A Dame’s Rocket Meditation

June 24, 2014

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“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12: 24-25.

As my friend Cheryl and I meditate on this scripture, a picture pops into my head: the garden, here at Cloudland, our very first spring on the property. It is a fairyland, this garden. Dame’s Rocket runs rampant, a riot of varying shades of lavender, lilac, blushing-bride pink. It’s everywhere, this tall, cone-shaped wildflower often mistaken for phlox. An intoxicating perfume wafts through the air as the flowers wave in the breeze.

“We’ve got to pull some of this stuff out,” the yard guy says. He’s been caring for this garden for years, and we’re hoping he’ll stick around to help us out, neophyte gardeners that we are.

“No,” I answer firmly. “I love it. The more of it, the better.”

“But, it’s taking over,” he answers, pulling a bandana out of his pocket to wipe his forehead.

“Good!” I answer. “I want it to take over.”

Little did I know, at that point, that Dame’s Rocket proliferates by seed. And all those beautiful flowers, waving their pretty purple heads in the breeze, are loaded with seeds. Even when pruned, Dame’s Rocket comes back.

Our first winter here at Cloudland, the garden snoozed, brown and gray; not much to look at. Then came spring, and Dame’s Rocket was everywhere, and I mean, everywhere. You couldn’t see the hosta or day lilies or columbine, or anything else, for that matter. As the yard guy predicted, the Dame’s Rocket had taken over.

By that point, the yard guy was gone, having followed the woman whose house we’d bought to her new place in town. He probably didn’t want to work with a wanna-be gardener like me who didn’t do her homework.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Come early summer, the Dame’s Rocket died. It produced many seeds. Its seeds fell to the ground, they germinated over the winter, and in the spring, they produced many flowers. Hundreds of flowers. Thousands of flowers. Now I know it’s okay to prune them back once they’ve died. The garden not only looks better rid of those bare, leggy, straggly stems; every time I pull one up and shake it, seeds scatter, ensuring a yield of a hundred-fold in the coming year.

What if I allow myself to die? What if I quit holding on so tight to some of these things that I can’t bear to let go? My sons’ happiness. My mother’s happiness. My husband’s happiness. My plans for Joel’s future. My plans for Cloudland. My plans for me.

Hmmm. I see a pattern here. Everyone else’s happiness, and my plans…my plans…my plans.

What happens if I let these things go, let them die, let these seeds be buried in the ground that is me. What if I let the Lord prune me? If I quit squirming or just plain running away when He gets out those pruning shears? What will grow up in the seasons to come?

My garden tells me…the Scriptures tell me…I will become a garden running rampant with flowers that wave in the breeze of the Holy Spirit, producing the sweet aroma of Christ to God.

I sit on the porch this morning, June almost gone, the corn bowing down in the wild wind that flew in with the dawn. Corn, planted as seed in May, miraculously filling the fields today, growing toward the fulfillment of harvest.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Lord, I give it all up to you. Tend these precious seeds, Father/Mother/Yard Guy God. I will wait, in anticipation, just as I wait for my fairyland of a garden each spring.

Behind the Book Video Clip

June 4, 2014

My new book, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities, combines my passion for ministering alongside families of children with special needs, spiritual direction, and the spiritual disciplines. Writing it was amazingly fulfilling. Marketing it is proving to be a bit more daunting! I hope you enjoy this short Behind the Book video clip

Free Webinar!

May 21, 2014

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Please join me for a free webinar, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities: Learning to Let Go & “Be” this Thursday, May 22nd, at 1 pm. This promises to be a refreshing, rejuvenating hour using music, art, and Scripture to help us pay attention to God’s active presence in our lives. If you can’t attend at that particular time, once you are signed up you will receive a link to listen at your convenience.

I hope you can join me!

Wake Up!

May 16, 2014

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It’s a muggy May morning, and the early morning sunshine hasn’t quite made its way into the house. I pull on my robe and descend the stairs, taking a moment to look out the living room window at the newly plowed fields across the road before fixing a cup of tea.

Bleary eyed, cup of steaming tea in hand, I open my devotional book. The very first line shimmers like gold. I can’t read another word.

“Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

I close the book, sip my tea, and chew on the words.

“Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Wally and I pray together for a few minutes before he leaves for the gym. He is discouraged today. I feel myself sinking into a funk as the door closes behind him.

Still, I roll these words around in my mouth. They taste sweet and sour both.

“Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ladie’s mantle, blooming in the kitchen garden, waves at me from window watch as I wait for pot to boil for a second cup of tea.

Dunking tea bag I step out the kitchen door and am immediately swept up and transported to another world. I feel like Dorothy, stepping out from shades of gray into a technicolor world.

I sink down into a chair and open all five senses to the beauty of a spring morning:

Sweet song of a robin in tree overhead.

Cardinal’s “pretty bird” call from side pasture.

Sky-blue flash of bluebird in rosy-leaved beech tree.

Two fat rabbits nibbling grass.

Lilac perfume wafting on breeze.

Lilies of the valley playing a bell choir at my feet.

A Sweet symphony of sound, color, and texture cascading over my body, mind, and soul.

“Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities Webinar & Blog Tour

May 6, 2014

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Dear Friends,

I’m excited to announce a free webinar, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities: Learning to Let Go and “Be,” on Thursday, May 22nd, at 1 pm. We will spend a refreshing and rejuvenating hour, using art, music, and Scripture to pay attention to God’s presence in our lives. You will leave with some tools for regularly accessing a quiet space in your heart to meet with God. Sign up here:

Please join me on a blog tour for my new book, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities

Here are the participating bloggers (Thank you, one and all!):

March 12 Barb Dittrich Comfort in the Midst of Chaos

April 30 Ellen Stumbo Finding Beauty in Brokenness

May 2 Michele Huey God, Me and a Cup of Tea

May 6 Brent Bill Holy Ordinary:The Sacraments of Everyday Life

May 6 Laurie Wallin

May 7 Sandra Peoples Impact

May 7 Mike Woods

May 7 Beth Booram Peregrine Journey

May 11 Craig Johnson Connor Moments

May 12 Jolene Philo Different Dream

May 12 Kelly Langston

May 12 Kelli Ra Anderson Divine GPS

May 12 Elizabeth of Autism Mom

June 2 Colleen Swindoll Thompson Insight for Living

Send Me

May 1, 2014

As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” 1 Peter 1:16 The Message

In my quiet time this morning, as I yawned and stretched and looked out the window, sipping from a cup of fragrant mint tea, I read from Seeking God’s Face: Praying With the Bible Through the Year This is a gem of a book, written for those of us who love Lectio Divina. Just two Scripture passages per day; a reminder to read through the words slowly, abiding in them for several moments; a few intercessory prayer prompts; a closing prayer and blessing.

Today’s reading was 1 Peter 1: 10-16. As I read, the words from v. 16 grabbed me: “God said, “I am holy; you be holy,””

Yeah, right, I thought. Be holy as God is holy? You’ve got to be kidding, Lord!

I tried to dwell there for a bit, that place of being holy, but my critical mind was busy doing its own thing, showing me how far I fell from the mark of God’s holiness.

Until the face of my son Joel rose up in my mind’s eye. 2013-08-11 16.27.29

I sat with that beautiful image for a few moments, chewing on these words: “I am holy; you be holy.”

Then my eyes dropped back to the book in my lap and this closing prayer:

“Missionary God, thank you for sending people to speak your timely message of salvation. I pray for all those who communicate your good news—empower them to speak gracefully and effectively. Raise up new messengers to bring your gospel to all people and places in clear and compelling ways. And I ask that you send and empower me to be a timely witness of the glory of the resurrection. In the risen Saviors’s name, amen.”

Again, Joel’s face shone in my mind.

God sent Joel to spread his message of salvation. I have no doubt about that. Joel is a missionary as surely as my friends Ed & Annette, Mary and Ross, are missionaries.

This prayer is for Joel as well as for me. The writer is praying for all of us who communicate the Good News. He prays, “empower them to speak gracefully and effectively, to bring the gospel to “all people and places in clear and compelling ways.”

How is Joel holy, I ask myself? How does he gracefully and effectively, clearly and compellingly, bring the gospel to the places he is sent? He’s just a big lug of a guy who loves life and the Lord but struggles with anxiety and behaviors due to that anxiety.

