Monday, September 16, 2013

Pilgrimage and Jubilee

"Pilgrimage and Jubilee"
by Virginia Knowles

It’s been a long road
And I’ve traveled the valley of the shadow.
But I write as a free woman
Still with earthy bonds, yes
But able to rise above and go beyond.

We are called to the dignity
Of the Image of God.
We are called to walk the path 
Of peace and glory.
We are called to hear the holy echo:
"Proclaim liberty throughout the land!"
So let us rise, strong and free.

Mine is the story of pilgrimage and jubilee.

Several things inspired me to begin this poem in my journal yesterday.  I wrote much more, but pruned away to uncover the lines above.

One: I mentioned in a recent post that I planned to start a series called Pilgrimage and Jubilee as a memoir of my fifty years of life thus far.  Pilgrimage, because life is a journey, for me a spiritual one. ("Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka {Tears}, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion." Psalm 84:5-7) Jubilee because that is the word for the celebration of liberty every fifty years in the Hebrew culture. ("And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you.." Leviticus 25:10.)  I have been pairing these words for several years, ever since my Midlife Reckoning. I even used them in my poem This Is My Song and I Sing. The picture is one of me as a newborn, with my sweet mother, who passed away this summer. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for her, would I?

Two: My middle school students have been reading the novel Amos Fortune, Free Man, by Elizabeth Yates.  It is based on the true story of a slave who makes a sturdy and productive life for himself in 1700's New England, eventually purchasing freedom for himself and for three women, whom he also marries. (One at a time, of course. The first two didn't live that long in liberty, but each died as a free woman.) I may never have been in that kind of bondage, but we have all been held captive by something or other, haven't we?  Many times it is our own acquiescence and denial of what is happening in our lives.  We are often reluctant to  insist on anything better.  We are called to more. 

Three:  Four of my adult daughters invited several of my dear friends to celebrate my five decades of life with us yesterday afternoon.  These ladies have walked this long road with me, some of them for ten or twenty years.  I am ever grateful for their companionship and support during some of the more challenging seasons of life. After a few of the ladies had to leave early, we figured we'd better get a group photo of the rest of us.  They perched me on a stool, and I guess I had my legs tucked up under my billowy skirt.  I couldn't stop laughing when I saw this picture, because it looks like I'm standing on peg legs. That would presumably make my life journey a bit more difficult. 

Four: This birthday card from my sister Barb. It is from Trader Joe's, and reads: "Tell your story. Believe in healing. Honor your intuition. Take the journey back to yourself. Wear more skirts. Begin today. Embrace vulnerability. Do the things you didn't think you could. Quiet the inner critic." Amen to that, sister! On the inside, she wrote: "I bought this card for myself (true confession!) but then I decided that it epitomizes you so well that I have to be selfless and send it to you.  You're welcome." She did ask that I send her a picture of it. Here it is, Barb! You're welcome!

Five: This poster on my wall, which I bought this summer while visiting my mother in Maryland. I had gone to the Christian bookstore to find something to hang in her hospital room and found this one for myself, too.  And my Mom was cheering me on to better days, even in her last words to me.

Six: I made a new friend yesterday at church.  She is from the Ukraine.  Her name is Miraslava, which she explained is the two words peace and glory. I love that, and it seemed to embody her personality in the few minutes I spoke with her. Wouldn't you like to be named Peace Glory?  Certainly better than Strife Shame! God calls us his Beloved.

Seven:  The phrase, "hear a holy echo" is from a comment that Sandra Heska King left on one of my blog posts a while back.  I tucked it away on my iPod and came across it again last night. Yes, I do love your comments, so.... leave one! How has your life reflected pilgrimage and jubilee?

Finally, some related posts I think you'll like:
Peace and glory,
Virginia Knowles

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Briarpatch Birthday Brunch and Ten Thousand Villages

I turned 50 today!  Woo hoo!  Five decades and counting!

My kids decided to make this milestone birthday extra special, so it's been quite the day already. Five of my daughters took me out to brunch at the Briarpatch, a beautiful restaurant on Park Avenue in Winter Park.  (That's the ritzy section of town!)  Too bad my fourth daughter is in Australia right now!  We would have loved to have her join us!

