Friday, January 6, 2012

And it's 2012 already!

A blessing for Elli

The first day of 2012 brought a special joy for me in my work as a hospital chaplain. Death and grief are much more common in my job, so this was a welcome change to begin the new year. Some friends of mine had come to the hospital in the waning days of 2011 expecting their first child, and after 30 hours in which her mother gained a whole new understanding of the word "labor," Elliott Virginia came into the world. She is, in a word, perfect. I started my first shift of 2012 by holding her, feeding her, and rocking her to sleep. She gave me the blessing of a tiny smile and wrapped her long fingers around my thumb. Then I got to do one of my favorite tasks as a minister. I spoke a blessing for Elli that went something like this:

Elliott Virginia, may God bless you with kindness and wisdom, creativity and strength, bravery and faith and beauty, in this new year and for many, many, many years to come. May you bring joy to God, your family, and all of us who love you, as we do our best to help you become the woman God created you to be, all the long years of your life.         Amen.



I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.  ~Woody Allen

      I hear them laughing even though I'm in my office upstairs.  Our youngest daughter, Savannah, and her dad, Don, are laughing uproariously downstairs.  They both have the gift of loud, raucous, out of nowhere, belly laughs.  It could be something on TV.  It could be the face Savannah just made, a story, a one-liner, who knows?  The laughter blesses our house and my life as little else can do.  Laughter lights the darkness, cleanses the soul, and fills up a house.
       Savannah heads back to Furman University tomorrow for her final semester as an undergraduate.   She has been home for the holidays, working on grad school applications, sleeping late,  visiting friends and, of course, telling stories and laughing.  We will miss the laughter when she is gone.
      I turn off the light in the office and head downstairs.  I think I'll join them.


Last sunrise of 2011,  Myrtle Beach, SC

      It goes something like this.
      I'll come home and say something like, "I'm sure you all have done all your homework."
      One child will pipe up and answer that's "inconceivable!"
      And then another chimes in, "Do you even know what that word means?"
      For anyone who's a fan of the classic movie Princess Bride, no explanation is needed. Otherwise the preceding is just nonsense. What I love about ritualistic exchanges such as this is that it marks us a tribe with our secret code. It's a sign of intimacy - a moment to break from the routine or homework or whatever the issue is at hand and go off on a nonsensical tangent. That's one of my resolutions for 2012. More nonsensical tangents to thwart the over thinking, analytical side of myself that takes life too seriously.
      I told my family on our New Year's break to Myrtle Beach the story of a friend who found her Christmas marred by a contentious family member. She and others decided not to let this person's issues pull them down, so they used the word Duck anytime things got tense. Ducks just let the water roll off them and don't get pulled down by its weight. I shared this with the boys just as we were driving past Dick Pond going to Myrtle Beach. I'm not making this up. Needless to say the conversation deteriorated from there, but whenever things got tense or someone was irritable, someone would shout Duck, and we'd start snickering.
      I have my spiritual prompts that have the same effect. As I was walking the beach to see the last sunrise of 2011 and feeling a bit melancholy, a word unbidden rose above the mental chatter.
      More for myself. More for others.
     Just like that, the one word broke the spell of tension. I returned to the present moment with a deep breath. I opened to the new year.
     In the words of my friend, 'Happy New Year. Be the duck.'


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