Where is the holiness?

As I meditate on Joel’s life one thing shines clear and bright above the rest.

Joel is who he is. No masks. No pretensions. No false notes whatsoever.

What you see is what you get.

He is who he is.

Which reminds me of something God once said from a burning bush to a frightened Moses as He called this man—who suffered from a stutter, no less—to set His people free (Exodus 3).

I AM WHO I AM.

Could this be a part of Joel’s holiness?

His lack of artifice? His open and vulnerable position in life? His willingness to be used by God, despite his anxieties, despite his disabilities?

He is who he is.

In being totally who he is, Joel communicates the Good News. The news that God loves us unconditionally. That resurrection is possible. That redemption is God’s final word.

Eight years of manic swings and sleepless nights?

No sweat! God can heal that!

A painful transition to a new home, resulting in a three-year spike in aggressive behaviors?

Holy Spirit power! Restoration!

A bedrock faith in and love for God?

Transparently present in a face that shines with reflected burning-bush-light during worship each Sunday.

How can we be holy as God is holy?

Could it be as simple as being who God created us to be? Dying to the artifices and wily ways of the false self? Laying down our self-absorbed fears? Loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves?

“Let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.”

Send and empower me, Lord, to be a witness of the glory of your resurrection, just as you have sent my son. Amen.

The Autism Detour

April 2, 2014

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We ran into a host of orange barrels
coming home from our third son’s birth.
Our daily route,
parenthood-by-the-book,
ended.
No detour sign in sight.
No big, black arrows
pointing the way
forward.

We drove in circles
before pulling into a gas station
to ask for directions
Funny, how gas station attendants,
even ones with Ph.D.s,
don’t know the names of
side streets leading back
to well-traveled roads.
We got lost.
Really lost.
But we kept on driving,
taking turns,
two boys wrestling in the back,
incessantly asking,
“Are we there yet?”
One boy repeating himself again and again,
“Starving. Starving. Starving. Starving.”

Twenty-nine years later,
we’re still driving back roads,
this time, by choice.
We love the not-knowing nature
of these scenic byways –
the lush, green landscapes of prayer;
strangers who materialize out of mist
hitching rides straight into our hearts,
artist friends who make the invisible, visible,
saying, “Here. I hope this helps.”

The best part of all?
The Word become flesh
riding, right here beside us,
steering the car around orange barrels
like an Indy 500 driver.

Filled with praise there’s no room
for fear about trivialities
like where we are going
or when we will arrive.

It’s time to sit back
and simply enjoy the ride.

Photo credit

Radiant!

March 26, 2014

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your[a] faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
Psalm 34:1-8 (RSV)

The spiritual discipline of Lectio Divina, or Sacred Reading, is life-changing. It is a way of moving from the head to the heart as you enter into Scripture with the sole goal of listening to what the Lord has to say to you, personally. As you read the passage slowly you listen for one word or phrase that shimmers with energy—that intersects with your current life situation. As you enter into the quiet after reading the Scripture three times, you listen for the Lord’s personal invitation to you. Instead of reading for information, you chew on the Scripture—you literally “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (I’ve included a chapter on Lectio Divina, with all the “how-to’s” in my new book, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities – Judson Press, 2014).

I spent my time in Lectio this morning in the first eight verses of Psalm 38. Verse five caught my attention and wouldn’t let go.

“Look to him and be radiant.”

As I re-read the passage two more times, the same words shimmered in my heart, soul, and mind.

“Look to him and be radiant.”

Before going into the quiet, I thumbed through my well-worn Roget’s Thesaurus. “Radiant: giving off or reflecting light readily or in large amounts.” Synonyms? Beamy. Bright. Brilliant. Incandescent. Luminous. Lustrous. Shiny.

I closed my eyes, and there, in my mind’s eye, hung a luminous full moon.

As I admired that radiant moon I realized that its incandescent glory came from the sun. Without the sun’s light, it would simply be a dull rock circling the earth.

Have you ever taken a walk by the light of a full moon? A full moon reflects light bright enough for a midnight walk in the woods. But as the days of the month pass by, the moon’s light slowly wanes, its brilliance gradually snuffed out.

