“Woman, why are you crying?” Easter Season Contemplations

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Mommy, why are you crying?”

Woman, why are you crying? - John 20:15

"Woman, why are you crying?" - John 20:15

I was sitting on the steps of my almost-three-year-old’s daycare provider’s house. I thought I had planned enough time for this transition in our day. I had risen early for my once-a-month- massage appointment. I had left the house early and snuck back in, all peace and relaxation and joy oozing through my muscles, in order to collect my drowsy preschooler from her dad’s arms and drop her at the daycare before my late-morning meeting. Forty five minutes surely had to be enough time to travel less than a mile and then back — right?

The two-year-ten-month-old child, however, was not having it. This Monday she wanted nothing but mommy or daddy. The supposed ten-minute-max drop off went terribly wrong. There were tears and screams and pleas for home — for her blanket, for her father, for me! — coupled with clinging. After all negotiations and requests and attempts at soothing were offered, I headed back out the door with said child still attached to me. Plan B to return her to her resting father was in line.

I was anxious. I was now late. My clock read fifteen minutes passed my meeting time. How had all those extra minutes ticked away? Tears and tantrums (of both children and their parents) are truly the pressure cooker of a time-suck.

Can you imagine the thoughts racing through my mind? Can you hear your own in such a chaotic, late-running-Monday-morning?

I hadn’t planned well. I was clearly a bad mother. I was clearly a poor professional. I couldn’t even make a meeting on time. If I had only thought or prepared a little bit better, then I wouldn’t be in this jam.

I wanted to reach out to the person waiting for me, communicate my dilemma or tardiness, but I didn’t have her phone number. And there was the sniffling kid on my arm – and her bag over my other shoulder – that kept me feeling unable to properly, calmly reach out  and communicate my whereabouts.  At that minute, my cell phone rang. It was the woman waiting for me. Taking a deep breathe, I tried to relay that I was delayed, but would be there, if she could wait. (We had been trying to schedule this meeting for six plus weeks.) I exhaled, and she responded:

“Do not worry. I get it. Take your time. I’ll be here.” It was her compassion, her generosity, her own knowing as a mother, that inspired my tears. I sat down on the steps, next to my hand-holding daughter, and started weeping.

“Mommy, why are you crying?”

***

I told this story recently on Salesian Monday Night as part of Sr. Mary Margaret and my co-presenation on Contemplative Presence. “How do we live in the present moment? How do we encounter the resurrected Christ in our midst every day? How do we find him in ourselves?” As one of the seven essentials of Monastic life for the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis, contemplative presence requires a gentle and loving practice of tuning into the fullness of each moment. In sharing my own story, I offered the question, “How do we live a contemplative presence when we are anxious, haven’t seemingly planned well, or aren’t in a perfect state of peace?” — Or, as Sr. Mary Margaret re-framed it in our post-presentation reflection,  “a little pissed off?”

“Your daughter’s question,” reflected Sr. Mary Margaret, is not unlike Christ’s question to Mary Magdalene outside his tomb: “Woman, why are you crying?” (John 20:15)

***

I offer you these thoughts for your own Easter season contemplations. Where are you stuck? Why are you sobbing – in any literal or figurative way? What do your eyes or mind need to turn to in order to see the resurrected Christ in our midst? What joy is hidden behind that veil of tears?

He is Risen! He is you!
EASTER BLESSINGS!

Answering the Door: Some Thoughts on Planning and the Present Moment…

Mary Marg and Demetrius

Who is showing up in our lives? How are we embracing each being at the door?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“‘And when the door bell rings, you will get your agenda,’ says the Lord.” — Sr. Mary Frances Reis, vhm on the doorbell ministry at the Visitation Monastery north Minneapolis

I’m a planner. I like to plan things. Maybe you are like me? You take stock in naming dates and times and creating agendas that spell out tasks and goals. Perhaps you take comfort in plugging information into your smart phone calendars that informs your next step in the day?  In this world and life that seems so out of our control, perhaps planning provides a bit of security?  As a classroom teacher, we had protocols for such planning where we would think ahead in time and work backwards — identifying outcomes and naming “what success will look like” or “sound like” — and again, planning accordingly for it all.

You know the old adage, though: “if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” I think, “Indeed!”

I’m reflecting on this compulsion or desire to plan in the face of all that I have been navigating, personally, in the recent months.  I am committed to honoring the lessons that have shown up in birthing our son Xavi, experiencing his brief life, and looking for ways that God has been present in and through it all.  I find the lessons of letting go (of outcomes/ agendas/ life itself) — such a gift — and I recognize that this is part of what the dear Visitation Sisters have been teaching me, us, the world, day in and out for years…(centuries, even, right?)

It’s a lesson about living in the present moment.

The sisters pray the divine office four times a day, and they answer the door.  In and through it all, is their ministry. They are an urban monastery of prayer and presence.

***

When Jane, the ultrasound technician, was moving her sonographic wand over my expanded mid-section at our 21 week ultrasound, I couldn’t go anywhere but that room. When she reported that Xavi’s cerebellum wasn’t intact, that he had fluid around his kidneys, stomach and heart, and that there were several holes in this central blood-pumping organ, I didn’t think I could continue breathing.  I wanted nothing more but to disappear from that room, to dissolve into the air, seep out of that space and avoid the shattering news that my son was not going to live a long life. But in that room were a whole host of prayerful beings, a communion of holy men and women convened in my heart and present in the touch of my husband’s hand.  I kept hearing, “Be still and know that I am God….Be still and know.” Those words were balm as I tried to catch my breathe and be present to life as it was –and is– unfolding.

Life is not all neat and pretty and according to how we want it, eh? It’s not how we plan for it. Enter the embrace of the present moment.

***

Sr. Katherine and MoWhen the Visitation Sisters came up from St. Louis and over from Mendota to found the Minneapolis monastery, they were given this directive about their daily life: to answer the door. Sr. Mary Frances explains this in the following words, “when the door bell rings, you will get your agenda,’ says the Lord.” The sisters pray the divine office four times a day, and they answer the door.  In and through it all, is their ministry. They are an urban monastery of prayer and presence. They, like their co-founders Jane and Francis, are “Living Jesus!” in the ways they are each called to respond to the divine life in their midst. And we are all invited to do the same.

How do we answer our doors? Who is showing up in our lives? How are we embracing the being on the other side of that front-porch-knocking in all of his or her fullness? How do we receive the news born out by each messenger? How do we say, “yes” to the incredible uncertainties that life presents us with from moment to moment? What happens when the present moment makes us want to run and hide?

On this day, I hold these questions prayerfully in my heart. I pray, along with the Visitation Sisters, for the courage to answer the door, to rest in the present moment and be okay with the plans that God has for my life — and for all of ours’. I am glad you are here with me.