Monday was my mother's birthday. Not a major milestone number, but a special day nonetheless. So I had a special gift to share with her, and her delight was so much fun!
About a year ago I received an email asking for submissions to a new collection of prayers from women across the Anglican Communion. It was to be a follow up book to Uncommon Prayers and would be called Lifting Women's Voices: Prayers to Change the World. The submissions were to be focused on one of the eight Millennium Development Goals from the United Nations.
I wasn't sure I could do this - I hadn't written freely in a long time. I used to journal daily and often scribbled out poetry and short vignettes, but had let the practice go. But I love to write and this was just the challenge I needed to encourage me to sit down with my pen and paper again. I looked at the MDGs and struggled with what I could contribute. I wrote, crossed out, wrote some more, and wanted to scream in frustration. I had forgotten how hard it is to write something that my own self-critical eye would allow anyone else to see.
Then, one day, it happened. My then-future-husband and I decided to take his daughter to Green Valley Falls in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park to play in the waterfalls. We drove through what used to be a campground to the parking area, all the while marveling at the trees and environment in general struggling to come back from the devastation of the Cedar Fire in 2004. The Cedar fire is considered one of the worst human-caused wildfire in the history of the state of California and devastated a large swath of Southern California. The Green Valley Falls campground has been closed since the fire and will remain unusable until the environment can show significant enough stabilization to allow for consistent "residential" use again. Until then, it is a wonderful day trip from San Diego.
We parked and hiked the short trail to the falls, eating a picnic lunch overlooking one of the larger drops through the rocky canyon before making our way to the shallower end of the falls and wading into the water that felt icy in the summer afternoon heat. After a wonderful scramble over the rocks and through the pools and falls I retired to a quiet spot under some trees just upstream from where several families were frolicking in the water. There, I reflected on the wonders that God was working in the recovery of the fire-burned areas all around me and how it reflected in my own struggles with wedding planning, establishing a household, learning what it meant to be a stepmother, and the continual renewal of life. I wrote, and what I wrote spoke to me. So, with my husband's encouragement I submitted it. I didn't think much more about it - pretty sure that it would not be accepted as it didn't speak about the empowerment of women or the eradication of poverty or any other direct link to the MDGs. But it was accepted.
Just this summer Lifting Women's Voices was published. I didn't tell my mom, but ordered her a copy for her birthday. It arrived on my doorstep the same day we went to General Convention, and had seen it displayed in the Church Publishing booth in the exhibition hall. In fact, one of the editors, Abagail Nelson, was the preacher at the daily Eucharist that day.
Yesterday, I watched mom open this small gift to discover my poem (for those interested it starts on page 243 and ends on page 244) and the joyful surprise on her face when she realized the author of that particular prayer.
It was a good day.