Unlike the moon, stuck in its rotational path around the earth, I can choose where to position myself. I can choose to face the Lord first thing in the morning, or let the shadow of work or sloth darken my day. I can choose to turn toward the Lord’s light when sadness about my mom’s dementia overcomes me, or I can allow myself to remain in grief’s shadow. I can choose to position myself toward the Lord’s radiant face when I am angry, exhausted, or anxious, or I can choose to hide outside of his light, numbing myself with TV or the computer or one too many glasses of wine.

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This past weekend, my husband Wally and I took three days away to dream and vision about our future here at Cloudland, the retreat center we are developing outside of Oxford, Ohio. We stayed at Murphin Ridge Inn, a delightful B&B in southeastern Ohio’s Amish Country. It’s quiet in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, far from insistent schedules, ringing cell phones and buzzing Facebook messages.

As we prepared to leave home, loading our bags into the car, my muscles ached and my head felt like it was stuffed with cotton candy instead of a brain. I was too tired to talk. “Hopefully I’ll be better company later today,” I said to Wally.

When we arrived at the inn a few hours later and began unpacking our bags, I felt the load on my shoulders lessen with each garment taken out of the suitcase.

Chronos time became kairos time as we talked, prayed, dreamed, walked, and made love by firelight; as we took time to simply “be” in the presence of the Lord and one another.

By the time we loaded our bags in the car for the drive home, we were transformed.

So often our view of the Son is blocked by the shadow of the world—worries about money, our children, what comes next; as we waste time watching mindless TV or surfing the internet. When we allow that shadow to remain in the way of the Sonlight we so desperately need, we become tired, worn down, depleted.

Transformation takes place as we turn our faces toward the Lord, the one who delivers us from all our fears. When we worship him and thank him for all he has done in our lives. When we set our gaze upon him as we plan for the future. When we enjoy and celebrate his presence in the here and now.

Wally and I met our children on the way home for a birthday celebration. As usual, we took pictures around the table. As I looked at the photos later that night, I noticed something beautiful in a photo of me and my husband.

Our faces glowed.

O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.

Devastation as a Seedbed for New Life

March 11, 2014

I recently re-read Parker J. Palmer’s classic, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life. By page 5, I remembered why I loved this book so much the first time, and why I was led to pick it up again. Palmer writes:

“On July 4, 1999, a twenty minute maelstrom of hurricane-force winds took down twenty million trees across the Boundary Waters. A month later, when I made my annual pilgrimage up north, I was heartbroken by the ruin and wondered whether I wanted to return. And yet on each visit since, I have been astonished to see how nature uses devastation to stimulate new growth, slowly but persistently healing her own wounds. Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness—mine, yours, ours—need not be a utopian dream, if we can use devastation as a seedbed for new life.”

A Hidden Wholeness excerpt - Devastation as a Seedbed for Life {kathleenbolduc.com/wp}
Devastation as a seedbed for new life. Wow.

Looking back on my own life, I know, deep down, that this is true.

My father’s untimely death, at the age of 48, brought my family much devastation and grief. And yet, God used the turmoil in my spirit to plant seeds of faith—seeds that the Spirit then watered and showered with the sunshine of the newly acquired discipline of meditation, so that they might grow and produce fruit. One of the greatest losses of my life turned into one of my greatest joys.

My youngest son’s autism and cognitive disabilities: there was a time when I thought this was going to break me, emotionally and physically. But God planted seed after seed of hope and trust and unconditional love in my uprooted and grieving spirit. Again, the Spirit watered and nurtured and weeded—through meditation, spiritual friends, and worship—and abundant fruit has been harvested: His Name is Joel: Searching for God in a Son’s Disability; A Place Called Acceptance: Ministry with Families of Children with Disabilities; Autism & Alleluias; The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities; countless articles, a speaking ministry, and a ministry of spiritual direction. One of the hardest challenges life has thrown my way turned into the realization of a dream of being a writer, as well as inspiring others to find God in the midst of disability and struggle.