We ate outdoors under 
a cheery yellow and white sun umbrella.

I couldn't decide between 
the raspberry lemon cream pancakes
and the kitchen combo (pancakes, eggs and bacon)
so I asked them if I could combine the two.
This is the SHORT stack of the raspberry pancakes -
the full one has four!
Why yes, I do have leftovers 
in the refrigerator for the morning...

After brunch, I asked if we could step into the 
My oldest daughter had bought some
beautiful Mother's Day presents for me there,
including the necklace I'm wearing today. 

Ten Thousand Villages is 
a fair trade organization in partnership 
with the Mennonite Central Committee.

Everything in the store is made by 
artisans in different Third World countries, 
providing those who might live in poverty
with a decent income for self-sufficiency.

This is the sequel cookbook to 
More-with-Less, a Mennonite cookbook 
that my sister gave me over 20 years ago.
Mine is dog-eared and spattered with food ingredients...

A gift from my fifth daughter 
from Ten Thousand Villages.
I picked it because I need strength of all kinds
for my next 50 years.

I didn't see her buy the mini dark chocolates, too!

It's not just around the world...
It's down the street.
People are needy everywhere.

I was talking to my second daughter 
this afternoon about the homeless ministry 
she and her husband organize 
every other month,
and how they are thinking 
of expanding what they do.
I can't tell you how much 
this blesses a mother's heart.

My two oldest, ages 24 and 26, are both married.
Back at home again, my third daughter 
supervised a small army of younger siblings 
to prepare a late lunch - a pasta and salad buffet.
They grated parmesan cheese, chopped tomatoes,
set out the silverware...

Eclairs for dessert!
Yes please!

 The birthday celebrations aren't even over yet...
My husband is out of town right now, 
and he's taking me out for dinner on Monday night.
In the meantime, he sent flowers!

And next week,
my daughters are throwing me
another birthday party with some ladies 
we've known for a long time.

So here I am, 
thinking about my first 50 years
- and my next 50 years.
I may be over the hill now,
but now that I'm past the foot hills,
I still have mountains to climb...

My life goals from here on out?

To love, worship and serve God.

To nurture each member of my family, 
whether they live in the same house as me or not.

To cultivate excellence in writing and teaching.

To work for justice and mercy
in the world and in my own community.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. #1: 
Please visit the 
Ten Thousand Villages web site.

P.S. #2:
Years ago, I had decided 
that for my 50th birthday,
I would compile a memoire 
of my life story (in vignettes,
photos, poems, and essays)
and call it Pilgrimage and Jubilee.
It didn't happen. Yet.
What I'm going to do is a blog series
I don't know what all I will include yet.
Stay tuned.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Moth (A Picture and a Poem)


We see you resting, wings unfurled
Upon the window of our world
A moth, who flutters free, aloft
All painted gold and ginger, soft.
Your life is brief and ours is long
And you are weak while we are strong
But beauty: fleeting, fragile, small
Is loved by God, who made it all.

Thanks be to Jesus, Savior King
Who cares about the littlest thing:
This little moth, those little seeds
A little child with many needs
A little earth among the stars
A little problem that is ours
Our little lives, our little world
Here may we rest, with hearts unfurled.

I teach in a private Christian school three days a week.  The other day, as my middle school students and I walked quietly down the hallway, one of them noticed this moth on the outside of the window.  We stopped to observe, then went out for a closer look.  (Just being mindful in the moment!)

We had just been talking about poetry, and they know I especially like to write about nature, so they joked that I must write a poem about the moth.  Our principal, passing by, suggested that they write the poem for English class, but the only description they offered was that the moth was the color of bacon.  I happen to think ginger is a bit more poetic.  Yesterday, as we discussed this again, I told them I would still write a poem.  We were already talking about pre-writing: choosing a topic, a genre, a purpose, an audience.  Topic: the moth, of course!  Format: poem, which I had predicted would be free verse but ended up with rhyme and meter, specifically iambic tetrameter. Purpose: inspiration.  Audience: these 11 students, and whoever else wants to read it on my blog.  That would be you.  Thanks for showing up.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here's the moth from the underside, with his legs and fat body.  Quite the little beauty, don't you think?

Virginia Knowles

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