Spring is showing; this is the city of daffodils and cherry blossoms. A friend left a bouquet of tulips at my door.  The light fills this room.

Until I pause to look at the life that is in plain sight.  Whether it is the sun shining brightly into my living room today or the rain the day before that greened up the grass and glistened on the dandelions. 

Until I see the whole—the gift of God’s presence in this very place that I see only through my experience of gloom.  Looking into the smallness, the dark corners that I’d backed myself into. 

Until I turn around and see the vastness of the world and surrender to that spaciousness.

An Opening

In Life and Teachings, Catherine of Genoa writes,

“It is because of this tender love that I need not ask anything of God for you.  All I need to do is lift you up before his face.”

Many years ago, I came upon this truth that changed how I prayed for my children.  They were becoming young adults and for me, their mother, they were in my circle of concern but not necessarily under my influence.  They were forging their own ways in the world and I realize now how little I actually understood about their “inside stories.” 

Those inside stories are how we interpret our experiences, form ways of seeing the world around us, and, yes, our mysterious imagining about how and what we become and do.  We might be aware of this inner weaving or not.  We don’t think our way into becoming ourselves, and that is true.

Prayer is another curious thing—particularly praying for those we love up close, like our children.

Perhaps Catherine of Genoa’s way of praying has always been with me—when I held those two precious lives as infants and knew they belonged to God and I couldn’t control their entrance and way in this world. 

I imagined as a parent, many times that I did know what was best, but I didn’t really know.  Now that my children are adults, a saint from centuries ago reminds me, again, that I don’t have to know. All I need to do is lift you up before his face.  I don’t need to read God the dire news of the day or circumstances as I see them.  I simply see my beloved ones as whole.

And so, I come to what Eugene Peterson says, “prayer is not a tool for doing or getting, but for being and becoming.” 

“A shovel is a prayer to the farmer’s foot when he steps down and the soft earth gives way,” Carrie Newcomer sings. Prayer is fleshed out in many individual expressions. My writing and reading in God’s presence are a way of prayer as I listen for God’s voice in the unfolding of my life each day. Prayer summons my own “living” water.

In this kind of prayerful becoming, I learn to hold my adult children in a new light.  I am not asking or suggesting or fixing or trying to change the people they are or their circumstances. Although, I do wish I could soothe their own learning and becoming.  I can only open myself to seeing my children as God sees them, whether they recognize that presence or not.

I open myself to see the glimmers of grace and goodness that sit alongside the challenges, I too often envision.  Love binds these things together and redresses them with new strength to draw upon for whatever lies ahead.

Now I must confess, I have prayed for my children all their lives, and who knows how that has impacted those lives.  However, I am learning how praying for them is an act of my faithfulness, quelling my anxiousness about the details of our lives.  Like the farmer’s foot on the shovel, prayer is my surrendering to a possibility that is out of my control or management. 

Prayer is a doorway, an opening for another voice to spea.

Another View

“… to the person that is joined to all living things there is hope…”  Ecclesiastes 9:4

This seems to be a story I write again and again—being caught by wonder in the middle of an ordinary day.  This time I have my friend Darcy to thank.  You have to be paying attention or you will pass on by living instead of joining alongside. 

Darcy walks with me every Sunday in her neighbourhood which is very different than my own. Her’s has an expansive ocean view from on high. In my neighbourhood the walk to the water is easy going and the water isn’t visible until you are there.  Getting from Darcy’s view to the water involves a long steep descent that is almost as hard on my shins as the climb back up.  We haven’t been down that literal road in a long while.

Darcy and I stick to the trails through the woods and the other cut-throughs in her neighbourhood. Some of those paths are steep too, but they are quick bridges between the streets that snake up the hill to offer a spacious view.  On a clear day, we are smitten with snowy Mount Baker in Washington, 120 km across the Haro Strait.  Yet on this day, I am smitten by a miniature view of our path that turns away from the sea.

Right before the deep descent down Sea Ridge Drive, we take a wide paved shortcut, accessible only to walkers and bikers. We walk between the houses and the path brings Darcy and me back to Amblewood Drive, a switch-back away from where we began.  It is a flat walkway, bordered on either side by a fence and hedges that keep those yards private. Part of the fence is hidden, too, by the dense foliage. You see, I hardly notice that fence; it is a nondescript structure to walk by, a worn-out wooden fence, not a place to discover wonder or encounter mystery.

So, I have Darcy to thank for what happened.  Darcy stays close to the ground and while her pace is much more lively than my own, she regularly pauses to explore a “spot” that interests her.  In other words, Darcy is open to the wonder of a seemingly regular patch of grass.  Darcy’s instinct caused me to notice a spot I could have easily missed, especially if I’d been walking with Liz or Stacy or any number of friends whose conversations would distract me.