Becoming a speaker. This may not, at first glance, seem to fit under the “devastation” category, but believe me, it does. When I first began to accept speaking engagements, fifteen years ago with the publication of His Name is Joel, the panic attacks began. Thankfully, I had a good friend who teaches public speaking at the college level, and a sister-in-law who does a lot of public speaking. The two of them guided and taught me, counseled and encouraged me. And yet, for ten years, I found it excruciatingly difficult to get up in front of a crowd to speak. Many times I returned home from events wrestling with God over this call. But God won every wrestling match, and I continued on. Today, I enjoy traveling across the country to share the lessons Joel has taught me in unconditional love, faith, trust, and joy. Seeds planted long ago, flowering throughout the years even in the midst of questioning, anxiety, and extreme personal discomfort.

This present time of transition—Joel’s move away from home, my mother’s dementia, Matt’s marriage, Justin leaving the family business, our move from Cincinnati to Oxford where we are building a contemplative retreat center called Cloudland, awaiting with whatever ministry God has in store for us there, the move from non-fiction to fiction—as exciting as this time is, change is hard. But I know, without a doubt, that God is at work underneath the ground of everything that is transpiring. I know that dormant seeds planted long ago are, at this very moment, unfolding and unfurling in the dark; that they will soon break the ground in their quest for the sun; that fruit is already being harvested.

“Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness—mine, yours, ours—need not be a utopian dream, if we can use devastation as a seedbed for new life.”

Can I use devastation as a seedbed for new life?

Can you?

All we need do is take a walk around our yards. Spring waits in the wings with all her glory after a long, hard winter. Open your hands with me and wait, knowing that new life is even now reaching toward the sun.

Pop the Champagne!

February 24, 2014

During the first week of 2014, God surprised me with two words that exploded like fireworks in my heart, mind and soul. Six weeks later they continue to throw off sparks.

The words?

Unbridled joy.

The first word picture conjured up by these words is that of a wild horse galloping across the prairie, tail and mane flying in the breeze, muscles rippling beneath the skin.

“Unbridled.”

Synonyms: unrestrained, abandoned, intemperate, raw, runaway, unbounded, rampant, unchecked, uncontrolled, unhampered, unhindered, unrestrained, hog wild, uninhibited, wild.

Antonyms: bridled, checked, constrained, controlled, curbed, governed, hampered, hindered, restrained, temperate.

I ask myself, when have I experienced unrestrained, uninhibited joy? When have I gone hog wild with joy?

The answer comes quickly. Wild, bubbling and effervescent joy fizzed over—like a champagne bottle that’s been shaken and popped—the moment each one of my newborn sons were handed to me as I lay on the birthing table. Who would have thought that kind of pain (I went natural with all three of my boys) could be replaced so quickly with such runaway joy? I think of John 16:21: “When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.”

As I sit and meditate on the joy that comes after the pain of childbirth, I wonder if unbridled joy always involves being loosed into the light from some kind of darkness.

Several examples spring to mind:

Winter turning to spring: I think of the joy that rises up when I smell that first hint of spring on the breeze after a long, hard winter; when I wake up from a brown, drab land to a Technicolor riot of yellow forsythia outside my bedroom window; when the weeping cherries bloom, dripping petals on the grass like a bride on her way to the altar. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it perfectly in his poem, “God’s Grandeur”: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God/ It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.” I remember Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” I whine a lot in February, but in March and April (whenever spring decides to make her grand entrance) I experience unrestrained, unbridled joy every time I walk out the door.

Sickness to health: I think of how I take good health for granted, until I get really sick. I’m just recovering from a three week bout of the flu. Yesterday, when I began to feel like a human being again, joy gushed up from deep within. Yes! There is so much to be grateful for in simply waking up alive and well! Unbridled joy at what just three weeks ago seemed to be mundane and humdrum life-as-usual.

How often unbridled joy is birthed in the crucible of darkness and pain:

A prisoner set free after years in prison.

A lost child, found.

A mentally ill parent, healed.

The sun shining after weeks of rain.

Soft rain falling after months of drought.

And of course, the biggest source of unbridled joy the world has ever known—the empty tomb—our Lord resurrected from the dead!

And what is resurrection but a daily act of choosing to open our eyes to God’s glory shining, like shook foil, all around us.

Throw open the curtains! Open the windows! Ditch the coats and boots! Hang the rules! It’s time to have a party!

Unbridled joy. My word for the year.