Summer Sabbath

“Sabbath is one of the profound gifts of a generous and abundant divine presence who says that work is good and rest is necessary.” ~ Christine Valters Paintner

Every summer, Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts (you know the woman, I work for her and quote her often) takes time off from newsletters and blogs during the summer and gives herself time to rest, play, and dream. This year, I am following her lead and taking a little blog Sabbath during the month of July. I’ll return with a new post on August 7th. 

I’d like to leave you with some yummy travel tips adapted from a post written during the height of my Ayurvedic studies. My relationship with Ayurveda has mellowed a little but I still find its wisdom deep and energizing. Here is my current travel perspective. 

Ease of travel is one of the great joys of the modern age but the changes of food, activity, sleep, altitude and sometimes company can wreak havoc on your system, leaving you feeling ungrounded, unsupported and irritable. This summer, bring along key bits of your daily routine to help you stay steady and nourished so you can enjoy the adventure.

Sleep Well
This is oh so tricky when in a new bed, or hotel. Bring along any comforts that might help such as an audiobook (my go to), a sleeping mask, calming essential oils, and low expectations. That’s right, if you know you don’t sleep well the first night or so away don’t expect to. Give yourself a little grace and plan accordingly. 

Traveling can be very drying. Pack a thermos and/or water bottle. (Be sure it’s empty before going through airport security or you’ll have to become the proud owner of something new you didn’t need.) Drink hot water in cooler weather and on airplanes;  room temperature water in warmer climates. Drink up to a quart of hot water first thing in the am… before any coffee or tea… This will wake up your body, stimulate digestion and help stave off constipation. You know I feel about hot water!

Start Your Day with Silent Inspiration
Take a few quiet minutes to yourself to breath in and out. Read a passage from scripture, your inspiring daily reader, or bit of poetry. You can do this anywhere, your hotel room, a bathroom, a back porch. Notice how this leaves you feeling more centered  supported and able to go with the flow.  

Get in a few hip openers (pigeon etc), thigh stretches, down dogs, and backbends to ease the tension of traveling. Or, if you have 20 – 30 minutes, enjoy the yoga routine on the right.

Oil to Avoid Getting Sick
Ever notice how your nose gets crusty and dry during travel, especially on the plane? Dryness makes you more susceptible to infection from germs and other nasties. Put a small dab of olive oil on your finger tip, rub it into your nostrils, maybe even your ears. While you’re at it, rub the oil all over your body. Let it soak in then rinse off.

Terrific Tummy
Travel can be hard on the tummy. Take ginger capsules for motion sickness. Try two prior to starting travel, then as often as needed. Digestive issues? Mix equal parts cumin/coriander/fennel in a small jar and pack in your travel bag.  Take up to a tsp full with water prior to meals. Or just try Trikatu.*

Save Your Skin
Commercial sunscreen is loaded with chemicals we don’t metabolize well. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen guide for an extensive list of alternatives (including Walmart Brand). I like Garden Goddess.

Relax, let go of rigid agendas and enjoy the flow of whatever comes along! (That’s right, Melinda, let go your vacation “to-do list!”) 

Happy Summer,

*Not intended to diagnose or treat illness. Use at your own best discretion. I’m not responsible for the results. 🙂 

Presence and Preparation

I have the itch. The longing to be in the mountains at Kanuga, embraced by Rhododendron and hugged by my family. What a gift to have such love in my life. 

The eight or so weeks before Kanuga are a season of preparation. I change the wallpaper on my phone to pictures from that holy place. I create a packing list first in my head and then on paper. I look at the events and to-dos on my calendar for the weeks ahead and count my way through what is special and what is mundane. 

The Liturgical Year of the Episcopal Church has a term for the mundane days – Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is made up of the weeks between Epiphany and Lent, and the months between Pentecost and Advent. In general, Ordinary Time, sometimes referred to as “Green and Growing Time,” is a chance to dive deep into the teachings and message of Jesus while the seasons of Advent, Lent, Christmas and Easter are dedicated to the preparation for and celebration of the watershed moments in the life of Christ. 

Now that my personal Ordinary Time is slipping into a season of preparation I am presented with the opportunity to practice the delicate balance of living in the present while planning for the future. And when the vacation feast arrives, I am challenged to stay present to the experience without anticipating its end; to relax into a less expectant rhythm. 

I don’t want to be so caught up in preparation that I miss the summer. I don’t want to hold so tightly to the experience of the mountain that I miss its Grace. And I don’t want to be so focused on the day that I disallow the excitement of anticipation. This is perhaps the great wisdom of the seasons, the pearl of the Liturgical Calendar – that the Ordinary permeates the Sacred and the Sacred is alive in the ordinary. All I have to do is adjust my focus.

This summer in the cycle of before, during, and after Kanuga, I am practicing this presence by: leaving the floor un-mopped and going to the pool with Cole; setting aside a day for kayaking on Jordan Lake; making fried green tomatoes and peach pie and sharing them with friends; buying blueberries and sunflowers; going to work, writing, practicing asana, and continuing all the little things I do each day. When I finally arrive at Kanuga I will take a deep breath, savor the air, and try to content myself with the shortness of a week. I will return with pictures on my phone, memories in my bones, and an eagerness to eat less oily food. 