Right above the patch of earth that captured Darcy’s attention was that old fence. What caught my attention was a laid-flat two-by-four, the top rail between a double set of pickets. Another world drew me out of the complacency of my control of the world I was carrying along with me. 

The miracle here is not only what I saw but that I was able to pause and look at something ordinary to see something extra ordinary. I am already awed by mosses that cast a green shadow on our driveway right now and clothe the bark of the tree stump in our backyard and the lichen that drips from our little apple trees.  So, I wasn’t surprised to see the lush green resting on the top rail of that old fence.

What caught me was the wonder of lives—the green mosses, white lichen, and the tiny flowers on the backdrop of weathered wood.  The first picture I took on January 8th seemed like a micro, barefoot-worthy patch of green; but, what about those tiny red blooms? 

As with any good story, context expands the truth.  On another Sunday, I took a picture of that fence from another angle.  I wanted to record the ordinariness of the path, the worn-out place that couldn’t possibly announce something newsworthy.

Wonder is a place in the real world along the paths we always travel.  A destination we must discover. My experience of worry and fear, the what if’s, is only one view of my world. There is another reality that boasts the intricacies of life that offer possibilities beyond my everyday view. Darcy helped me get there; that’s a friend indeed.

What is saving my life…

In her book, An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor tells that she was invited to speak at a church in the Southern United States.  She asked her host, “What do you want me to talk about?”

“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” was the priest’s reply.

Taylor writes,

“It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground.  I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone.  I did not have to try to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church.  All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on.  All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.”

What is saving my life now? 

Today my answer might not be the same as yesterday and some practices or promises that save me endure.  Yet, some circumstances challenge those answers and there is nothing I can do except pray and trust— but what happens when my what if’s drown out those prayers.  The things that are saving me often are quotidian rather than those traditionally held notions.

Yesterday, anxious and worried, I cleaned the bathroom. I mean I really cleaned in the full knowledge that it won’t stay that way. I will not change the cycle of soap scum and aging grout. Faithfully, I cared for what I could affect. I gave my whole body and mind to the transformation of tub and tile.

My cleaning is a prayerful act. My fears and anxiousness were taken over by scrubbing and rinsing away the grit and grime.  I know all too well the cycle of worry that has to be cleared away again and again.  That physical devotion didn’t change my troubling circumstances but the mindful work allowed me to “let go and let God” as the saying goes—even for an hour or so.

I can rest in the familiarity and the comfort that comes from doing something with clear focus and maybe even love. What is saving my life right now harks back to an open ear—to listen for God in everything I do; for where God is, in spite of and in the midst of our most quotidian of lives.

Hear and Hold On

I am encouraged when I wake up to the wonder of my worldOn the edge of the morning light, I know too well the things that are worrisome but somehow, in this quiet, I sense something more. Perhaps in those moments, I am more open to the mystery of what is alongside what I have experienced in the dark. 

I am comforted by what I can’t explain. I am still drawn to the Garry Oak at Camosun College, where my old dog Hunter and I used to walk every day.  I would sit under that tree, stand still beside it, and simply place my hand on that huge branch that seems precariously low and heavy with life. 

Other people seemed to glimpse the mystery, too. We would watch children swing from that low branch on a sweatshirt they’d flung over it to hang onto as they lifted themselves from the solid ground. We watched bigger people hoist themselves up and hang their feet or hammock over that branch and rest in the grandeur. My secret and not-so-secret fears were met there with awe, to experience that life force and the presence of grace that surrounded that tree.

In Psalm 40, hidden between the Psalmist’s woe and God’s goodness, the text says that God has “given me an open ear.” Between remembered miracles, what God has done in the past, and anticipated miracles, my hope that God will address my new fear, is an open ear. The Psalmist writes, “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear.”  That opened ear meets my fears and what if’s if I am in a position to listen.

I’ve been particularly aware these past weeks of being between all the miraculous ways I’ve gotten through some painful times. I have remembered what it is like to be on the other side of that woe. I am aware of the loving relationships that both are the cause and result of such love.

How do I create a life where my doubts and fears exist alongside grace and wonder?  Often, especially in the dark, my mind goes to the what-ifs, the conversations I might have, and the conversations I did have that I would like to rewrite.  It is as if I continue to doubt that I won’t fall into the cold ocean of my fears and will not be able to get out.

Maybe, I can at least hang on to the scraps of wishful listening that may not square up with my made-up story of how things could turn out.  I will keep an ear open for those bits of hope and let the others go.  Keep an open ear for where God is instead of listening to the doubts and fears that seem louder. 

