Paying Attention: Contemplations from a September morning walk

September blossoms

September blossoms

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” – Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way.”

I paused this morning on my walk to pick dying leaves from a tall, yellow Golden Glow flower in our front garden.  Next to this plant, was a bright pink budded and blooming variety with dark green foliage — so alive and so precious with little flowers emerging in the fall landscape.

As I worked to remove dead leaves from one plant, and make way for the growing beauty of the other, my eye took in a whole host of dried flowers needing attention;  I decided I would “dead head” the bee balm growing close by.

Pausing in this moment,  I took note of the smells emerging from the decomposing bee balm blossoms, squishing between my fingers,  and I was overwhelmed with joy. A fragrance like rosemary and thyme was released from the dying buds; it was pure delight in my palm.

“Aha! Perhaps this is why my friends Mary and Stephanie suggested I save these blossoms to make tea?” I tried to imagine the flavor of a steeped bud. In all of this imagining, I experienced such happiness; a kind of deep joy overcoming me.

At the exact moment of deadheading and tea-wondering, appeared the first-ever humming bird that I have observed at 1196 Selby Avenue. He or she came to linger over the bush next to me.

I thought I might start to cry. Such furiously fast fluttering of wings, such hovering over the barely alive blossoms, such beauty in the attempt to savor and suck any nectar from the bee balm.

A line from a Birago Diop poem came to my lips:

“The dead are not dead… they’re in the rustling tree.”

I improvised a new line:

“They are in the hovering humingbird…”

In this month, as we honor the memory of our son birthed a buried one year ago, I’m tuned into how small things — savoring tiny details — is helpful in a healing sort of way.

Julia Cameron, in her book, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” writes:

“The reward for attention is always healing. It may begin as a healing of a particular pain – the lost lover, the sickly child, the shattered dream. But what is healed, finally, is the pain that underlies all pain: the pain that we are, as Rilke phrases it, “unutterably alone.” More than anything else, attention is an act of connection.

And so I pay attention.

In the process, I think, we are all connected. Me. These decomposing flowers. Me, these blooming buds. Me, this humming bird, seeking nectar or pollen or a meal to satiate his hunger, his hope, his deepest longings. Me and you.

We are all connected.

I invite you into this prayerful, attention-paying, healing activity. What do you notice on your walks? What life blooms close by, in the same space of something letting go of its vitality? What hovers close by? What fires your imagination and inspires your sense of connectedness with all of God’s creation?

Peace, Prayers! LIVE + JESUS!

 

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.

Returning to the Blog…

Sr. Mary Margaret - Xavi's Sky

Sr. Mary Margaret, vhm; September 13, 2012*

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“You have to love….It is the reason you are here on Earth.” Louise Erdich, The Painted Drum LP

I have been absent from this blog for a while. I am ready to return. I crave deeply the time that is afforded to me to sit, reflect, be still with experience and emotion and the way that I hear God at work in the hum of all creation.

I stand at a distance from this contemplative process and ache for the joy that arises in my prayerful writing time; I return to my laptop in a celebratory fashion — embracing all that has kept me at bay, and all that compels me to sit down and align my fingers to this keyboard to compose something — hopefully — prayerfully, something honest, true, inspiring.  Yes.

“I do my best to shine a light on the way that God seems to be at work in directing me, all of us, in our vocations. Whether we are religious sisters or lay persons, urban neighbors, or suburban friends, local volunteers, or once -upon-a-time visitors: it is my goal to help inspire community and the way we lean into God’s universal and unique calling for our lives.” — Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

My work on these pages centers around contemplative thought and action, highlighting the spiritual lives of the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis as I share from own lived experience as a Companion to their monastic order. I pray with the sisters and their lay community; I take note of what feels most compelling to my heart, mind and spirit;  and then I do my best to give voice here to the life-giving nature of their urban community — their mission to “LIVE JESUS!” in the inner city.

"We are all called!"

"We are all called! We are all held by a loving God who 'knows every hair on our head.'"**

Along the way, I do my best to shine a light on the way that God seems to be at work in directing me, all of us, in our vocations. Whether we are religious sisters or lay persons, urban neighbors, or suburban friends, local volunteers, or once -upon-a-time visitors: it is my goal to help inspire community and the way we lean into God’s universal and unique calling for our lives.

Two and half  months ago God’s calling for my own life, however,  sort of tipped me sideways and leveled me almost completely to the ground. On July 24, 2012, I learned that the 21 week old child I was carrying in utero had fetal anomalies that would prevent him from having a very long life beyond my womb. This news has informed my walk, my faith and my calling as a Visitation Companion each and every day since then.

Sr. Mary Margaret baptizes Xavi Jean "Priest, Prophet, King!"

Sr. Mary Margaret baptizes Xavi Jean "Priest, Prophet, King!"*

On September 13, 2012, at 29 weeks gestational age, I gave birth to my son, Xavier Jean Kiemde. His heart beat for one hour beyond my body. Before a sacred post-op room of family and friends, Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie and Vis Companions Brian Mogren and godparents Fabio and Sonja Anifrani baptized Xavi — honoring his precious time among us, and helping deliver him into the communion of saints as an anointed, “priest, prophet, and king.”  The experience is still fresh with me, and simultaneously stored as emotional images in my heart and mind — that keep me reflecting, and inspire me to celebrate.

We are all called! We are all held radically by a loving God who “knows every hair on our head,” right? And all of us are invited into the waters of baptism where we are anointed and claimed as Servant, Leader, Love-Force, exemplifying Christ’s compassion and community.

In this tender and trying recent experience of life and loss, I know God is at work, helping fashion my heart and inspire further my presence on this earth. I know I am called as a mother, writer, woman, lover of God to give voice to all that has transpired in these past days. I begin here, offering myself and my life to you.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

*photos by Brian Mogren, Visitation Companion
**photo by Salina Caldes, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”