If this sounds too much like a to-do list, it is. Which is ok because I know that soon August will arrive, the light will change, and a new longing will set in – for Autumn days and crisp skies. Some summer to-dos will be checked off the list, some will be left undone. All the while the Ordinary and the Sacred continue dancing in the rhythm of presence and preparation. 

What are you present to? What are you preparing for?

Seven Days of Grace Part II

Seven years ago I wrote a little piece called Seven Days of Grace. It’s just a little meditation; a little bit of paying attention to seek out moments of Grace. This is Part II. Where do you find Grace in your day?

My inbox is full of people wanting last minute exceptions for summer camp. I spend the hours putting out fires. I’m grateful for something to do.

Depression swallows me today and moving feels like an effort. I walk from the Y to Bond Park for lunch with a friend. She’s one of the best people in the world. We talk and enjoy each other’s company. I’m too tired to walk back to work so she gives me a ride. Later, I go home and cocoon under a blanket.

Yoga class goes well.

Two fellow parishioners and I carpool to a leadership conference. They are smart people. They ask me what I think and I tell them.

Mom made Cole a black t-shirt with balls of black yarn stuck on it which he wears while singing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” at his school recital.

During a role playing game at the leadership conference I get swept up in the excitement in the room. I call for a vote then realize I made a mistake and our side doesn’t have enough votes to win. Instead of shrinking in embarrassment I laugh. “Apparently I can’t do math.”

Grandma has been in the hospital since Friday. She had a seizure. We thought this was the end. Today she is more alert and talking. I tell her about the conference and that it wasn’t what I expected. In an uncharacteristic moment of spontaneity, this tough old broad imparts wisdom, “You collect experiences. You never know when a small something will be important.” She will go home in a couple of days.

Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

The Wasp

A few weeks ago a Queen Paper Wasp started hanging around my kitchen window. I stood at my sink and watched her work. First she affixed a bit of wasp glue and let it create an ever so elegant drip, the point of which expands daily. 

She’s building a nest.

I know I should get rid of it. I know it’s not safe to have her and her coming family in the courtyard where Cole and the cat play. But I can’t bring myself to destroy her home. 

I’ve let this go on too far. I have too much respect for the work she’s put into weaving this nest. And I wonder, does she sense the danger? Does she harbor some sort of mamma wasp anxiety that a Big Bad is lurking in the shadows? Does she know that I am the Big Bad?

Killing this nest is an inevitability. At some point, I am going to crush her work and the little ones living inside. At some point in the very near future I am the thing that will kill her dreams. I picture her out scouting materials and food then placidly flying back to my window only to find her home and her life’s work gone. I imagine the crack in her reality, the wrenching scream because a scream is all she has left.

Perhaps I am over-identifying. 

I hear whispers of these imaginary cries when I swat too hard at an ant and it gets all bloody; or when I smack a mosquito against my arm; or don’t get all of the cockroach’s antennae all the way into my bug catcher before releasing it outside. 

Herein lies the ethical quandary: what do I have a right to kill in order to stay alive? Animals for food? Perhaps. Mosquitos who are annoying and itchy at best but might carry disease? Seems an easy enough “yes.” And what about dreams?

I wonder if I can move the wasp’s nest. I wonder if I can transport her life’s work to a more suitable location. I wonder if I can change my dreams.

Obedience, one of the Benedictine vows, is rooted in obaudire, which means “to hear.” The vow of obedience is a commitment to stepping beyond one’s limited view and open to the voices of community. At the same time, it is also a commitment to one’s own integrity. This isn’t blind obedience to the will and direction of others. This isn’t unwavering allegiance to one’s own agenda. This is sacred obedience. Sacred listening. This is pausing to listen for the voice of God. And being open to hear it from the most unexpected places. 

The vow of obedience is in conversation with the vow of Conversatio Morum, daily improvement. We don’t just listen once. We listen daily, hourly, in each moment. We pay attention. Through listening we learn to respond to the shifting circumstances of life. Through listening we become like the wasp – driven by an instinct, a dream bigger than a dream, a voice bigger than our own that says, “Do this.” 


I did it. 

I knocked the small nest off the casing with a broom handle then squished it with my sandal.* Mama wasp was back at dinner time running here, there, and everywhere about the upper window pane looking for her babies, or a place to rebuild. 

The killing act was easy. I wonder if all Big Bads feel this detached.  

Spring brought on a little depression, and with it the Big Bads who whisper their conviction that everything in life is futile. Especially dreams. But even though it feels like an effort, I am back at my desk writing. I am on my mat breathing. I am here. I am listening. 


And again. And again. 

Where are you? What do you hear?

*Disclaimer. This is probably not the best way to handle a wasp’s nest. Perhaps I should have called the property management company to send out pest control. But I also just accidentally sliced my finger open on a can of black beans and had to get stitches, so there you go.  

Photo by Enrique Vidal Flores on Unsplash

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