Thursday, August 05, 2021

Spiritual Journey Thursday and Poetry Friday: Difficult Blessings

Hi friends! I didn't intend to take a break from my blog, but it looks as though I did indeed take one. I needed it, just a little bit of extra bandwidth to help me cope with the events of this summer, some expected, like saying goodbye to my younger child and dealing with the beginning stages of a transition to an empty nest, and some unexpected, like reading, in a Midwestern motel room, about the assassination of Haiti's president in an incredibly bloody and brutal attack on his home in the early hours of July 7th. Of course there were lots of other events this summer, easy and difficult, relaxing and stressful, soothing and painful. That's how life is. 

Today I'm attempting to ease back into blogging by combining today's SJT and tomorrow's PF post into one. It's part of my effort to be kind to myself, as I re-adjust to Haiti; we flew back yesterday, and arrived intact but without our luggage. It's a relatively short journey, as international odysseys go; we got up at three and my dad drove us to the airport in the dark, with a fingernail moon watching us from overhead. Three flights later, we were in our home and drinking some cold water by about 2:30 PM. (And that's after dealing with the missing luggage with a gentleman at the airport.) You can get here quickly, but then it takes your soul a while to catch up, at least it does for my soul, slightly battered as it is. I've been taking it slowly this morning, adding up all my birding miles and lifers from the summer, listening to music, drinking good strong tea. 

Haiti looks the same as when we left it, at least the parts we've seen so far. We got in a traffic jam on the way home because dozens of cars were in line at a gas station, waiting to buy gas (maybe they succeeded, and maybe they didn't).  We don't have enough gas in our car to drive back to the airport to pick up my suitcase (no, they're not going to deliver it). They're selling plastic bottles of gas on the street again, just like they were when we first moved here, during the international embargo on Haiti, in 1993. We've had a few very tough years here, and there's likely more to come in the aftermath of this latest crisis. The investigation is ongoing, the international community is urging elections, the security situation is scary. What will happen? We have no idea. It feels discouraging in a way beyond all we've seen before in our two decades plus in this beautiful, troubled country. 

I am a big fan of Jan Richardson, and her book The Cure for Sorrow is one I've read several times. I love her format of blessings, and though she wrote them after losing her husband and while entering widowhood, they are appropriate in many different kinds of grief, including grief for a wounded country, grief for a new stage of life, grief for so many things in this broken and damaged world. Jan posted the following poem on social media recently, and I share it with you hoping that it will accompany you in your own difficult blessings.



Jacob's Blessing

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. - Genesis 32:24


If this blessing were easy,

anyone could claim it.

As it is,

I am here to tell you

that it will take some work. 

This is the blessing

that visits you

in the struggling,

in the wrestling,

in the striving.

This is the blessing

that comes

after you have left

everything behind,

after you have stepped out,

after you have crossed

into that realm

beyond every landmark

you have known.

This is the blessing

that takes all night

to find.

It's not that this blessing

is so difficult,

as if it were not filled

with grace

or with the love

that lives

in every line.

It's simply that 

it requires you

to want it,

to ask for it,

to place yourself 

in its path.

It demands that you

stand to meet it

when it arrives,

that you stretch yourself

in ways you didn't know

you could move,

that you agree

to not give up.

So when this blessing comes,

borne in the hands 

of the difficult angel

who has chosen you,

do not let go.

Give yourself

into its grip.


Jan Richardson


Check out the other entries in today's SJT here at Linda Mitchell's blog. And today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.


Karen Eastlund said...

Ruth: Thanks for this beautiful post. I am a Jan Richardson fan also, and this blessing is perfect... both for you and for many of us. It is a trying time, for sure. I wish you all God's blessings.

Linda M. said...

Oh, my goodness. First, I'm so glad to see you post. I have thought of you often in this summer--knowing that you were in the states and physically safe but wondering if and when you were going back to Haiti and what you might find there. I'm so sorry for the additional strife Haiti is enduring. I'm so glad that students can find comfort and learning in you. I'll add prayers for the suitcases to be returned. I am glad that you decided to be gentle with yourself this summer. It is good. And, the book you rec in your post...I think I need it. Thank you!

Ramona said...