Hang on to that life force.

God is approached more nearly in that which is indefinite than in that which is definite and distinct. F.W. Robinson, Ten Sermons

“New Year is like riding a train into the unknown.” That was the headline of “Faith Forum” in the New Year’s Times Columnist, our local newspaper. I noted that Nancy Ford, the writer, was “newly retired.” I thought it was significant since, for me, “retired” still feels indefinite.

Actually, I was thinking that my whole life has bordered on indefinite, especially when it is disrupted like my job loss several years ago. When I accepted that job and we moved to Bristol, I imagined that the place was a final “home”—definite and distinct—that signalled my abiding connection to the Appalachian Mountains and a nourishing academia—a break from cornfields, and a large state institution.  Maybe that was one of the problems with that place, the sense that it was sure, but I don’t want to think of that time as a problem. 

As far as my search for being home and settled was concerned, I did think we’d arrived.  Our house seemed idyllic and we did welcome many friends, family, and people we’d just met into our home for a meal or to stay a night or a few. After we left, I reflected that the place was simply a respite, a time in between.

I believe it is true, as the 19th-century preacher said, “God is approached more nearly in that which is indefinite”—which is all of our lives but we don’t seem to grasp that truth when our routines appear knowable.

I made a quick list of all the cities I’ve lived in over 44 years of my life with Mitch. The places, like the New Year, are easy markers of change. Our time in Bristol, like the cities at the beginning of our marriage, was a short 2 years.  As I looked back on this list, none of our moves seemed predictable except the one when Mitch finished seminary and my career was easily relocated.  In each place we landed, I guess we had our routines and time went by.  Our lives in each of those nine distinct locations weathered the unexpected that marked our journey.

In his memoir Telling Secrets, Frederick Buechner considers the course of his life.  He reflects,

…as I wrote…I found myself remembering small events as far back as early childhood which were even then leading me in something like that direction but so subtly and almost imperceptibly that it wasn’t until decades had passed that I saw them for what they were—or thought I did because you can never be sure whether you are discovering that kind of truth or inventing it. The events were often so small that I was surprised to remember them, yet they turned out to have been road markers on a journey I didn’t even know I was taking.

So as a New Year begins again, I wonder what will be next because whether we feel settled or home or somewhere in between, there is always a rupture in what is—even if it is in our own mind.  That restlessness I’ve felt many times seems to crop up anew and I wonder if that is a call to reflect and pay attention.  Victoria is where we live, a place of challenge and refuge in breathtaking surroundings that keeps me now. Yet, I am reminded that God is the promise keeper who provides me with a good place to be on the journey I don’t even know I am taking.

Indefinite, as God directed Abram, “the land I will show you,” seems to me where we should always be.

The Blessing of Waiting

I can live like this

this being

blessed and blessing

in the same motion

            Richard Wagamese, from “Poem” in Runaway Dreams

Advent is over—Jesus is born.  But, The Christ was already here. So, what did I wait for?

Perhaps, it is human awareness that comes again and again or comes into being when we are open to see. Perhaps, it is what we do while we wait that matters.  After a disarray of readings and experiences during the last few weeks, I wonder: how am I feeding a life that is being blessed and blessing in the same motion?

The winter solstice has passed, and each day will bend a little farther toward the light.  Our recent unexpected weather event made me more aware of the subtleties and energy of being open to wonder.

View from our front window. Yes, there is a street out there!

Almost 40 cm of snow fell here in Victoria.  That is a lot of snow for this city which is known for the warmest climate in Canada.  Winter is supposed to be a rainy season with just enough snow to remind us what it is.  This snow changed the way we lived for a few days.

The plumber we expected at 9:00 a.m. phoned to say he wouldn’t be coming. Visitors we expected to drop by that afternoon also reported they couldn’t get out of their dead-end street.  I didn’t have to clean up the kitchen early or wrap the gifts I had. I didn’t feel compelled to consider that “one more thing” I might need before Christmas. Our collective sense of what are “have to’s” shifted.

Bundled-up families and pets replaced cars on the streets.  I saw new sights: a man skied past my house and our neighbour’s dog sported a festive sweater with matching knitted leggings.  My friend reported that she wore her sunglasses in her house; the light reflected off the snow was so bright. All of our spirits seemed lighter, too, on this curiously quiet week before Christmas.

I had been given three cards to deliver for the church and the sunny snow made the task an adventure. I didn’t really know two of the three recipients but I knew that personal delivery would amplify the care and connection with their church community.  

A purpose for reaching out to someone can be both a solution and a problem for me. I would have to muster up a bit of courage to ring their doorbells.  The risk, after all, was very small—they wouldn’t know me—I was just delivering this card for the church.   I had that greater purpose to hide behind.

