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Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I'm now in Virginia at a gathering of Quakers from all over North America and beyond. Internet access has turned out to be rather hard to come by, so one of my spiritual practices for the week is to let go of the desire to check my e-mail frequently. Obviously blogging has been neglected as well.

My main spiritual work, however, is to let go of bigger issues and my desire to know their outcomes. My mother is out of the hospital, but still losing weight. She says she now weighs sixty-eight pounds and is forcing herself to eat. Despite her frailty, she is still able to live alone, although maybe not for long. The physical therapists at the hospital said she was doing too well in therapy to stay--she can get in and out of the tub herself and pass all their tests for self-sufficiency. But her primary doctor, listening to her lungs and looking at her shrinking body, was reluctant to let her go. My mom for her part is reluctant to go back to the hospital ever again and is talking about refusing antibiotics if she gets another lung infection.

In the meantime, my husband has resigned his job, and is looking for a new one, while I am waiting to hear from publishers who are reading my book. I felt "led" (to use the Quaker lingo for when we feel called to do something) to write this book, which is about how motherhood has been a spiritual journey for me. I mailed it off to my agent full of trust and hope, figuring that if I felt led to write it, some publisher would feel led to publish it. I still believe that, but it's now been over two months, and I'm starting to wonder if I should be praying about this or something.

So here I am at Gathering in a workshop to learn about prayer. We started with Centering Prayer (based on the ideas of Thomas Keating), where the idea is to just show up and consent to God's presence. We're not asking for anything in particular, not even advice. Tomorrow we are moving on to petition and intercession, where we ask for help, for ourselves or others. I confess to being conflicted about this type of prayer, especially now when so much of my life is in flux. For example, I'm temped to pray to sell my book soon, but what if I did and my mother needed my presence just when my publisher needed my revisions? I have a sense that I just need to be open to whatever is coming without trying to manipulate the timing. It's the lesson I keep needing to learn over and over again--letting go.

I remember an image that came to me twelve years ago at Pendle Hill, and it's an image I've heard others share as well. It's a picture of an open hand, ungrasping what it has held, but open to receive something new. I have a sense that I'm in that kind of time where I'm called to let go--of my mother, my book, my desire for certainty--and be open to whatever is coming next.


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