Ruth, glad you could take things slowly on your first morning back. Prayers that your luggage has arrived (along with your slow traveling soul). I'm so sorry about the state of things in Haiti. You and Haiti will be in my prayers. We have dear friends in Nebraska who've served with Water for Life for many years. My husband even joined them on a trip almost three decades ago. I looked for the book on our library site, but they don't have it. I may have to check at a local church library. When does your school begin? Will you be meeting in person or virtually? So many challenges ahead.

KatApel - said...

Like Linda, my thoughts flew to you when I heard of the situation in Haiti. I will be praying for your safety and your sense of security. And of course my mum-heart is reaching out to you, with your baby leaving, and the empty nest. Hugs, Ruth.

Linda B said...

I'm glad you had your visit, Ruth, & that you are home & safe, although the surroundings are full of unknowns, not what you would wish for this summer's end. I keep reading Haiti news, sending best wishes for you & the family, your school, too. Yes, the poem speaks to all of us with loss. The lines "it demands that you/stand to meet it/when it arrives" touch me with truth. It's like a deep breath & a heaving up to take on the next steps. Thank you, and best wishes with hugs for better days!

Denise Krebs said...

Ruth, I'm so happy to see you here today. You are safely back in Haiti. I continue to keep Haiti in my prayers, and hope to hear good news in the future. Peace to you. Thank you for sharing the Jan Richardson book and poem. I'm new to her work.

Mary Lee said...

This poem you shared -- swoon. This line you wrote -- "You can get here quickly, but then it takes your soul a while to catch up" -- it is a poem.

Wishing you all that you need as your soul rebounds. Including enough gas to go get your suitcase.

Tabatha said...

Good to hear from you, Ruth. Always nice to read a blessing from Jan. "Difficult angel" is right xo

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Mary Lee and I are traveling around Poetry Friday echoing each others' comments--I thought too that "it takes your soul a while to catch up" is something to hang on to. I'm glad you're back safe, Ruth, and that somehow you and yours and all of Haiti finds a path towards safety, a spiritual prosperity that seems so hard to hang on to there. Here. Everywhere? Watching for the difficult angels.

Carol Varsalona said...

Ruth, I have been so concerned about you and your family. You have been through so much. I am glad that you have been stateside, especially during the chaos that erupted. I will continue to lift you up and Haiti. May the Lord continue to guide you. Thank you for your post and the poem that makes me want to reread to learn how to deal with life's struggles that demand that you face them when they arrive. I love the ending and the call to act in the face of difficulty by letting go.

Fran Haley said...

Ruth - the blessing is mighty. I needed to hear it, read it, and acknowledge the truth of it. "Difficult angel" is going to stay with me a long time.. and we all need to find ways to be kind to ourselves these days, in these times. Thank you for these sustaining words and thoughts.

Catherine Flynn said...

I've been thinking about you, Ruth, and hoping that you and your family were safe. I'm sorry for the turmoil affecting your "beautiful, troubled country." Jan Richardson's poem is heartbreaking and lovely and true. "It demands that you stand to meet it/when it arrives,/that you stretch yourself/in ways you didn't know/you could move..." Exactly.

Margaret Simon said...

I have been so worried about you. This post feels like you are back. We missed you and here you are, comforting yet not oversimplifying or denying the hardship you face. The poem is so true for blessings. We can't just expect them to come like rain, and yet, many times that's exactly how they come, refreshing and soaking us in gratitude. Prayers for you, my friend.

Alan j Wright said...

May this poem, this blessing deliver you some essential comfort and calm Ruth. Even from my relative peaceful and settled world, I gained solitude from the poem you shared.It is a poem for these times.

Elisabeth said...

What a beautiful poem. Every situation we encounter presents us with a choice as to how we will deal with it - I love how that idea is expressed in this poem.

Wishing you and your family safe and well in this time of many changes.

Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for sharing this powerful blessing poem Ruth. Ah that difficult Angel—seems to turn up everywhere today, and especially in the wildfires raging across our small earth's surface… It's good to hear from you—I've been thinking of you since the news of the assassination and hoping you and all there were/are okay. And, again today with the hurricanes… Be safe.

Karen Edmisten said...

Wow, Ruth, Richardson's poem has me in tears. It's gorgeous, so true, and so relatable. I've felt a few different kinds of grief in the last few years, and this poem speaks to them all.

I'm wishing you and your soul some catch-up time and some peace amidst all the uncertainty. xo