Wrapped in layers and long johns, I set out and made the first footprints in what was the driveway. My first stop was Rosamond’s house near the park. I noticed that her walk and driveway were already cleared of snow and a green de-icer was strategically placed. I don’t really know her and I gathered that she was being taken care of—that’s good.

I easily made my way up the steps to her door. I didn’t see a doorbell so I knocked.  No one came. I decided not to try again; after all, I would look like a stranger.  I felt a little hesitation, should I try harder?  I placed the card in her mailbox and continued my walk down the snow-covered side street.

My next stop was several blocks away and I took my time, awed by the brightness of the day. I passed people shovelling their sidewalks and kids trying out scooters and wagons in the snow and more dog walkers.  The snow was too deep to move easily off the sidewalk to let another person pass which I’d become accustomed to doing to keep a distance.  Most greeted me with a nod and a smile.

Turning onto Oliver Street, I crossed to the other side and came upon a gentleman chatting with a young couple who were clearing their driveway.  It was obvious they knew each other and were catching up. There was no way to get around so I waited. I heard the woman ask, “Ian, is this the most snow you’ve seen in Victoria?”

I realized the man I was following was my destination. These people were Ian’s next-door neighbours. His house, where I think he’s lived his whole life, was my next stop.

We had a pleasant conversation when I offered the card.  I don’t remember meeting Ian myself, but my husband has tea with him occasionally.  He remembered that I had been liturgist on Sunday and told me how much he liked “the Reverend.”  This conversation was comfortably familiar and I was reassured to go beyond putting a face with his name.

My next visit was a familiar one.  I meandered a bit and discovered new sights on my way to Bev’s house.   When she learned I’d come from Oliver Street, she reminded me that block is where her late husband grew up, too. She shared some of her own adventures growing up in the majesty of mountains and lakes in the southern interior of British Columbia. She is attuned to the wonder of days like today.

As I headed back home, I was on my own again. Yet, I felt accompanied by the people I’d met along my way. There was an openness to each other that was hastened by our shared awe of the extraordinary weather.  There was a shift in how we navigated our paths, depending on others to shovel out the way or to find someone else’s footprint that had gone before to lessen our struggle. 

I had waited to see again the wonder and goodness of One who never tires of coming into my world.  Blessed and being blessed in the same motion.


In my last writing, I said I wanted to widen my lens, to wander, to be open, to see what I could see during these weeks of Advent.  I knew that would come as I read and prayed and pondered each day.

However, I was a little disappointed. The words I tried to read just seemed like a schooled assignment. I expected I would be challenged by the insight that would appear on the page. Maybe, I was trying too hard to pay attention to the wrong thing. It is easy to say I am going to be open to whatever comes, but most often, what happens catches me unaware.

And that is what happened on Tuesday. In the middle of the day, the unexpected unfolded. In the midst of the ordinariness, I guess I did open up just enough to receive the lesson of trust, but it did not come from my own trusting.

Driving home, I answered my phone because it was my daughter and she doesn’t usually call me often.  After she asked the question she had called to ask, she followed with, “Do you have a few minutes?”

Usually, that question means “I have something important to discuss.” So, of course, I said yes and I parked so I could listen.  I am not good at attentively listening and attentively driving at the same time.

“Would you pray for me tomorrow?”

“Yes, I pray for you every day, but I’ll pray extra tomorrow.”

“I’m on overnight call for the first time since before Stella was born.” 

“What if…”

Ahhh, her mind goes to the “what if’s,” just like me.   She continued to describe her mind’s race, She concluded that she knew her husband would care for their daughter and her brother and it was more than that.

She was sad.  Every morning and every evening for all of her life, Stella wakes up and goes to bed breastfeeding. This would be the first time that wouldn’t be possible. I thought about the sacredness of that bond. I thought about how hard it is for a mother to let go, even when her children aren’t even children any more.  I hope I listened. 

My daughter trusted me with her sadness.  She didn’t want my advice or the stories of my days with young children.  She didn’t want me to fix her problem or assuage her feelings.  It wasn’t easy for me to not give solutions or worse, to say it will be all right.  I just hope I listened.

My daughter wanted me to hear her sorrow, to share her grief.  She trusted me to do that. She trusted that her husband would soothe Stella in his own way, in those moments before sleep the next night. She trusted Stella to be satisfied with the cup of cold milk she’d be offered the next morning. Being able to trust, even for one moment, changes the way we see one another.

Being trusted is a gift we do not earn, despite the popular notion that many mothers repeat.  Trust is a gift we give because that is what has been given to us. Mostly, the gift has to be given over and over until we learn to give it back ourselves.